This game is awesome! 10/10, Game of The Year contender...wow we haven’t even gotten halfway through the intro. How about we start the review off properly this time. The indie scene is one of my most favorite things about the video game industry. I have the deepest respect for the several solo developers or small development teams out there who make these fantastic games. Shedding hundreds of tears & sweat to build the project they’ve always dreamed of. Spending several days and even years to make sure their game is running perfectly. Then finally releasing their game into the market not even knowing if people will like it or not. But in the end, they create a complete fun to play game, one that can be enjoyed by many and replayed over and over again. I know more than over one hundred indie games. Sounds like a problem now that I type this down, but that shows you the determination developers have to publish their games out onto the market.
Especially with the hot cash grab controversial garbage some Triple-A companies publish. There’s a lot of sh*tty things happening in the Triple-A scene. Microtransactions, pay to win systems, online service only games, paid expansions to games lacking base game content, finding ways to cram in politics, focusing more on cinematography rather than making a fun game, overworking developers through the means of crunch time, and so on and so forth. The indie scene is supposed to be an escape from all this chaos, because indie games remind us at the end of the day, we’re supposed to be having fun. Yacht Club Games made a nostalgic sidescroller about a goofy knight with a shovel. Lucas Pope found a way to make stamping papers and solving murders engaging. Team Cherry made one of the best metroidvanias in years that also contained a beautiful art style, lovely soundtrack, and deep history.
If it’s one development team that deserves the most praise it would be Supergiant Games. Supergiant has been renowned for creating fantastic titles with beautiful visuals, incredible settings, memorable tales, and of course unique game design. With each title they take a huge leap forward. Bastion is a fun isometric action RPG that will remain that set the roots for the company. Transistor found a way to mix strategic turn-based tactics into combat while telling a deep tale of love & loss. Pyre was a creative sports-like game that was also a well written visual novel where the player’s action determines each character’s paths. Then there is Supergaint Games' most recent game. A game I’ve waited a really long time to play. It was revealed during the 2018 Game Awards as a surprise and at the time I hadn't even figured out about Supergiant Games and their past work. A trailer for their new game was shown off and it immediately grabbed my attention. Hades, an isometric fast-paced roguelike that took place in a Greek mythological setting.
I’m going to tell you one thing about Greek mythology. I love Greek mythology. The culture, history, tales, and even pieces of fiction inspired from it. In middle school we dedicated one month each year to learn about the Greek gods, and then be assigned to research one of them. I was given Dionysus once and, on the day, we were supposed to present, I got sick. Makes sense for a god who is probably constantly drunk. For my freshman and sophomore year of high school I took Latin class and even though my classmates didn’t care about what they were learning I was still eager to learn about several Greek heroes and monsters. I learned a bunch of Latin roots and made cool friends along the way.
So, when Hades came out in late 2018 it was still in early access meaning it wasn’t finished. Overtime Supergiant Games updated Hades, adding new items, characters, areas, and features. For PC players they were able to experience the added content, but for someone who plays mainly on consoles I had to watch from afar and hope when the full release came it would be available on consoles. Two years passed and I was still waiting on Hades, not knowing when it would come out. Out of nowhere a trailer was revealed saying the full game would come out this fall. I was hyped, I was even more hyped when the trailer said it would come out on the Nintendo Switch the day of the full release and luckily, I own a Nintendo Switch. When Hades finally came out, I immediately bought and downloaded the game on day one. I sat down on my couch, pro-controller in hand, with a big smile on my face hoping Hades would live up to my expectations. Luckily, I was completely right.
This is the most fun I have had this year and I believe Hades is a game that deserved the hype & praise. I’ve just finished my first run of the game, but I know I’ll be back for more soon. Today we’ll be talking about why I love Hades and why it highly deserves your attention. Well, I don’t even want to wait for the end of this review so I’m just going to tell you to buy it already! Play it now! Play it now before Cyberpunk 2077 comes out and everyone glues their eyes onto that game. Anyways, with that being said let’s ready our titan slaying sword, drink some wine, and dive into the depths of the underworld. I’m just going to say it again. Just buy the damn masterpiece already!
