Hades II Early Access PC Review

User Rating: 9
Hades II Early Access PC Review

Hades 2 is the first sequel from Supergiant Games, the creators of the critically acclaimed Bastion, Transistor, and Pyre. Previously, the studio had only released original games, but the incredible success of Hades forced the developers to reconsider their approach. This is not surprising – many called Hades the ideal roguelike, noting its replayability and meticulous approach to the plot. The second part does not change the successful formula globally but introduces enough innovations to deserve the title of a worthy sequel even while still in early access. This is our Hades II early access PC review.

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On May 6, Hades 2 was released in early access on Steam. This is a continuation of the “bagel” in the setting of ancient Greek mythology. This time, the main character is the chthonic nymph Melinoe. She is obsessed with the thought of killing the titan Kronos, who captured the kingdom of the dead and captured Hades, as well as the family of our heroine.

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What is Hades 2 about?

Some time has passed since the end of the first part. The Chthonic nymph Melinoe lives in Crossroads and learns the craft of war from the witch Hecate. One day, your grandfather, the titan Kronos, breaks out of captivity and seizes the kingdom of the dead. Melinoe goes to free him. And also – to avenge Hades and Persephone, parents whom the nymph does not remember, for she was given to the witch right before the attack of Kronos.

On our journey, the Ancient Greek gods help us – from Zeus to Artemis and many others familiar to us from the first part of the game and new ones who will be unfamiliar to us but help the heroine with their blessings. The Olympians are dissatisfied with what is happening in the afterlife but are in no hurry to interfere and plan something themselves.

The game hasn’t changed much structurally. There is a hub location in which we level up, choose weapons, and communicate with different characters—from the boatman Charon to Odysseus, who, after his death, came in handy in the new war as a skilled tactician. From the hub, we go on a race either to the kingdom of Hades to get to Kronos or to the surface (but this is not immediately) to help in the liberation of Olympus.

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Every race is its own masterpiece

Hades 2 is an isometric roguelike. The locations are a series of arenas or even rooms, and to move to the next one, you need to destroy all the enemies in the previous one. At the end of each “world” a boss awaits Melina. And in case of defeat, you have to start the journey again from scratch.

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As befits, the heroine has several types of weapons in her arsenal. Initially, only the staff is available, but over time, daggers, axes, and magic torches are unlocked, which deal damage from afar. Each weapon has unique attacks: daggers can be thrown at enemies, and an ax sends a shockwave across the ground.

Melinoe’s special skill that does not change from weapons is a sigil. The heroine can create zones underneath her that stop enemies. As you level up, sigils can be improved, allowing them to cause damage or follow our heroine.

The blessings of the gods are responsible for character development. After defeating enemies, a sign of summoning one or another ancient deity may appear in the arena. Each gives Melina one of three blessings to choose from. For example, Demeter can endow the heroine’s weapon with the ability to freeze enemies or optionally improve the ability of a sigil or a special attack of a particular weapon. Hermes allows the nymph to move faster, and there are still a lot of options because there are a lot of gods and improvements.

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There are many options for improvements, which means there are a lot of builds, and that’s true. But a lot depends on luck because the set of blessings is random every time. It is impossible to predict which gods Melinoe will meet during a gaming session and what improvements the Olympians will offer. In addition, if defeated, all accumulated upgrades are burned out.

Cards are responsible for permanently leveling up the main character. At first, there were nine of them, but over time, new ones opened. Cards provide a variety of bonuses, from a simple increase in health to the ability to resurrect immediately after death. Unlocking power-ups costs resources that are collected at levels. At the same time, you won’t be able to activate all the cards at once, but you can expand the limit with the help of resources that you also collect during your adventures.

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In locations, you need to get ingredients. These include ashes, silver, and various plants. And what’s new for the series? In addition to choosing the main weapon, you also choose the tool with which you will begin your journey, be it a pickaxe or a fishing rod. Some resources are rewarded for defeating monsters in the arena, while others can only be obtained by collecting or purchasing from a merchant. Resources are used to open new maps, create weapons, and improve Crossroads, a hub location. You can, for example, plant a vegetable garden to grow herbs and mushrooms.

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Hades still has no analogues

A million roguelikes androglites came out before Hades. The same number has appeared over the past four years. New ones are probably coming out right now while you are reading this text. In the indie sector, this is one of the most popular genres today, and some fatigue is already felt in the air. And Hades, even in the first part, did not offer any incredible innovations in the basic roguelike mechanics. It was just done at a very high level.

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But unlike other games in the genre, Hades and Hades 2 presented a multi-layered, well-written story directly related to the gameplay. With a significant set of interesting characters whose dynamics were traced with the main character and each other. Everyone is brilliantly voiced and has non-boring dialogues you don’t want to waste. Moreover, in such quantities that at times it seemed that some advanced neural network was generating it all – a hundred races behind you, but every time you return to the hub, here are new replicas and microstories. Therefore, it’s not a shame to lose in Hades 2: yes, you’ll have to go back home and start all over again… but new dialogues and pieces of history with lore await!

In the four years since the release of Hades, no one has done anything like this at the same level. Even the collective gaming mind on Reddit cannot offer Hade’s fans alternatives – there are a bunch of roguelikes that are no worse. Still, narratively, everything is weaker in order of magnitude if there is a narrative. Except that Returnal has come closer. So Hades deserved a sequel if only for that reason. First of all, this one!

