Review: Hades

  • Release date: 17th September 2020
  • Version played: Xbox Series S
  • Completion: Beat one run, tried out all weapons.

Not too long ago, I played Transistor, which had a gameplay style I didn’t like (pausing to plan combat), but surprised me in how much its charm, style and gameplay all made me end up enjoying it a lot. As someone who isn’t a fan of roguelike games, I decided to try Hades as I thought I could end up enjoying it a lot.

As with all of Supergiant’s games, the aesthetics in Hades are gorgeous, with a lovely artstyle, amazing music and great voice acting. Every screen is stunning to look at, and the characters are all incredibly charming, with lots of great dialogue as the various Greek gods (and other characters) comment on things you have done.

You play as Zagreus, the son of Hades, who wants to escape the underworld. You will fight room-by-room throughout four areas, facing a boss at the end of each one. While it is possible to finish on the first run, you will almost certainly die, getting sent back to the house of Hades, giving you a chance to talk to people and prepare for the next attempt.

Throughout each escape attempt, you will collect different resources, boons (powers) from gods and various other upgrades. Most of this is temporary and will only last for one escape attempt. The different powers you get, which will alter how you play the game and the tactics you’ll use, and the weapons you can unlock will keep the game feeling fresh.

The three main resources you will keep at the end of a run are darkness, keys and gemstones. The keys will unlock new weapons and talents, the darkness will let you upgrade talents and the gemstones let you add helpful elements to the maps, such as rooms with healing.

The downside of this is that it just turns into a game of just grinding until you think you’re good enough for the proper escape attempt, just collecting the various resources you need until you’re good enough to go. However, I actually never got to that stage.

The various boons from gods, along with other upgrades you can find (such as a Dedalus hammer, which upgrades your weapon in different ways) can vary massively in usefulness depending on how you play the game, making each run extremely luck dependent. I was focusing on a grinding run when I ended up getting an extremely powerful batch of powers. First was a second attack for my special attack, which dealt a lot of damage to all enemies nearby, then some boons which improved my special damage and added a critical hit chance (which seemed to also apply to the extra attack, too), then on top of this a boon which improved chances to get a second critical hit on an enemy and some which improved healing. This meant that I could mash the Y button and breeze through all the encounters.

Now, there is a lot more you can do after a successful escape attempt, there’s more dialogue to be found. I messed around a bit afterwards, unlocking the final weapon, along with a system that lets you upgrade the weapons. You also unlock a set of modifiers, which add additional challenges to mix things up, but ultimately playing through the same areas just doesn’t appeal to me, especially as it seems it’s more about grinding or just getting lucky than it is about learning how to beat the game.

I did really enjoy my time with Hades, even if it ultimately felt that the game itself decided it was time for me to beat it, and loved talking to all the characters. The core gameplay itself was fun, it’s just that the main elements of the structure of the game aren’t for me.

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