Unlike other roguelikes, though, in Dead Cells the optimal way to play is to run past all the enemies, killing only the elites and the ones that drop stat upgrades, and loot all the things on the way. Killing the enemies might be a more fun way to play but it’s disincentivised by the timed doors, which really make a difference to your stats, so you have the best chance of success if you just make a run for it.
I was on the fence about timed doors before, I thought they were intended to help you grind out upgrades in a shorter amount of time but because they also contain stat upgrades and you can clear out levels while also hitting all the important time limits, it’s no longer an either-or scenario. They seem to address the problem that the early levels become boring to play after a while so you’re encouraged to speed through rather than slog through them, but that just replaces it with a different kind of tedium.
I think there should be a different way of addressing this, maybe through checkpoints like icemann says, but that seems to go against the design philosophy of the game, which seems to be “more is better”. More weapons, more items, more mutations, more upgrades, it just keeps heaping it on seemingly without end. It makes me wonder to what degree I’m better at the game, and how much it counts that my character just has more of everything: weapons, skills, health, damage.
I appreciate it much more when a game challenges you by taking away instead of adding. Crypt of the Necrodancer is good at this, and so is Dark Souls, implicitly. Necrodancer is challenging enough to complete by itself, but to be a top scorer you have to go through most of the game without being able to buy items from shops. There’s also a mode where you have to play perfectly with only a one-damage dagger, and additional achievements for doing that without picking up any items, which borders on the impossible. Challenges like this (SL1, unupgraded weapons, etc.) are popular in Dark Souls too but there’s no reward other than the satisfaction of doing it, which says a lot about the game.
I wish Dead Cells had more of that sort of thing, where instead of having to grind your way through the unlocks to even have a chance at defeating the final boss, you start with them and have the option to forego them for additional challenge and reward.
Those guys can be annoying, but pumping Survival worked well for me because I could parry their projectiles back and instagib them. Also, if they’re winding up a shot and you roll past them, they just stop. They don’t turn around during windup or fire at empty space like other enemies do.