Who knew the Underworld was so lively?
A long hecking time ago, Supergiant Games’ newest endeavor, Hades, appeared on the Epic Games store as an early access title, followed by a Steam release in the same vein about a year later. As a devout fan of Supergiant Games, I’ve been carefully monitoring this game’s progress through its two-year early access period. When I played the pre-release version, I thought to myself “this game is already pretty fantastic, I’m not sure how the real deal can be any better.” Turns out it can be better. So, so much better. Hades is one of the best roguelites I’ve played in ages.
We’ve actually covered this game previously here on Uncached in a first impressions article at the beginning of 2020. If you want an overview of the story, just go read that, ’cause it’s more or less the same. If you can’t be bothered, here’s some cliff notes: Zagreus, son of Hades and prince of the Underworld, wants to leave, and the only way he’s getting out is by hacking and slashing through all four regions. If he’s killed, though, he’ll just respawn back at the bottom, because hey, where else is he going to go?
The interesting thing about Hades‘ story is how the whole thing unfolds organically as you progress and die. Every time you return to the House of Hades, its various denizens will have comments on the enemies you’ve fought and the people you’ve met during your escape attempts. I’m honestly unsure how much unique dialogue was written for this game, because I’ve made 20-something escape attempts, and I still haven’t heard any repeats. It’s all wonderful stuff; Zagreus has a likable dry wit to him that charms his few friends and infuriates his enemies. The various gods of Olympus, who contact and aid you through their Boons, speak in grandiose tones tinged with a sort of familial annoyance at putting up with each other. Even the imposing residents of the underworld act like the tired clerical workers they are. Oh, and you can pet Cerberus, as you should.
But enough of the setting, how does it play? Hades is, in a word, fast. If you’re not dashing all over the place, taking quick potshots at foes and getting out of the way, you’re doing it wrong. It can be a little jarring at first, but once you pick up the rhythm, it becomes a beautiful ballet of organized chaos. There’s six weapons to choose from, unlocked with keys obtained during runs, and each one handles completely differently. By accepting the Boons of gods, your abilities grow and change in dastardly ways. With a little help from Zeus, your attacks create lightning that chains between foes. A favor from Artemis, and your slashes let loose a flurry of arrows. A quick nudge from Athena, and your dash becomes a shield that deflects projectiles. With a little luck and planning, you can assemble a formidable kit that plows through foes en masse.
You’ll still die a lot as you learn the game and get good, and that’s fine, because each run yields currency and materials you can use to upgrade Zag’s abilities, install helpful bonuses throughout the underworld, or just change the color of the drapes in the House of Hades. Hades hates it when you do that, it’s funny. The game is infinitely replayable; even when you successfully clear a run, you’re nowhere near finished. If you want the true ending, you’ll have to really put your nose to the grindstone, but if you’re anything like me, you’ll do so happily.
I am just so, so happy to see this game finally reach a completed state, and of such an immaculate quality. Granted, I expected no less from Supergiant, but after you follow a game for two years, you can’t help but feel a little proud when it finally spreads its wings. It was a long wait, but it was completely worth it, because Hades is an absolutely fantastic game that everyone should play.