Over the last few years, Supergiant Games has become well known for crafting high-quality indie games. Hades is the latest release from the studio and carries on the tradition of retro-inspired graphics and impressive stories.
But it also goes one step further, putting the focus on the gameplay as much as the atmosphere and presentation. It’s an approach that has worked fantastically well.
Not only does this roguelike draw you in but it also thrills with excellent gameplay. It’s no wonder that Hades has been talked about so much and become something of a sleeper hit.
The story in this genre is not something that is usually put center stage. In fact, roguelikes have a reputation for almost making the narrative a secondary consideration. That is not the case in Hades. This is very much a title that puts plenty of emphasis on the plot. Of course, that shouldn’t be a surprise considering who the developers are. Having such an involved story to follow really adds to the overall experience. Every action you take over the course of multiple runs is given extra meaning. It also provides more motivation in a genre that can become repetitive very quickly.
In Hades, the player takes on the role of Zagreus from Greek mythology. As the son of Hades, he is expected to help run the Underworld but has ambitions elsewhere. With each run starting in Hades’ personal office, players set out to explore the world and characters outside. There you can run into Greek heroes and Gods and learn more about Zagreus’s motivations. Every individual in the game has a unique personality and their own story to tell. It makes exploring the world in each escape attempt worthwhile and helps you to build up relationships.
Perhaps the best thing about the narrative in Hades is that it actually rewards you for dying. Roguelikes have a problem in that they force players to restart from the beginning after death. This can be frustrating and tiresome, especially if you have previously made a lot of progress. But after each run in Hades, you get to return to the office of Hades. Here you can chat with various characters and learn about what has changed. It elegantly removes that feeling of dread after dying.
One of the things that Supergiant Games set out to achieve in Hades is to make it a great game to play. Some of the developer’s other titles have been somewhat lacking in that regard. However, that is definitely not the case with this latest release. The fast-paced action feels precise and impactful throughout. While there are just a few different actions, the combat also has a lot of depth. Players can perform a basic attack and use a unique special attack, along with a dodge movement. This dash is useful not only for getting out of the way of attacks but also quickly moving through environmental hazards.
Where the depth comes into the combat is in the different weapons available to Zagreus. Players start with the god’s own sword, though they can quickly get access to a variety of other weapons. These actually have a significant effect on the way you play Hades as well. For instance, the spear can be thrown and recalled at will. This gives you the ability to reposition yourself and then call it home, slicing through more enemies along the way.
Different gods that you encounter along the way can also provide boosts. These vary according to the character that you speak to, and boosts switch up every run. For instance, Poseidon provides Zagreus with the ability to knock back enemies. Meanwhile, others can actually increase stats or make enemies weaker. These boosts can also combine with the Daedelus Hammer. This can dramatically alter the way a weapon works, changing its basic abilities. Combining the various boosts and Daedelus Hammer effects is a fun way to experiment and keep the gameplay feeling fresh.
Perhaps the biggest plus of Hades in terms of presentation is the fact that each character is fully voiced. This helps every individual feel like a real living person or god. The brilliant voice acting is a big part of the experience and a delightful addition to this type of game. Most fans of Supergiant Games will have expected nothing less. This expands to great sound design in other areas as well. The music accompanies the action perfectly while the effects of combat are satisfying.
The same can’t quite be said for the visuals in Hades. Although it isn’t a major issue, the visuals are not quite on par with some other high profile roguelikes like Dead Cells. Yet, the style itself fits well and is actually pretty imaginative. The environments are filled with varied rooms and landscapes that don’t ever get boring. There’s an issue when it comes to playing the game in handheld mode on the Switch. The dialogue and characters can seem just a bit too small to properly take in. Other than that, Hades doesn’t suffer from any performance issues or technical problems.
Hades gets so much right that finding fault with it is incredibly difficult. The gameplay is engaging, the presentation good, and the storytelling exceptional. It also has this unmatched quality to keep bringing you back, forcing you to keep digging deeper. You just feel a drive to explore more of the in-game world, largely due to the quality narrative. This is undoubtedly one of the best roguelike games for years and really pushes the genre forward. So, fans of this type of game should certainly check it out.
What do you think of Hades? Tell us in the comments below!