Dead Cells Castlevania DLC is “twice the size” of previous DLCs
During the 2022 Game Awards, the team behind Dead Cells released an animated teaser trailer announcing that the game’s next DLC expansion would be Castlevania-themed. It came as a complete surprise; Castlevania hasn’t had a new release in years, and most of Dead Cells’ other collaborations have never been much more than referential skins and a few weapons. Making such a big leap – and doing it with the series that originally inspired the game – is a big step for the indie roguelike.
While Dead Cells was developed by Motion Twin, Castlevania DLC is being developed by Evil Empire, an indie studio made up of former Motion Twin employees who edited most of the content after the game’s release. Game Informer had the chance to speak to Evil Empires Co-Founder Benjamin Laulan and Brand Manager Bérenger Dupré to talk about the DLC, what to expect from it, and what it was like working with such a popular franchise.
Game Informer: Just for a quick overview, what can we expect from this Castlevania DLC?
Benjamin Laulan: Well, it’s our biggest DLC to date. We always say that, but it really is like that. It’s basically twice the size of [the DLC] we previously published. You get this new storyline, including all the usual Castlevania series suspects. So you will see Richter Belmont, Alucard, Dracula, Maria Renard and many others who will guide you through this new storyline to basically discover the content that we have included. Since this is a roguelite, we tried to find a way to make it interesting for new players and newcomers to get to know this world and the new items and stuff. We have 14 new weapons like Alucard’s sword, Alucard’s shield, the old classic cross.
Berenger Dupre: Pretty much every weapon from Castlevania that we hadn’t copied before. [laughs] We tried to translate it into the fast-paced gameplay of Dead Cells.
Laulan: We had a lot of Castlevania weapons in Dead Cells… a tribute to us, but now we had to think again, okay, this weapon is already in the game.
duplicate: Yes, the vampire killer was called Valmont’s whip instead of Belmont’s whip.
Laulan: So yes we have. We have three new bosses, one of which is an incredible showdown that we won’t talk about [about] yet, but this is super exciting and something that has never been seen in the game before. What else have I forgotten? New biomes. We have two new biomes based on Castlevania’s classic levels. We have music, a whole new soundtrack. We had permission from Konami to use all the old soundtracks from the old Castlevania games. So what we have done, we are [basically created] a Castlevania mod in the Music submenu of the options. So you can basically replace all of Dead Cells’ music [with] her version [from] Castlevania. Any music. And we also have new compositions made by the Dead Cells composer of all the classics such as Bloody Tears…
duplicate: Vampire Killer. But translated into the musical style of the Dead Cells. yes it is great
Laulan: It’s a really big package. And of course there are lots of surprises, Easter eggs, lore rooms… it’s basically a declaration of love to Castlevania. We really wanted to go back to where it all started because as you know the main inspiration for Dead Cells was Symphony of the Night. So it’s a nice way to go back to where it all began.
What is your connection to the Castlevania series, just on a personal level? What did the series before Dead Cells mean to you?
duplicate: I turned eight, Castlevania 1 is my second game on the NES. I got it for Christmas. It’s funny because before I came to Evil Empire to work on Dead Cells, I said to the boss, “It’s crazy that Konami never asked you guys to turn Castlevania stuff into Dead Cells.” And then I understood somehow that something was going on. And I joined the company and I loved that I was going to work on it. And yes, for me it is an opportunity. It’s actually a childhood dream I didn’t know I had. So yeah, I’m really proud of that.
Laulan: For me, I was also an NES player. But I never got the chance to play [Castlevania]. So it’s more of a part of my childhood that I never actually played, but it was a part of it nonetheless. I don’t know if that makes sense. And we have younger players on the team and older players. So it’s been interesting to see how the team adapts to all of this content, because we have really hardcore fans of Castlevania, one of which is the biggest fan of all kinds. He was our Bible. can we do that Can we make these characters like this? And he checked everything.
duplicate: He was like a human Wikipedia of the franchise. It was really handy.
