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Dead Cells: Return to Castlevania brings the classic Konami series back for the first time in ten years, with a host of new content inspired by Castlevania. The DLC expansion is very good, as we explained in our review, but it can also be very difficult.

Between the new enemies and bosses, some of which are the hardest in the series, and the huge, expansive maps added in the DLC, scaling Dracula’s Castle can be a real chore. You also need to unlock the Castlevania in Dead Cells first.

In this guide, we’ll give you some tips and tricks to make fighting your way through Dead Cells: Return to Castlevania a breeze.

Get your runes

Even if you don't have every Rune, having some is better than having none.

Even if you don't have every Rune, having some is better than having none.

Dead Cells has eight runes to collect, each giving a permanent upgrade or skill that is often geared towards expanding exploration options. While players often collect most of the runes on a normal playthrough, only two exploration-based runes, the Vine Rune and the Homunculus Rune, are strictly required to collect by the time you unlock Castlevania DLC content.

There are many areas within Return to Castlevania that require additional runes to explore, and while none of them are required to progress, exploring these areas can give powerful weapons and items.

It’s recommended that players pick up the Spider Rune, which lets you cling to and climb walls, the Ram Rune, which lets you destroy breakable floors, and the Teleportation Rune, which can help unlock some additional areas. The Explorer’s Rune is helpful too, as it reveals the map and its points of interest when you’ve explored most of a biome.

Here’s a list of every ability rune and where to find them:

  • Vine Rune - Promenade of the Condemned
  • Teleportation Rune - Toxic Sewers
  • Ram Rune - Ossuary
  • Spider Rune - Slumbering Sanctuary
  • Explorer’s Rune - Forgotten Sepulcher
  • Homunculus Rune - Throne Room

Upgrade your potion

You probably don't need a level four health flask. Probably.

You probably don't need a level four health flask. Probably.

Return to Castlevania’s biomes are big and expansive, packed with powerful enemies that can hit very hard. That means that keeping your HP up as you travel through Dracula’s Castle might be a little bit difficult, but thankfully you can restore your health with health flasks.

If you want to get through the castle alive, it’s best to upgrade your health flask with the Collector. We’d suggest upgrading it to at least level three before heading into the Castle Outskirts, which requires 205 cells in total to obtain. Level four would be even better, as it provides four uses of the health flask between passages, but that requires another 300 cells, which is a big investment.

Another thing worth considering is grabbing the Necromancy mutation, which recovers a small amount of HP when you kill an enemy. It only works if you’re under 50% HP, but it should help keep you alive just that little bit longer.

Take it easy

A little assistance goes a long way, and Dead Cells has a lot of assistance.

A little assistance goes a long way, and Dead Cells has a lot of assistance.

Unsurprisingly, Dracula’s Castle is a tough and difficult place to survive in. The regular enemies are fast, hit hard, and are plentiful in number, while bosses are on a whole other level of nightmare fuel. Death, in particular, is one of the most difficult fights in the game, so making it through can be a lesson in patience, dexterity, and overcoming adversity.

Or you could take it easy. Dead Cells has a robust set of assistance options, ranging from auto attacking when in range of an enemy, to completely adjusting enemy damage and health values. You can also give yourself extra lives, so you don’t have to redo your entire run when you get sniped by a stray skeleton bone.

There’s no shame in using assist mode in Dead Cells — gaming should be fun, and if you’re not enjoying yourself because of the difficulty of some of the Return to Castlevania content, you should seriously consider toning it down.

We’d also recommend starting the content with no Boss Cells active, just so you can get a good grasp on what you’re getting yourself into. You can always come back on a harder difficulty level, or with assist mode options turned off later.

Explore everything

Every crevice is a chance to meet Maria.

Every crevice is a chance to meet Maria.

There are plenty of secrets and references to discover in Return to Castlevania, and they’re often quite well hidden. Make sure you explore every nook and cranny, and interact with every possible object or item you can.

Early on in the DLC, you can find Alucard’s Shield, probably one of the best shield weapons in the game, as well as Maria, who unlocks an amazing outfit and a pet that is very useful for dealing passive damage. These kinds of secrets are scattered throughout the game, and almost all of them are worth trying to find, so try to avoid moving on until you’ve scoured every inch of the map first.