Hades is a spectacular action Rogue-lite that offers various ways to progress, but there’s little reason to keep playing once you escape Hell.

Right now, it feels like we’re all living in an endless lockdown we wish we could escape. So it’s the perfect time for a game like Hades, a game where you literally try and escape your life in the underworld.

Developed by Supergiant Games, creators of masterpieces such as Bastion and Pyre, Hades recently left Early Access. The question is, is it really ready, or could it use a few more practice runs?

A Boy and His Three-headed Dog 

Hades is a rogue-lite that takes place in the world of Greek mythology, like another popular game series. We play as the god of rebirth Zagreus, who’s trapped in the underworld by his father, Hades. After years of isolation, Zagreus decides to journey through Hell and reach the land of the living.

During his journey, Zagreus will face the obstacles his dad placed for him. But luckily, the Greek pantheon is by his side, and they offer him their powers. However, some of them have their own agenda.

Hades review

Even with all this help, our journey mostly ends in Zagreus’s death and rebirth back at his father’s hall. After all, we’re already in Hell. But we’re always free to try again and again. Before each departure, we can speak with the family, our pet dog Cerberus, friends, and even enemies. Each can offer you various helpful tips or information and the world and characters.

Don’t Mention the Heel

Unfortunately, Hades lacks a true story to catch the player. You quickly understand who’s friend and who’s foe, and Zagreus’s story pretty much ends when you first reach the surface.

There is little to discover about the world, especially if you have basic knowledge of Greek mythology. It’s a shame you don’t get to interact more with the gods that live outside of the underworld since Greek myth is rife with melodrama and epic rivalries.

Hades review

But the excellent writing more than makes up for the lack of plot. It’s hard not to like the residents of the underworld. You get to see them and peek into the various relationships in the world of the dead quite often. The god Hypnos is an example of someone you get to meet a lot, and he always reacts to your death with a bit of sass. Achilles, the mighty mythological hero, lends his support to Zagreus, and papa Hades is still confused about how to treat his rebellious son.

Fun as Hell

The most exciting part of the game is its gameplay. Hades is a 3D action game. You have a few different attacks depending on the weapon you’re wielding, a magical attack, and you can even dodge.

Hades review gameplay

Each level is a different area in the underworld, where you go room after room until you reach the zone boss. Mostly, you select where to head next, but you can not turn back once you do. Every room rewards you with a specific prize that can drastically alter the rest of your run.

You also encounter rooms that give you special items you use to strengthen Zagreus after a run. Other rooms improve your weapons, give you a new godly ability, or let you buy different skills for the money you collect during your run. There are also a few rooms with special events or mini-bosses that drop rewards that are well worth the effort.

There are many gods in the Greek pantheon, and each one has their own abilities to offer you. Athena, the goddess of war and wisdom, can teach you defensive moves that deflect enemy abilities. Ares, the god of war, can vastly increase Zagreus’s attack power, while Zeus can make Zagreus’s attacks inflict lightning damage. Picking the powers right for you is crucial to a successful run.

The Goddess Athena

A 1000 Ways to Improve, but Only One to Die

The rooms you visit dictate how the rest of your run goes. The weapon upgrades can totally alter your game style, and so does the god powers you choose: you’ll have to decide if you stick with one god or follow a few. I often debated whether I should stay with Athena and improve my dodge, or go to Dyonisus’s room for a little bit of healing before each fight.

The upgrade options don’t end here. You can boost Zagreus with extra HP and special effects by equipping new gear you find on your run. Also, most weapons change almost completely when you upgrade them.

But while you have a lot to play with when it comes to your character, the same isn’t true for the path you take.

Hades review

Hades is a game with very little variety. All the levels are fixed in their design and order. The bosses almost don’t change, which means you don’t really have to change your strategy. Even the special rooms stay basically the same. After your first successful run all the way to the end, the game doesn’t really have anything new to offer.

Sure, there a few ways to increase the difficulty or discover more secrets, but I couldn’t find anything that made me want to keep on playing. That, along with the weak story, just didn’t justify another run.

The problems don’t end there. Many of the significant upgrades in Hades require you to grind for rare materials, which is quite depressing. And that is without taking into account the weird system that prevents bosses from dropping certain items if you already killed them with the specific weapon you’re wielding. The game doesn’t really explain this system until the first time you escape Hell.

Hades review

Death Has Never Been so Beautiful

Hades is an impressive looking game thanks to the unique design of Supergiant Games’ artists. The environment, the character models, and the enemies all look great and easily fit the greek mythology concept.

Even so, I’m glad to say the game runs smoothly even on my potato of a laptop. The game reacted well to my inputs, and never did I die because of input lag or anything of the sort.

The voice acting is equally great, and the music pushes you forwards and fits well with the game’s visuals. Which is lucky, as you’ll often find yourself listening to the same few tracks for a while.

Hades is an impressive looking game

Hades is a near-perfect game. If it wasn’t for its lack of variety, I’d recommend it to anyone in a heartbeat. If you’re okay with endlessly going through the same areas and killing the same bosses until you reach the end, then by all means – dive in.

For the rest of you, I’d recommend waiting for future content. More bosses and dungeons will do Hades good. Unless, of course, you plan on leaving Hell and never looking back.

Developer: Supergiant Games

Publisher: Supergiant Games

Release Date: Sep. 17, 2020

Genre: Action, Roguelike

Available On: PC, Switch

Reviewed On: PC

Our Hades review copy was purchased by the reviewer.

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