Laulan: We had people who never played it who started playing it to create the DLC. And they also loved, for example, Symphony of the Night, fans of the TV show. So it’s really like a melting pot of different things [experiences]. Castlevania obviously has something to say to every video game fan, but in a different way. So I think we had a good team because we had very different perspectives in that area.
Yeah, it’s been a really long time since we’ve had a Castlevania before. And I think for a lot of people this will be their introduction to the show. What do you think about it?
Laulan: I feel really good about it. And that’s why we put so much effort into the Game Awards announcement, because we really wanted to create that surprise, because it’s big for us and we think it can be big for a lot of players. That’s why we actually wanted to create this much more as a homage and love letter to the IP, instead of trying to rethink the whole thing. It’s more of a generous gift for fans, whether they’re old fans of the game or newcomers from the TV show. And that’s why they exist [many] Easter eggs and details. We put so much effort into all the little things. As with all skins we’ve added, all the little things make a difference. And when you play it you will understand that we really love these games.
duplicate: We’ve been working on this for so long [Game Awards] Announcement, and our goal was really to create and teaser a surprise… the Castlevania franchise. So we wanted these teasers to start out like a regular, regular Dead Cells DLC, and then, little by little, you can have some hints that it might be something else, and then Richter and Alucard appear. And the day after, we watched some YouTuber reaction videos. And you could see that players who are 30 to 40 years old after a few seconds hear the music that starts to look like a Castlevania theme and they have it and then they see Richter and Alucard and they go nuts . And sometimes you see younger YouTubers and they look at the trailer, you can see like that little twinkle in their eyes, like, “Oh my god, I’m missing something, but it looks really cool and I want to be a part of it.” That was part of the intention. We had to talk to newcomers and old players.
Do you play as [Richter and Alucard] or do you just meet her?
duplicate: We can’t tell.
If you got another blank check from another franchise, what would the dream project be?
Laulan: Oh, that’s a good question. Because we’ve obviously talked about that before. But you know, the cool thing about Castlevania is that, like the medieval setup, the setup really fits [well] into dead cells. So, of course, when you think of Castlevania, you also think of Metroid and the kind of gameplay that could fit in Dead Cells. But it didn’t fit into Dead Cells’ medieval setup. I don’t know if you have any crazy ideas?
duplicate: [laughs] Yeah you know I’ve had a few. Yeah, some of the crossovers, indie crossovers that we did, there was an IP. I wanted to go much further with this. When I first saw the Hotline Miami gun and outfit I took a shot of the game with the music and just wanted to make it Hotline Miami.
Laulan: [laughs] Yes, we actually tried to achieve that [Hotline Miami] Guys, but they said, “I mean, it’s cool that you used our gun, but maybe that was it.” We wanted to do more with that.
Is there anything else you’re looking forward to? Anything about the process that I couldn’t ask you about that you’d like to discuss?
Laulan: Well we are very happy to have this special surprise that we are keeping and cannot discuss with you.
duplicate: We really want the player to be able to discover it on release day.
Laulan: We still have a few surprises and won’t reveal everything when it’s released. So we’re very excited about that. Otherwise the process was super easy. Konami was super excited. It was great working with them. We actually didn’t expect it to go so smoothly since Konami is such a large IP holder and publisher.
duplicate: From the other side of the world.
Laulan: From the other side of the world. The only thing that takes a lot of time is that when you meet, you have to translate things from French to Japanese, and then from Japanese to French. But yeah, that’s the only thing.
Laulan: One last cool thing is the voiceover.
duplicate: [laughs] Yes / Yes.
Laulan: Every character in the game is [voiced] from a team member. So this guy is a judge. [Gestures to Dupré]
duplicate: I can’t wait to update the IMDB database.
Laulan: [The sounds are] obviously just gibberish… We had a [recording] session which was quite fun. I’m involved in the boss fight. So it was pretty cool to do that. Yes, just a fun fact.
Evil Empire wasn’t ready to announce a specific release date for the Castlevania DLC, but it’s slated for release in Q1 2023 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC.
https://www.gameinformer.com/interview/2023/01/31/dead-cells-castlevania-dlc-is-twice-as-big-as-past-dlcs Dead Cells Castlevania DLC is “twice the size” of previous DLCs