Developer: Supergiant Games
Publisher: Supergiant Games
Genre: Roguelike/Rogue-lite, Dungeon Crawler, Adventure, RPG, Action
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Age Rating: PEGI 12
Release Date: 17/09/2020
A code was provided for review purposes.
Well, praise the gods, it’s finally here! I have managed to play more hours of Hades over the last few days than I care to admit and I have relished every second. Supergiant Games are one of my favourite developers. Ever since I played Transistor I have been completely captivated by their games. They ooze charm, they drip with quality and everything about them is so impeccably done.
Gods Are Asses, Aren’t They?
The gods are a bunch of asses, aren’t they? It does not matter what medium you see them in either. Whether it be film, TV, books or video games, rarely do you see one and say, “Oh what a nice chap he was!” They always have an agenda, they are always messing with things or getting into mischief. Hades is no different, you bloody gods! (Shakes fist at the sky).
Hades is a roguelike or rogue-lite, whichever way you want to swing it and this genre is one of my favourites. So, I have one of my favourite developers taking on one of my favourite genres. Has someone been peeking at my Christmas list? I love games that you can play repeatedly for hours and hours and it is a diverse experience every time. Games like Spelunky and Binding of Isaac tick a lot of my favourite gaming boxes and Hades also fits this mould.
Hades is different in many ways but the roguelike qualities that make the aforementioned games so great are intact. If you took the randomness, slow repeatable progress of an Isaac or Spelunky and sprinkle it with the stunning Supergiant Games art-style, weave some Supergiant story magic into it then overlaid it with the fabulous music of Darren Korb, you get Hades. It’s a fabulous concoction that I am currently besotted with.
A Mix of Supergiant’s Past Games
So, in Hades, you play as Zagreus, son of Hades and prince of the underworld. You are attempting to escape the underworld, with the help of a plethora of uncanny characters, mainly made up of gods from Greek mythology and the whole thing is a massively entertaining romp. Supergiant says that the game “includes the fast-paced action of Bastion, the rich atmosphere and depth of Transistor, and the character-driven storytelling of Pyre.” Which is a very, on-point summary of the game.
I have played oodles and oodles of roguelikes but I have never played one with such a well-woven, rich story like Hades. All the characters, in both the hub and inside each run through the terrifying dungeon, are full of interesting things to say. I love how all the gods react to each other, it makes every run feel coherent and makes the whole game feel like a massively connected tapestry rather than loads of non-connected individual runs. It’s magnificent and unlike any other roguelike I have played.
Great Roguelike Qualities
Hades has all the hallmarks that make a roguelike great, awesome combat, brilliant minute to minute choices and a great set of persistent upgrades that fold beautifully into this amazingly realized world. There is so much to do, see, upgrade and discover that even after the massive amount of time I have put into the game, I feel there is so much still to see and do. I need to write this review now though, otherwise, it may be another 100 hours of gameplay before I get round to it.
The hub in Hades is brilliant, in between runs you can spend your various currencies on a massive amount of different upgrades. From weapon upgrades to upgrades that appear within the dungeon to even cosmetic stuff for your room. You obviously have character upgrades and equippable bonuses too but I do not want to talk about this stuff too much. This is stuff players should enjoy and discover for themselves, it is half the fun of the game and should be savoured.
Dungeon Crawling Greatness
Right, let’s get into the meat of it then, hows the combat? What are the runs through the dungeons like? Well, in short, glorious. You start by picking your weapon and getting a random boon from one of the games many gods. These boons are a choice of three upgrades associated with the god giving them. You choose and apply the boon to your numerous techniques that are governed by the weapon you choose at the start of the run. These upgrades are numerous and how you build your character is paramount to your success.
Your techniques, which are assigned to your face buttons vary depending on your weapon choice. You start with only the starter sword selectable but can unlock more weapons as you gather keys. Later on, you can also unlock different versions of each weapon, further adding to the massive smorgasbord of decisions you have to make in each run. Each weapon has techniques to master, upgrade and augment with boons and each one plays very differently. Its great fun trying to master each one and its respective playstyle.
You Are In Control of Your Destiny
After your first boon, you will be presented with a few grunts to test your combat skills on before you move into the hellish dungeon proper. What I loved about every delve into these dungeons is the fact that each room has a symbol on the door to tell you what rewards can be gained within. They can even be re-rolled if you have the ability. This means you often have a choice of what reward you want, more cash? An upgrade? A boon? A shop? Your destiny is a lot more within your control than a lot of roguelikes and I really enjoyed that.
As well as your standard combat rooms you have many of the other roguelike traits you expect. From random healing rooms to shops and from pits that descend into chaos to mini-challenges you must overcome. You must always be adaptable and always on your toes if you want free of this endless torment. Every run is different, every run unique and I think that is why I love roguelikes so much. I need to be versatile, I need to be fluid and make micro-decisions constantly that could make or break every run.
Even when you die and you will die a lot, the persistent currency you have acquired can be used to make your future runs a tiny bit easier. You always feel like you are progressing, you always feel like you are edging towards victory. As long as you learn from each death, you will eventually succeed. If you are really struggling there is a ‘god mode’ available. This offers a damage reduction for new players or players that are finding it hard to progress. It also goes the other way too and there are many ways to make the game more difficult. Hades can be played how you want and it’s very malleable to all players skill sets.
Godly Sights and Sounds
Let’s move onto the sight and sounds of Hades, they are absolutely astonishing. The same art style seen in Supergiants previous games is there, which is simply beautiful. Every area and every character is amazingly realized, really interesting to look at and everything is so bright it pops right off the small screen of the Nintendo Switch. I did fear, after seeing some videos of Hades, that the portable version may suffer but it does not. There are no worries there. Hades is a moving piece of art, a piece of art that wants to kill you, horribly, time and time again.
The sound work is also very well done. Anyone who has played Supergiant’s other games knows what to expect. Darren Korb provides the score and all the characters are voiced to a very high standard. I loved listening to what each character had to say and I loved seeing their story unfold. This all set to the backdrop of some stunning music is all you can wish for from the sound design of a video game.
One Of The Best Games This Year
The amazing soundtrack, the beautiful setting and the interwoven story really drag you into the underworld of this title. You want to succeed and you want to learn. You want to understand how all the games systems work together. What you end up with is a completely engrossing game that once it gets its claws into you, will not easily let go. Hades stands as one of my favourite games of the year. Given we have had Ghost of Tsushima and The Last of Us 2, that means a hell of a lot.
Even when I died which happens a lot, I learned something, I can upgrade slightly and be better next time around. Hades has a wonderful gameplay loop that’s so addictive. Hades also has various ways to make it easier or harder depending on your skill level and makes sure anyone can play. The depth and difficulty are there though if you want them. I have so much more to see, so much more to do. Even now I am looking over to my Nintendo Switch and contemplating another escape attempt from the underworld. Absolutely superb, well done Supergiant Games.
Rapid Reviews Rating
You can purchase Hades from the Nintendo eShop.