We play as Zagreus, prince of the Underworld and apparently the son of Hades. To understand where Zagreus comes from, I must explain to you the origins of Hades and the other Greek gods. When Zeus and his siblings slayed the titans who ruled the world, Zeus decided to split parts of the world with his brothers Poseidon and Hades. Zeus ruled the skies and was announced king of the gods, Poseidon was given control of the ocean, and sadly Hades was given the Underworld. Zeus and Poseidon were given places filled with life while Hades ruled a place with little to no life. He felt betrayed by his brothers, but at least he looked over the souls of the dead. He would determine what souls would get to live in peace and what souls would be punished in the deep pits of Tartarus. Hades cut his connection off with his siblings in Mount Olympus and gained several followers down in the Underworld. He collected souls and monsters who were willing to work for him, gaining the trust of Nyx the Night Incarnate and her several children who now works under his command, and even had a son. Zagreus.
Zagreus is now a young adult who has grown tired of his father’s cruelty and one day decides to escape the Underworld. The rooms within the Underworld keep shifting, Hades has hired several monsters and opponents to stand in Zagreus’ way, and whenever Zagreus dies, he is sent back to his family’s home. However, Zagreus won’t give up so easily, he is aided by the Greek gods above in Mount Olympus and will die over and over again until he reaches the surface. The Olympians are preparing a big feast for Zagreus, not knowing that mean old Hades had a child until recently and will do whatever they can to help Zagreus. Gifting him Boons, a tiny pinch of their mystical powers. So off Zagreus goes to die over and over until he finally reaches the surface.
Okay, so this is where I have to tell you that I’m about to spoil a bit of the plot. If you haven’t played the game already do so or skip to the next section, because this will ruin some of the reveals the game has. This is your warning! So, we know that Zagreus wants to reach the surface, but why? He’s not trying to escape the underworld to reach Mount Olympus. Later on, through a flashback we learn that Zagreus one day wakes up in the middle of the night to play a trick on his father. He sneaks through the halls of his house only to stumble upon a note hidden in his father’s desk. The note comes from a woman named Persephone who turns out to be Zagreus’ biological mother.
For his whole life Zagreus was told by his father that Nyx was his mother, but now Zagreus wants answers. Who was Persephone? Why did she leave the underworld? Sadly, Hades refuses to answer these questions. Zagreus asks Nyx for help and since Nyx has taken care of Zagreus ever since he was a child, she plans to help him. Nyx has grown tired of Hades and his ways and tells Zagreus that if he can fight his way through the Underworld, he can meet Persephone on the surface. Zagreus follows Nyx’s advice, Nyx sends a secret message to the Olympians for help, and even a few Underworld inhabitants plan to help Zagreus on his journey. So that’s your main goal, to reunite with Persephone and figure out the past. Even if it means figuring out more about yourself and why you are bound to the underworld.
Hades is a roguelike and if you have ever played a roguelike before you should know exactly how these types of games work. You run through each area, picking up items that increase your stats or give you new abilities, and when you die you get kicked back to the start. It doesn't matter how far you go, when you die you always go back to the start. This type of game design might get frustrating very quickly to people, but I personally think it’s clever. These games want you to constantly improve, try out new tactics, and on new runs you might get a little bit further. Trial by error, similar to how difficult games like Bloodborne punish those who aren’t willing to learn from their mistakes. The big question is what Hades does differently from other indie roguelikes?
A bit actually. Whenever you die you spawn back in the House of Hades, one of the most vital areas in the game. Here you can chat to your colleagues, unlock upgrades, and equip weapons for your next run. The weapons you unlock are unique, they look simple at first but once you understand them, they can become extremely deadly. Your sword makes big fluid swipes and has a ground slam attack that hits all the foes around you. Then later on you unlock a shield that can be slammed down onto foes, stuns them easily, thrown like a frisbee of death, and has a charged dash attack. Then there’s the spear which has good range, can be thrown and called back at any time. The gauntlets that unleash a flurry of blows and can perform special combos. The bow with charged shots that when performed at the right time can deal critical damage, and a gun that fires explosive missiles. All these weapons are fun to use, and you are encouraged to swap out every once in a while, to gain extra bonuses during runs.
How do you unlock weapons and upgrades though? With the items you find throughout the Underworld. Each room in Hades is labeled with the specific reward you're going to get from completing it, and sometimes the reward can be doubled when entering a more challenging room. Keys can be spent on new weapons or unlocking new types of upgrade categories. Gems can be used to customize the House of Hades or improve the rewards some rooms may have. Titanblood can be used to unlock new fighting styles for your weapons. Gifts can be given to characters in exchange for equipable charms with special perks. Darkness which can be spent at the Mirror of Night for permanent upgrades for each run. You can even trade these items in for the ones you want. Darkness is especially important, because the upgrades you unlock with them will help you get further. Hades seems hard at first, but you slowly unlock upgrades that make the game slightly easier. A damage boost if you inflict two ailments onto an enemy, blood shards to perform more projectile attacks, Death Defiances which allow you to continue if your health reaches zero, and many more.