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Speaking of levels – in the original, the levels mainly differed in design and strength of opponents, but in the second part, the approach is more serious. The first location of the underworld, the forest of Erebus and the threshold of the fortress of Hades, is reminiscent of the original Hades. At other levels, there are enough features that greatly change the gaming experience. So, in the Ocean, you need to be wary of enemies and a huge number of traps. In the Fields of Sorrow, vast spaces appear by the game’s standards, wherein in each “room,” there are several rewards and additional bonuses that you can miss, but if you explore a fairly decent location, the free reward is yours. On the surface, the city is designed as a hub where many “rooms” are open at once, but you can only choose six of them. And then you have to cross the ocean on the ships of the dead, fighting in very cramped conditions. There is a chance to stumble upon the legendary Charybdis, with which our tactician Odysseus is very familiar!

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However, so far the story in Hades 2 seems less tenacious than in the first part

It is written, voiced, and presented no worse, but there are a couple of nuances. Firstly, the scale and intensity of passions have seriously increased – the story has become more intriguing, but less “personal”.

In the first part, we, in the role of Zagreus, the son of Hades, tried to escape from the underworld, and along the way, we unraveled a tangle of family secrets. In fact, we didn’t even have enemies, only related omissions and misunderstandings arising from them – and we fought with them.

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In the second part, the main character is the daughter of Hades, Melinoe. During this time, the father of all Olympians, Kronos, who was killed during the Titanomachy, managed to return. He captured him and his entire family and now sits on the throne while his army of the dead lays siege to Olympus. There are more characters; many gods are now depicted in portraits and in person; there is plenty of intrigue and hidden meanings, just like the characters from the first part. Although the developers’ signature style in approaching Greek mythology is still felt, it is a good combination of humor and creative freedom with drama and deep exploration of the topic.

Well, the second point is the main character. Melinoe lacks the charm of Zagreus, who walked through the kingdom of the dead on dark irony, fought with his father, and ruffled Cerberus behind the ear. There is too much pathos and excessive politeness in Melinoe. Apart from Kronos (her grandfather) and another spoiler character, she is not at odds with anyone, although not everyone loves her. Sometimes, she tries to joke, but it comes out somehow sluggish – even Scylla and her rock band outshine her. Why, the blind cyclops Polyphemus outshines her! You can delve into comparisons for a long time, but the essence is simple – the lack of that very charisma and arrogance. However, if we didn’t know Zagreus, this mightn’t have been so noticeable.

The leveling and combat system in Hades 2 has been redone

The new system is much deeper and more extensive, and in combination with pumping and gifts of the gods scattered throughout the levels, it allows you to rivet dozens of very different builds right now. The combat feel of Hades 2 is similar to Hades 1 until you start the first part to compare and refresh – these are quite different games.

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But what is better, the asceticism of the original or the richness of the second part, is a matter of debate. Especially considering that under the new system of mana management and the active use of “spells” that consume it, the balance in general has been greatly altered. There are more enemies, they are stronger, bosses and ordinary “fat men” constantly trample the arenas, flooding everything with AoE attacks. Some rooms are too long, and the bosses, especially the final two, are too thick. Hades 2 doesn’t have that fast-paced “ease” combined with high complexity; it requires a more calculated approach, and here, mistakes are quickly punished.

I also have complaints about the game’s appearance, which is still beautiful and recognizable but not as bright and neat as in the first part. The expanded scale of some locations, primarily the Fields of Sorrow, also raises questions. But all this so far can be explained by two simple words: “Early access.” Hades 2 is a fairly polished release without bugs or problems. But a lot of things in the game are unfinished – from the plot, which currently has no ending, to the portraits and character models. The first part was polished with the community’s help for two years and became a masterpiece largely thanks to this.

The second seems more controversial in comparison, but overall holds up well. But this is only early access, which will be completed for at least a year! Much will still be corrected and rethought – in the end, Duza, one of the best characters of the first part, received the maximum number of lines precisely thanks to the wishes of the fans. But we can already say that Supergiant Games has mastered the first sequel in its career.

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This is still the same roguelike style, improved in every aspect. The story has become larger. Now, you don’t just run away from home in search of your mother while simultaneously improving Hades’ relationship with his brothers and helping him understand himself. No, this time, you need to save your family from imprisonment by the Titan of Time, regain the throne of the Underworld, and stop the siege of Olympus. There is three times more content than in the first part.

You will meet a huge number of ancient Greek gods and heroes, and the process of farming resources and creating various buildings and improvements is very nicely structured. There are various joint activities with characters from your camp, always accompanied by heartfelt dialogues I haven’t seen for a long time. Go fishing, sit in a tavern, or swim in hot springs. And I’m still silent about the farm with beds. In short, I want to bury myself in all this, but it’s probably better to wait for the release since all the content is closed in ~15 hours. I want more!

Hades II still has the same style of roguelike, improved in literally every aspect. The story has become larger. Now you don’t just run away from home in search of your mother, while simultaneously improving Hades’ relationship with his brothers and helping him understand himself. No, this time you need to save your family from imprisonment by the Titan of Time, regain the throne of the Underworld and stop the siege of Olympus. It feels like there is three times more content than in the first part. It's a must-have for RPG/roguelike gamers everywhere!
  • Addictive gameplay
  • Interesting characters and relationships
  • Fascinating plot presentation
  • Variety and randomness
  • Excellent graphics and music
  • A worthy continuation of the series
  • Deliberately drawn-out leveling
  • Artificial progress slowing to kill the character
  • It's not finished yet and we want more!

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