Game Review: Hades

The following is a guest review from DrXan.

Release Date: 2020 (Full version)
Version played: PC (via Steam) in 2022

The fourth game from developer Supergiant Games, Hades is an isometric roguelike about escaping the Greek underworld and screwing over your own father, the eponymous Hades.  You play as Zagreus, son of Hades, who with the aid of his extended family of Olympian gods, must escape his father’s realm usually by the method of fighting, winning, and repeatedly dying.

+ this game is gorgeous; every environment and character is detailed with small elements that lend themselves to the themes of an underworld and gods. It helps that interactions with characters are accompanied with their portrait alongside their dialogue allowing you to appreciate their design on each meeting
+ Supergiant’s resident music composer Darren Korb outdoes himself again with the music of Hades. It’s punchy, melancholic and moody with songs ranging from the rich background music through to the lamentations of the house musician and other characters. There is a guitar solo in a boss fight in Hades that instantly made me understand I was about to die
+ the controls are tight and reactive and allow for some precise movement in combat. The range of Olympian boons, weapons and abilities means you can change your entire playstyle from run to run
+ probably the high point of any Supergiant game is the story and Hades is no exception. From Olympian gods, dead heroes, and other underworld denizens every character is fleshed out and interacts in an understandable way. Relationships are a big part of the game, having a whole system with perks built around them, but the true prizes are the conversations themselves
+ replayability is always a welcome part of any roguelike game, and Hades has it in spades. Difficulty sliders are a thing of the past; Hades introduces customisable conditions that you can mix and match to make the game harder. Want a time limit? Done. Want every boss to have altered mechanics for your 50th run in a row? Also done. It’s no wonder that people continue to play this game two years on and even into the hundreds of runs

– randomness is a feature of roguelikes, but here it really doesn’t mesh with may of the narrative elements. For example: you learn some pressing information from a god on one of your runs and want to discuss it with a character back at the House after you die. The character may not even be present, or could be in a conversation with another character thus disabling their dialogue with you, or even worse they may be available but decide to just discuss some random factoid about how you died instead of the story-related point you desperately wanted them to comment on
– your runs too will be decided largely by randomness early on; if you don’t find the boons and buffs you were hoping for you may be headed for what some call a ‘suicide run’ where you intentionally die in order to start over. This is necessary because the ‘quit back to home’ button in the menu essentially makes it so that that attempt never happened, including any story progression
– whilst I won’t spoil any story beats, the fact that there are so many characters, and so many lines of dialogue, combined with the above problem of locked out characters between each run, can lead to some examples where characters just presume information you’ve never told them. I once had a character discussing my family situation, only for the next interaction with them beginning with me telling them the situation to begin with. These examples are few and far between but do leave you scratching your head from time to time
– tying relationship unlocks to arcane and hard to decipher goals, often with no in-game hints, does not lend itself to such a story driven game. How was I supposed to know the God of Love would only like me if I was sleeping with someone?

> I always like to mention achievements when discussing games as they are my version of 100% completion. The achievements in Hades are fantastic in that they are broadly tied to in-game quests/achievements. You would complete probably 90% of them in a full run through, and the final few aren’t as much of a grind as they may seem at first. For reference I now have 100% in just under 150 hours
> I’m very glad this game’s ending didn’t make me as emotional as Transistor’s did
> is there a best narrator award in games? Because Supergiant needs a lifetime achievement award and this is only their fourth game

Should you play this game? Without a doubt. I’ll admit I have been a fan of Supergiant Games since I first played Bastion many years ago and count that game as one of my favourites I have ever played. Hades is its equal and perhaps even surpasses it in terms or replayability and visuals. I’m glad I was able to finally pick this one up and can’t wait for the newly announced Hades II to release.


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