Supergiant’s take on hell is decrepit yet majestic. Their unique style and storytelling oozes from every corner of Hades. Its beautiful visuals and fresh take on roguelikes are much needed in this time of copycats and bandwagoners.
Previewed on PC (Epic Games Store).
The story of Hades is pretty light. You play as prince Zagreus, the son of Hades, and your goal is to get out of hell. Your father, however, disapproves of this so he puts obstacles and enemies in your way. Luckily for you, your mother Nyx, the embodiment of night, sends a letter to Olympus so that the other gods can help you escape.
Where the game really shines is in its character interactions and dialogue. Each time you die and return to the house of Hades you can speak with all of the major characters and get more information or even learn new things about Zagreus and the current state of hell. Each character seethes with personality and individuality.
The world of Hades feels lived in. There is a story there that makes it seem like the world is living and breathing. From Cerberus tearing apart the dining hall because he is angry about you leaving, to Hades himself being passive aggressive towards you because the father-son relationship is strained, everything comes across as already being in motion and things happening before you ever pick up the game. The Hades family is a big dysfunctional family that has a lot of passive aggression going on.
Hades plays fairly similar to one of their previous games, Bastion. You have a light attack, which you will use A LOT, your heavy attack, and your cast attack which is your projectile. Depending on your weapon these attacks will differ greatly. However, each one is viable and it depends mostly on your preferred playstyle. You have a selection of a broadsword, a lance, a bow, and a shield. At the start, you only have the broadsword and you will need to gather keys to unlock the other weapons. As this is early access there seems to be a couple of spots for more weapons that may be added or unlocked later.
As you progress through each room, you get rewards upon completing them. You see what the reward will be before entering and if there are multiple doors you can choose the door with the reward that you want. These rewards range from dust you can use for permanent upgrades to boons from the gods that boost your attacks and give you other abilities.
The first area is LONG. You will die many times before even catching a glimpse of the boss if your RNG is terrible like mine is. There were times where I thought I was doing great only to get into a room and get destroyed by the enemies. If the regular enemies don’t get you then the super enemies will. They are unrelenting and have armor, allowing them to ignore hit-stun and chase you down. Death is an integral part of this game and you will get familiar with it.
While you are playing and going through run after run in order to get out of hell, you get dusk. Dusk is what you use in order to learn skills to make Zagreus more resilient so that you can have an easier time getting farther. Some skills allow you to heal after every room while others give you a chance to get health back if you counterattack immediately after getting hit. There are many skills and depending on how you want to play, you can build him up to your liking. If health isn’t your primary concern you can buff skills that give him increased damage and make the boons he gets from the other gods better.
Speaking of the other gods… Every now and then you will come across a boon from one of the many gods in the Greek pantheon. This can range from Artemis and Poseidon to Zeus himself, lending you aid and is accompanied by a brief bit of dialogue from them. These boons have rarities and which you choose can determine if you make it to the next area or get swarmed and have to start over. Figuring out which boon goes best with the weapon you have is key with this game.
The last mechanic of note is being able to gift any of the main characters an item and getting something in return. There are rooms where you get this item and upon dying or running into one of the gods you can gift it to them. Even Cerberus will give you something in return, he is such a good boy. These items can be equipped and do a variety of different things. If you give it to Nyx she will give you a cloak that allows you to pass through enemies, while Cerberus will give you an item that gives you more health at the start of your run. Balancing getting abilities for the current run and getting these gifts for future runs is important as one item can help you snowball to the next area.
As we have come to expect from Supergiant, Hades is gorgeous. They have only gotten more skilled and more detailed with each game they create. The Gods are all vastly different and very detailed. Each rocking an intricate and insane hairstyle and clothes that look like they took centuries to craft.
The areas are well detailed down to the last brick. Each chamber has its own unique and varied appearance. Not often will you find the same configuration on each run through. Tartarus has spirits of the dead flowing through and watching as you defeat all the enemies in the chamber. The chambers glow as eerie green flames light your way, making everything look ghastly and unreal.
Asphodel is where things can get a bit samey and blend together. Its lava flows and fire eruptions are in nearly every chamber. While the actual land masses are in different positions and the boats to take you to the next area are different, the actual look of Asphodel isn’t consistent enough, as you start feeling like you aren’t making any headway or progress.
As this game is still in early access, many of the areas may change or be moved around in order to improve visuals. However, as it stands currently, the only two areas built are Tartarus and Asphodel. On the other hand, the character models are set and are well crafted.
Hades soundtrack is enjoyable. It’s light and mellow most of the time, however, it will pick up during boss battles and rooms with strong enemies. The soundtrack is guitar heavy and really pushes you along as you are fighting in each chamber. It amps you up and gets you excited.
Once you enter a boss room you’ll know because the music will shift and get you ready for the ordeal you are about to go through. Each area also has its own selection of music that adds individuality and shifts the tone.
The soundboard of Hades is impressive as well. Each hit, slash, and shot is spot on and feel impactful. The feedback from shooting an enemy with a bow or knocking them into a wall is impeccable. The enemy audio cues for them preparing for an attack are clear and obvious. You can tell exactly which enemy is about to attack even if they are off screen somewhere, which is pretty important since projectile enemies will almost always be off screen.
Hades voice cast is also pretty good. Each character’s voice fits with who they are and how they appear. Zagreus is cocky and rebellious, Hades is uptight, and Meg is sadistic and cold. There is this weird echo or reverb that they put over all of the characters voices in order to make them sound more otherworldly, however, for me it just doesn’t work on most of the cast. You can really hear it when you are speaking with Zeus or Poseidon as their voices echo heavily. Hopefully, there is some tweaking eventually or they drop the echo altogether before the game leaves early access.
Hades is off to a great start. As Supergiant’s latest game and their first early access title, one could not expect anything better. From the art style to the gameplay, everything is well done. The game is not perfect and some tweaking and adjustments can make the game even better. The echo or reverb over the voices could definitely use some work and the difficulty of some of the rooms can use some tweaking too. If you are interested in roguelikes with a heavy story and great art style then Hades is definitely worth a try.