Another aspect I really like about Hades is Boons. Throughout your journey you will be given Boons, which allow you to contact the many Greek gods up on Olympus. These gods include Zeus, Athena, Poseidon, Artemis, Ares, Aphrodite, Dionysus, and many more. By accepting these boons, you will be given the choice of accepting one of three skills. These skills will either affect your abilities or give you special perks. For example, if I acquire a boon from Poseidon, God of the ocean, I can give my attacks water damage and gain the ability to push my foes with mighty waves. I can assign this to either my normal attacks, special, cast, and dodge depending on what is offered. As long as I have the skill slot for it. Only one type of boon can be equipped to each slot. If I accept a boon from Athena, goddess of wisdom, that allows my dodge to deflect projectiles then it means when I meet Zeus, God of thunder, I won’t be able to equip skills that affect my dodge. However, I can choose a skill for another ability. By mixing certain combinations you can make some runs a lot easier.
There are also other items that improve your performance. Hearts that increase your maximum health, hammers that give your weapons new skills, pomegranates of power that level up your boons, and coins which can be spent at Charon’s shop. Charon is a boatman who escorts the souls of the dead, but in the meantime, he is a merchant who sells you goods. When you die though you lose these items, so be careful what upgrades you choose. Well, that’s all I can say about the gameplay, but I can say the game changes overtime. When you die a certain number of times you get moments that progress the story or change the House of Hades, and if you beat bosses a specific number of times they change entirely. The first boss Megera, is one of three furies you fight, but later on you get to fight the other two. So, Supergiant knew they had to change up the pace and match the player’s skill level as they progressed. It constantly gives the game life and makes it highly replayable. Hopefully you can defeat the fiends of the underworld, reach the surface, and escape the hell you call home.
Hades is remarkable, beyond amazing, and sets a new benchmark for the roguelike genre. The combat is fast and frenetic. It can ramp up in an instant, but it's awesome to zip around and cut through waves of enemies within seconds using the right combination of Boons and skills earned overtime through experience. The art style is beautiful, much like all of Supergiant’s other games. It’s vibrant, glossy, has a wide color palette, and helps the player be amazed with the world. I even have to say most of the character designs were perfect and matched their personality and who they were. The soundtrack is what eggs you on to keep running through the Underworld. Darren Korb did an excellent job composing each of the songs for the game. There’s a lot of neat references to ancient Greek tales and they pay respect to the material it’s based on. The gameplay and presentation by itself as a whole are perfect for me.
The thing that actually kept me playing Hades was not only the chaotic combat and how it aimed to be a work of art, but the story. Hades is one of the few roguelikes with a compelling story to keep you pushing forward. No matter how many times you die you want to know the truth. Know more about the world, know who Zagreus is, and why his life is so frustrating. Trying to incorporate a good story into a roguelike is hard, because you would have to sacrifice the gameplay to write the narrative. Hades pulls this off without faltering the slightest. I heard to get the true ending you have to pull off ten successful runs. Sounds like a lot especially since it took me thirty attempts to beat my first run, but I may try it out because I care about these characters, and I want to see them live happily ever after. It's one of those games where even after you roll credits you wish you spent more time with it because it feels like there is more to it.
One extra feature I like to mention is God mode which makes the game less difficult, but unlike most easy modes it doesn't remove the challenge entirely. When you activate it, you start with 20% damage resistance and every time you die you gain 2%. So, the developers still want you to work towards your reward. Before Hades, my favorite roguelike was Dead Cells by Motion Twin. It too was fast and frenetic, and I kept playing it because it was so addicting. Do I think Hades is better than Dead Cells? I can safely say Hades is the best roguelike I ever played and may in fact be one of best video games I’ve ever played alongside Hollow Knight and Bloodborne.
I know I say the phrase “one of the best ever” a lot but I mean it this time. Hades is a masterpiece and one of the best games to come out this year. It's definitely going to be my Game of The Year. I highly recommend it even if you are not a fan of roguelikes and anyone who wants a game worth their money. It has great build variety, memorable characters, a kickass soundtrack, great world building, and has infinite replay value. In the end I am giving Hades a 10/10 for being incredible. Seems high for a game of this type, but Supergiant deserves it.
This critique was written by the single man at Review on. Stay tuned for more content and feel free to check more reviews out over at my site!