When games pay homage to their inspirations, they often struggle to do it in a meaningful way.
Sometimes it’s as simple as, ‘Oh, there’s a cameo from a character I recognise’ or ‘Hmmm, this place looks oddly familiar’. These are all sweet, subtle touches, and are probably enough of a nod or a wink needed to pay respects, even if they mostly feel a bit tacked on.
But sometimes, the likes of a Motion Twin will go out there and do something a lot more ambitious and risky. Like create a whole piece of content dedicated to the game they love, which gave their product life and try to balance it by creating something authentic while staying faithful to the game they’ve made.
How to Play
Once purchased, the content can be accessed from within the main game. You will need to find Richter Belmont within the Prisoner’s Quarters biome. He will appear once the hanging flasks appear (after three attempted runs). Once you’ve interacted, go down the stairs behind him and head towards Castle Outskirts.
This is a Dead Cells DLC. So if you’re somehow worried the core experience is lost, don’t be. This is still the brilliant roguelite which we adore and have covered extensively since its launch. If this content does nothing but get you to pay attention to this game in case it was somehow never on your radar, it will have served its purpose.
But I’m also here to tell you that Return to Castlevania somehow, someway, has made Dead Cells feel like a true, honest to goodness Castlevania reimagining and is all the better for it.
Motion Twin didn’t need to do this to make Dead Cells relevant. That game has managed to do it all on its own. This is 100% a passion project and it shows, through and through. From the subtle introductions of the content with bats casually casting across the screen, to the weapons you acquire, the enemies you battle and that incredible musical score.
This feels like the modern reinterpretation of Castlevania that we’ve been begging Konami for. A full-blown reboot for the franchise that uses modern-day mechanics, but still keeping within the lines of a game that has its own identity.
In terms of nostalgia, of crafting something and trying to make it work with your own game, all while making it enjoyable and not feel forced, this DLC is absolutely wonderful. It’s the right amount of nostalgia, coupled with the appropriate amount of balancing and structural integrity to maintain the consistency we’re used to.
And yes, while you can’t destroy candelabras and some of the dialogue is a little rough around the edges, the respect Motion Twin have shown this license and how much detail they’ve put in here, from the secret rooms to the environments you encounter along the way, referencing past games, this is a fan’s dream come true.
There’s even a super special Richter Mode where you physically play as the iconic character and his abilities have been paired to that moveset, with changes to his jumps and rolls. It adds a whole different challenge and gets you to think about the game differently, drawing you even further into the Castlevania world.
The whip sword plays exactly as you’d hope it would, the enemies feel like they’ve been pulled right out of a Symphony of the Night and you can even bring any apparel or items you gather here into the main game. So you can transfer that Castlevania experience right through Dead Cells.
But back to the content specifically, there’s two main areas through you to fight through, Castle Outskirts and Dracula’s Castle. As always, these remain procedurally generated, so what you find from one run to the next will change. The bosses remain consistent though, and are a suitable challenge for players looking to test their skills.
No spoilers on who you’re going up against, but I think fans will be pretty pleased with who turns up for the show.
There’s blueprints for Bibles, Morning Stars to swing around, and crosses to bare as you fight through gargoyles, skeletons, haunted armors and all sorts of abominations.
To put it simply, if you’ve ever been waiting or wanting to find a reason to play Dead Cells, there has definitely never been a better time. And the absolute best outcome from this content? Konami agree to let Motion Twin make a full new Castlevania game. Because this is definitely something we need in the world, like, yesterday.
Even if that never comes to pass, we’ll always have this DLC to remind us how good it could have been and just how at the top of their game these developers truly are.
+ A wonderful homage to one of the great franchises
+ Some great items to use throughout all of Dead Cells
+ Intriguing new areas with lots of secrets to explore
+ Richter Mode is a fun diversion and adds replayability
+ Fun variety of enemies and items that feel ripped right out of Castlevania
– You can’t break the candelabras, noooo!
Dead Cells: Return to Castlevania Review
9 out of 10
Tested on PC
Code kindly received from Motion Twin