Supergiant Games’ Hades is the newest installment of the indie company that has already won over player’s hearts with stunning games like Transistor or Bastion. This time the company had opted for an Early Access Model, which is always a tricky thing. So the question is: How did they do?
Update: The game had its official release one week after this article was originally released.
A spin on daddy issues
You are Zagreus, immortal son of Hades. You are sick of your father’s realm and you have decided to leave the underworld. The problem? You have to fight a myriad of minions, traverse procedurally generated rooms across multiple landscapes and defeat the bosses that guard each exit as you get closer to the freedom you have longed for so much. Your father laughs at you as you try time and time again, taunts you with each failed attempt, proclaiming that there is no escape.
Needless to say, our hero is not easily discouraged
A fist full of action
Hades is a rogue-lite hack & slash dungeon-crawler. That means each time you attempt another escape, you start from zero, but as you progress through the rooms your character becomes stronger and stronger. Die, and you will be reborn at the foot of Hades (the place), where your father awaits you with a snarky comment. But on each run, you bring something back. Resources that you can use to develop your abilities, make runs easier, or improve the randomness of the rooms with extra goods.
The gameplay is extremely fluid and action-packed. You will dodge, dash, run and attack your way through hordes of enemies, killing anything that moves until a room clears up and a shiny trinket of one of the Olymp’s Gods suddenly pops up. Pick it up and call upon the Olymp. Gods of Greek mythology are watching you with curiosity. And if you call upon them for help, they will answer and lend you their strength.
Sheer endless possibilities
Each so-called boon will improve your abilities somehow, and give them the distinct flavor of the God that you have reached. Each encounter slightly changes the way you play the game in accordance with your newfound abilities. As it is often the case with roguelike games, this will make every run vastly different.
You have plenty of weapons to choose from, and they will have a completely different feel and style to them. There are ways to change and upgrade them, customize them to some extend, and they will all have their own backgrounds and secrets. Every weapon feels unique and the so-called boons I have mentioned above just add to this uniqueness.
Hades is one of those games that feel like the possibilities are endless. You will want to try every weapon. But you will also want to try every combination of weapons and certain boons. And its damn fun. The fluidity of the game, along with the sheer sense of power you get from elegantly massacring your way through hordes of enemies is an absolute blast. Hack & Slash is at core exactly this. Kill monsters and feel awesome while doing it.
Graphics & Sound
The good thing about all of this is, it is also damn beautiful. Supergiant’s distinct drawing style is a hallmark that was established from their previous successful games like Bastion and Transistor. The quality of the style seems to have improved only over time. Along with that, the game doesn’t just feel fluid, it also looks exactly that way. Every animation seems flawless and just adds to the aforementioned effect. The world design with beautiful backgrounds and distinct, sometimes eerie underworld vibes creates the perfect atmosphere.
These animations make you feel extra powerful
An excellent soundtrack embellishes the style and feel of the game and it’s combat and seamlessly flows into one of Hades’ strongest aspects, the…
Voice acting & the story
If I were to quote a number of voice-acted lines Hades has, it would probably be obsolete by the time the next patch hits. There are hundreds upon hundreds of voice lines to discover, changing every time you finish or fail on a run through the Hades, and every character will have something new to say, depending on your relationship with them. Which is why the story is part of this chapter of the review. Voice lines and dialogue is the main way the story is told. As our hero Zagreus encounters denizens of Hades upon his escape attempts or inside the halls of Hades, you are always gonna be hanging back for a quick chat. Slowly you uncover more parts of the story and get to know the background of our hero along with the stories of the other characters. And it is damn good. The voice acting in Hades is absolutely splendid. The frustration of Zagreus as you fail yet another attempt rings just as authentically as the mischievous remarks of our own Father.
Dad is not taking us seriously
Early access done right
As I asked before, the question with early-access games is always whether they already have enough to offer. All of the features above look and sound good, but if the possibilities are not as endless as it seems because countless features have not been implemented yet, or worse are buggy and unpolished, it might be a totally different ride through hell.
Luckily there is nothing to fear with Supergiant Games. By the time this review is written, the game is closing on to its planned launch. But even before that, Supergiant has made a point of offering stable and continous updates every few months, even pinpointing them to exact dates. We all know that early-access can be tricky, but Hades is one of those rare cases where the early-access version is already more polished and has more content than contamporaries that have had their full release. The content is so massive, you barely even realize you are playing an unfinished title
The best of all predecessors
In conclusion, what Hades manages to do is combine all the good aspects of the earlier Supergiant Games. It has the fast-paced action of Bastion and the deepness and beauty of Transistor. It is truly a gem of a game that has “underrated” written all over it. And most importantly, it nails the most important elements of a roguelike: A fun combat system and endless replayability.
If roguelikes are your thing, you really can’t go wrong here. It is probably one of the best titles of the genre. And if not or if you have no experience with them, you should consider giving it a shot with this title. Grab it on steam!
If have bought it and are looking for some guidance, check this beginner guide: