Hades Review – Hell Isn’t so Bad
Developer: Supergiant Games
Release Date: September 17, 2020
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: Supergiant Games
I’ve been feeling the burnout of procedurally generated roguelike games recently. I just can’t seem to fully invest myself in them after countless deaths and loss of progress. Well, developer Supergiant Games has returned with their newest roguelike offering in Hades. Yes, this is another roguelike, but it’s unlike any roguelike that I’ve played before.
Hades introduces us to Zagreus, the son of Hades himself, who just doesn’t feel like he fits in with the underworld vibes. His plan revolves around escaping the Underworld, but as his friends and even his father will explain, that isn’t going to be easy.
To aid Zagreus on his journey, he will meet a handful of other characters who provide weapons, upgrades, and moral support. However, that’s not all, the narrative of this game runs deep, and text is not suppose to be skipped through. Each interaction offers a small piece of the puzzle and builds on the characters in this hellish world.
If there’s one takeaway from this experience, it’s how I can sink 20 hours into the game and still encounter original scenarios. It helps with the overall immersion and adds unique elements to each run. Zagreus will die plenty of times across this adventure, but each death progresses the narrative. Your colleagues and new acquaintances remember your actions and your past interactions with them, which can only be described as excellent story writing.
There’s no reason to get overly frustrated after a death because you know once you return home, there will be more lore to unlock, even if some of them are just making fun of Zagreus for dying. Suffice to say; I loved the character interactions, which made the late hours of the game feel less repetitive.
Hades’ roguelike systems are also pretty unique. The idea is that you are the son of Hades, which means that power is almost inherently yours. Each run through the dungeon will provide materials and weapons that assist you, but these don’t get taken away after death. Instead, you keep the materials and use them to unlock new passive abilities, weapons, and other buffs.
Soon, you’ll feel like a true god as you wipe the floor with enemies, but they don’t end up going down too quickly. There are some massive balancing and enemy adjusting that went into this game, but the structure and layout of the enemies make each encounter demanding of your skills, but not incredibly difficult to the point where you feel overwhelmed.
There’s a real rhythm within Hades that makes the combat feel tight and responsive. Dashing around the room, taking down enemies, and avoiding traps keeps you constantly on your toes. Things become more hectic when you switch weapons and learn to master them. Incidentally, this is the first roguelike game that I preferred to using a bow with. I enjoyed keeping my enemies at a distance as well the buffs I acquired to decrease charging time.
Weapons are each unique and become the driving force for players who are trying to find their preferred playstyle. No matter which weapon you choose, there are pros and cons of each of them, but they all kick ass. Weapons have a special and unique attack that involves throwing a jewel at an enemy and causing damage. These jewels can be recovered after defeating the foe.
During a run, players will navigate rooms through a temple. Each room has a reward awaiting the player and sometimes even boss encounters. You’re told before you enter a room what is to be the reward as well, which means you’ll have to figure out what materials you need more of when trying to decide which door to pick.
Some levels have gimmicks such as spikes and traps, but these can also be used against enemies, which adds a new layer of strategy to knockback attacks and chipping away at stronger enemy types. The procedural nature of the levels themselves isn’t too overbearing. This might be because every room is a race to clear it of enemies, so you don’t really pay attention to the design as much as you try to do what you can to survive.
Though the main campaign can be completed in around 16 hours or less if you’re good, there is still a lot of post-game content to unlock. It’s incredible to remember back in your first few runs and compare it to your late-game loadout and recall just how much you’ve improved alongside Zagreus. Again, I should mention that if you are looking to get the most out of this game, the story bits will provide that and more.
The visuals of Hades are fascinating; the game’s optimized areas and various structures complement the choice of providing hand-drawn character illustrations to this adventure. The music is epic in some ways, but I never really paid too much attention to it. This was probably because my heart was racing.
Hades takes away all the annoying parts of the roguelike genre and adds accessible systems without lowering the difficulty that these types of games offer. It is a standout experience within the genre and will test your skills in a balanced and manageable way that makes each run challenging, yet, approachable. There is so much to unlock here and so much to discover that dying for the hundredth time isn’t that bad.
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