Every so often, I enjoy picking up a decent roguelike game and spending some time grinding my way along, getting killed in fun and interesting ways, and pushing myself to improve my timing on mechanics. Hades scratches all these itches and heaps on a whole lot more fun on top. This is our Hades on Steam review.
Hades was released in September of 2020 by Supergiant Games. You play Zagreus, the son of Hades, who is looking to make his way to the surface against his father’s wishes. A simple enough plot to start but as you fight you way through the various levels of the Underworld, dying oh so many time, more story gradually opens up as you reappear in the palace and talk to the characters that inhabit it.
The art in Hades is amazing, while it may not be for everyone, the amount of detail is stunning, and all the characters are visually interesting. I find myself regularly drawn back into the game, curious to see what the next level will look like on my journey to the surface. Add to this the ability to customize your bedroom and the employee lounge at the palace, as a sucker for cosmetic customization, I quickly ended up hooked on earning enough gems to contract my next construction order.
While the combat in Hades is spot on for an action RPG where it really excels is in the various options to modify how the game is played and ways to improve Zagreus after each death. Before you embark on an escape attempt there are six different weapons for you to choose from, each having a unique combat style. Each weapon also has aspect versions that can be unlocked using titan blood, gained by beating the level bosses, which again changes how that weapon works in combat. You can also modify your gameplay a bit further by picking a keepsake, gained by interacting and gifting Nectar to the various characters/gods you meet along the way. One of my favorite keepsakes has been the Cosmic Egg that lets me enter cosmic gates to speak with Chaos without losing health.
In Zagreus’ room, you are also able to again modify your gameplay by using the Mirror of Night to purchase different bonuses. For example, I prefer to focus on more backstab damage, but you could choose instead on inflicting a lot of damage to fresh enemies.
During escapes, Zagreus’ extended family tends to lend a helping hand through boons, which again can modify combat in various ways. But these boons only last for the duration of a single escape. His family being the Olympian pantheon though do tend to be a jealous bunch, watch out when more than one offers a boon at the same time.
At this point, I really want to bring attention back to the evolving story. Unlike so many roguelike games there is a great deal of story development that can happen each time you die. Characters in the palace will always have something new to say, and as a bonus, you get the chance to pet Cerberus regularly. As you give more Nectar to different characters, more story tidbits constantly become available and eventually even some romance options.
Performance-wise the game is amazingly stable, I had one weird issue when I took a screenshot but never ran into any further problems. It runs smooth, and the combat is always responsive. If you have a gamepad though do yourself a favor and use it, the keyboard and mouse work but the experience is very meh. The only real mechanical issue I ran into was an AI bug where an enemy caster would get stuck in a corner and refused to move off the lava. Depending on your chosen weapon, this made specific encounters difficult. Even this issue was rare and seemed to only occur on one type of map. The only other thing that may turn some players away is that the game at the end of the day is still a roguelike, so it can get repetitive even with all the extras previously mentioned.
Hades is an amazing game and really sets the bar high for future entries in the genre. Visuals, story, progression, and combat are all spot on. To top this all off, the MSRP is $24.99 US, a great value for the amount of game you get. While I am not typically a huge fan of roguelikes and tend to play them casually, but I highly recommend Hades to almost anyone looking for a new game to play.
Game purchased by the reviewer.
COMPARE TO: Bastion, Transistor