It wasn’t too long ago that COVID-19 forced us all into our homes, making 2020 one of the worst years of our everyday lives. For the video game industry, things ground to a halt and we saw many delays. As the year went on and boredom slowly began to turn into madness, Supergiant Games descended from high like the angel that it is and gifted us with Hades for the Nintendo Switch and PC. With the threat of the COVID-19 Delta variant looming on the horizon, our saviors have once again offered us an opportunity to break out of the Underworld, but this time, we’ll get to do it on Xbox and PlayStation consoles.
Developer: Supergiant Games
Publishers: Supergiant Games, Private Division, Take-Two Interactive
Platforms: Xbox One/Xbox Series X|S, also on PlayStation 4/5, Switch, PC
Release Date: August 13, 2021
Phenomenal as always
In Hades, you play as a young Zagreus, son of Hades and prince of the underworld, who has lived his whole life in the underworld and he’s grown quite tired of living under the thumb of his father. As the game begins, we meet Zagreus at the start of his first attempt to leave hell. Despite receiving boons and gifts from his distant relatives atop Mount Olympus to help him along his journey, Zagreus, unfortunately, falls in battle. Death, however, is not the end of the prince of the underworld and he wakes up in a pool of blood. Upon wading he discovers that he has returned home and must begin his journey anew while his ruling father taunts him.
Since the first time I played Bastion, I have always been impressed by the writing team over at Supergiant Games and their latest title does not disappoint. Hades carries on the tradition of providing players with rich, branching narratives. The way Zagreus interacts with the games’ narrator is a fun way to break the fourth wall. If you haven’t played it yet, I won’t spoil the reason why but completing the game multiple times is necessary for those who want to experience the story in its entirety.
While it seems that you’re trying to escape from hell, there’s more going on here, such as building relationships with those around you, which benefits you in the long run. One of the items you can earn throughout the game is a jar of nectar. When given to one of the game’s many characters, you open up more dialogue, allowing you to get to know them better. It’s one of Supergiant Games’ specialties. They’ve always done a superb job at building up their characters and the world they live in.
Hack, Slash, Die and try again
If you’re still unfamiliar with the concept of a rogue-like, let me explain briefly. A rogue-like is a genre of games categorized by procedurally generated dungeons, randomization of items, and most importantly, death. In Hades, the Underworld is full of wretches and other powerful beings that want nothing more than to stop Zagreus from making his way to the exit. When you die, you return home, which acts as your safe haven from the dangers outside and must start again. Each time you start over, the Underworld changes in defense. New enemies will fill the chambers and the item placements will change completely. No one playthrough is ever the same.
There are four areas in total in Hades with a variety of different enemies patrolling their chambers. They start out simple, like floating crystals that fire lasers, skulls that charge at you, and big brutes wielding clubs. As you progress, you encounter enemies that blanket the area with bombs, provide shielding for their allies and so will even re-spawn if you don’t kill them fast enough. Another thing you have to worry about is the chambers themselves. Each room has the possibility to be laden with traps that can either aid you or hinder you in your struggles. I can’t begin to describe how frustrating it was for me when I dove into lava and killed myself while fighting the Hydra at the end of Asphodel.
Each area also contains a “mini-boss” encounter and the exit is protected by that area’s boss. Unlike the mini-boss encounter, which seems to be selected at random, the boss at the end of an area is the same. For instance, in the first area, it might be a pair of skeletons that lob bombs at Zagreus and move at breakneck speeds or a large crystal that fires lasers all over the room and spawns mini-crystals. Wait a sec, I lied. Remember how I said that no two runs are the same? Well, there’s an exception and her name is Megaera. Without spoiling too much, she and Zagreus have some history and due to this, she is always the boss you’ll encounter at the exit. She’s not a fan of Zagreus and she does not take it easy on him (you) at all.
Combat is where the game truly shines. Much like previous Supergiant Games titles, Hades is a top-down action game with light RPG mechanics. There are six weapons to choose from and Zagreus can use the mirror in his bedroom to permanently upgrade himself. Positioning in the heat of combat is everything. Attacking enemies from behind, slamming them into walls, and utilizing the boons given to you by your relatives is essential to efficiently defeating enemies. I rather enjoyed using the Phalanx shield combined with the Doom, Hungover, or Weak status effects in some combination. However, that’s what works for me and that’s the beauty of the combat system. There are so many different ways to dish out the damage either directly, over time, or various other ways.
Great views and beautiful tunes
Having only experienced Hades on my Nintendo Switch, I can say that playing it on my Xbox Series X is quite an upgrade visually. The artwork is beautiful and I’m noticing all the wonderful little details this time around like Zags’ fiery footprints. Watching Zagreus rise up out of the pool of blood after each death hits differently in a higher resolution. Performance-wise, it ran well on the Switch and runs flawlessly on the Series X.
Hades is fully voiced and the cast does a wonderful job at bringing the Greek gods to life. Much like Bastion, the narrator is great and Zagreus’ interactions with the narrator are priceless. It’s hard not to fall in love with the characters in the game. As for the soundtrack, I’m beginning to think we live in one cohesive Darren Korb-verse. Bastion, Transistor, Pyre, and now Hades. The man is a master of his craft and what he has created for with Hades is just as good as its predecessors. I STRONGLY suggest playing Bastion if you haven’t. It is an absolute masterpiece and I leave no room for any counterarguments.
Drawing things to a close
The only negative thing I can say about Hades is that the game is rogue-like and therefore, simply won’t be accessible to everyone. The game is challenging and there’s nothing more frustrating than starting over from the beginning. However, I feel it should be acknowledged that Hades does have “God Mode” that does make the game slightly more accessible. Although it requires you to die, over and over again, you build up resistance to damage each time you fall. So for those who want to try and get through Hades, it is an option to consider.
Otherwise, Supergiant Games has created another indie masterpiece. What I like most about Hades is that there is so much more to the game than just escaping from the depths of the Underworld. There is a lot to strive for in the game. The combat is fantastic, weapons are fun to use and the characters are wonderful. While that is indeed the main objective, the writing and gameplay is built around so much more than that. Throughout your journey, you’ll be collecting items to renovate your home, upgrade Zagreus and build relationships with those around you. It’s one of the things that had me hooked and kept revisiting the ever-shifting labyrinths.
Hades Xbox Review
Hades Review Xbox
Hades is the best Rogue-like on the market. It’s only downside is it’s genre which will scare away the more casual gamer. Aside from that, everything about Hades is absolutely fantastic.
- Fantastic writing.
- Wonderful voice acting.
- Combat is a blast.
- Darren Korb is the master at making soundtracks
- Rogue-like mechanics will scare away the casual gamer.