Supergiant Games have been around for quite some time now and the studio has developed and pushed out hit after hit after hit. They’ve done it once again with their latest game, Hades. Hades is a game about escape. Of course, escaping anything isn’t easy. Escaping from the depths of the underworld is a whole different level of crazy and escaping Hades is going to be as difficult as you can imagine. Be prepared for lots of hacking and slashing.
Players will take on the role of Zagreus, Hades’ disgruntled son. Zagreus wakes up one day and decides to hell with it all, he wants out and he wants out now. He disobeys his father’s commands and sets off into Tartarus with his trusty blade Stygius and the hope of reaching the surface.
This is where you come in. Players will move Zagreus around an isometric environment that is fantastic in every single aspect. As Zagreus, you will be able to perform a normal attack, a special attack and a “cast” attack. Normal attacks can be strung together to perform a slashing combo while Zagreus’ special attack stabs Stygius into the ground creating a shockwave slam. The cast attack fires off a bloodstone which damages and then lodges itself into an enemy. All of this is incredibly easy to grasp but as the game goes on, there are additional layers of complexity added to the combat system.
As you venture throughout Tartarus, Zagreus will encounter the other Olympian Gods in the form of orbs. When you interact with these orbs, Zagreus is treated to a message from the respective Olympian God and given a choice between 1 of 3 separate buffs. Each Olympian God provides a specific type of buff related to what they stand for. For example Ares, being the God of War, will provide Zagreus with aggressive “doom” buffs that dish out tonnes of damage.
The orbs don’t only just provide buffs though. As you encounter each of the Olympian Gods, more of the story will be revealed to you as Zagreus accepts and listens to their messages. This is a masterful method of storytelling since it’s fed to you in bite sized chunks throughout the game with very little interruption to the flow of the game.
Each area in Hades is divided into subsections known as “Encounters”. After each encounter, Zagreus can make a choice as to where to go next by looking at the orb displayed above the exit doors. These orbs can display symbols which represent a specific Olympian God or they can indicate something else entirely such as Charon’s Obol or a specific NPC character interaction.
Speaking of Charon, Zagreus will encounter the iconic River Styx boatman throughout the game and will be able to spend Obol (coins) at his shop to buy Olympian God buffs or other items such as healing food or centaur hearts to increase his health total. Charon’s shop is therefore indispensable to progressing further into the game since you’ll be making use of him quite often when he shows up.
Hades incorporates death into its gameplay loop in an absolutely amazing manner. After your first soirée into the underworld, chances are you won’t make it very far. The game will progressively become harder and harder for you and chances are, you will die a few encounters into Tartarus. However, death is not the end of your journey. It is the beginning. Zagreus will respawn back at Hades’ chambers and be able to interact with some more characters such as Hypnos, Achilles and Nyx. He can also pet Cerberus should he so please. Hades’ chambers, therefore, serve as your base of operations in the game. As you progress further into the game you’ll unlock more content back here and it’s masterfully executed.
Zagreus will be able to eventually upgrade his innate abilities using a mirror in his bed chambers and later on, unlock new weapons in a courtyard leading out into Tartarus. Unlocking new weapons is another key aspect in progressing in Hades since each weapon has its own strengths and weaknesses. These weapons can also be enhanced later on in the game.
Each run through the underworld, therefore, can be boiled down to a simple formula but one that works perfectly. Zagreus will pick a weapon in the courtyard, use that weapon out in the underworld while fighting through encounters filled with hoards of different enemies and traps and try to make his way to the surface. Should you die, you simply respawn back at Hades’ chambers and repeat. It might sound repetitive but rest assured, each and every single run through Hades is unique. The game features an immense amount of dialogue and returning back to the chambers means that you can talk to other characters and learn new things about them or about the game’s story itself. Respawning, fighting and dying has been worked into the gameplay loop weaving a tapestry that tells the overarching tale in an exquisite manner. It’s so rewarding and will keep you coming back for more.
Even after putting in several hours into the game, you won’t be starved for content because there’s just so much of it on offer. Just when you think you’ve figured the game out, it will throw you a surprise curveball and it does this multiple times throughout playing it. Whether it’s unlocking a new weapon, a surprise cutscene, new interactions with the Olympian Gods or new enemies, Hades never ceases to deliver pure distilled excellence. Even if you struggle with games, the way Hades eases you into the new mechanics will get you up to speed in no time as you learn different playstyles and become more accustomed to it.
The gameplay is not the only legendary aspect of the game but the environments themselves are too. There are multiple regions of the underworld to fight through and each region has a unique aesthetic that is meticulously detailed. The art style of Hades may be “cartoony” but it is a true visual feast for the eyes. Everything from the character designs to the weapon effects and enemy attacks has a distinct look to them and it gels into one collectively resplendent whole.
The soundtrack in Hades is also exceptionally good with every single track in the game being incredibly iconic. The main theme, the battle themes, the voice acting and even Charon’s shop theme itself is a masterpiece. Expect orchestral themes that are dripping with theme-appropriate music that fits the game perfectly.
Overall, Hades is hands down one of the best games of 2020. It is a work of art that delivers over and above what you might expect. Filled with surprises, gameplay that eases you into its harder mechanics, a progression system that is rewarding and a soundtrack that never gets old, Hades is a must-buy and fully deserves a 10/10 score.
Hades was reviewed on PC and can be purchased here for £19.49
Hades is also available on the Nintendo Switch.
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Hades is a god-like rogue-like dungeon crawler that combines the best aspects of Supergiant's critically acclaimed titles, including the fast-paced action of Bastion, the rich atmosphere and depth of Transistor, and the character-driven storytelling of Pyre.
Product Currency: GBP
Product Price: 19.49
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