If there’s one thing I love about the internet, it’s seeing what does and doesn’t become viral, especially with video games. You could have this giant, expensive ass game with a ton of marketing behind it completely bomb and attain disinterest while a smaller, much more artistically driven indie game gets pushed to the moon by players and critics alike. It could be a game you have legitimately NEVER heard of but due to either quality, fan attention, or sometimes even general goodwill from the developer, it will rise through the ranks and capture the hearts of millions of players around the world. This is, in my eyes at least, what happened with Supergiant Games’ new Super Giant Game, Hades.
Originally releasing on Steam Early-Access in 2018, I first heard about Hades when it was released back in September. At the time I had NO idea what it even was or who made it. All I knew was that the game had an absolutely stellar presentation and gorgeous character design. Upon learning that it was a rouge-like developed by Supergiant Games I became a lot more interested. While I’ve never gotten fully acquainted with their games I’ve always admired their sense of style and dedication to improving that genre of game. Be it Bastion’s unique world forming or Transistor’s immaculate art direction, I could always see the quality in their work despite not playing any of their games. The more and more I saw Hades, though? The hungrier I got to try it. The fast-paced action combat with an emphasis on story really had me itching to play it and due to the generosity of a very dear friend (Thank you, Hannah!) I finally had the chance to play it. How did I like it? Well…I’m not really sure how to say this, but Hades gave me a lot of complicated feelings…
Yeah. Yeah you read that correctly. Out of EVERY new release I’ve gotten to experience this year, Hades is the one that left me feeling the most fulfilled and satisfied, at least at the time of writing this. From the moment the game let me move I knew it was something special. The movement and general speed of Zagreus feels perfect and every attack of an amazing amount of weight and feedback to them that’s just AHHHHH, IT’S SOO GOOD, DUDE. GOD.
Okay. Okay okay okay. I’m getting ahead of myself. Just what the hell is Hades?
Hades is an isometric action hack ‘n slash beat ’em up rouge-like that takes place at an isometric angle and I could not fit more words into this sentence if I tried. The player is tasked with escaping Hades by traveling through rooms and killing everything in them in order to proceed to the next section. Each room can have different enemy placement, combinations, gimmicks, and rewards due to them being procedurally generated so no two playthroughs will ever be the same. This is good you’ll be dying a lot because the game is hard as hell and WILL send your ass back to the beginning with each death.
The video game known as Hades (Had to start the paragraph differently SOMEHOW) is a very unforgiving beast when it comes to combat. While the game feels positively amazing because of your light and heavy attacks, your projectiles, and dashing, you never once feel like the odds are stacked in your favor. All it takes is a single slip up or mistimed dash to net you a ton of unnecessary damage and ruin a perfectly good run. Perseverance is the name of the game here and you have to learn how to play the game by its own rules, and that includes using experimenting with the extra weapons you purchase throughout your journey and, of course, the God’s blessings. Certain rooms in the game will give you a blessing upon completion from a different god and each one will grant a different effect. You can have Athena grant you a deflecting shield upon using a dash or have my drunken best friend Dionysus grant you the ability to inflict a hangover on your enemies which is essentially POISON. You will never have the same loadout in any run and truthfully I think that’s Hades’ biggest strength; There is strength in defeat.
While Zagreus starts out fairly fragile and limited he ends up feeling pretty damn buff by your 10th or so run through Hell. Throughout your journey you’re earning darkness orbs to buy new weapons and upgrades to your health and luck, jars of nectar that you can give to NPC’s to earn charms to give you added benefits such as extra health or even an extra life to help get you out of a pinch, or hell even extra bits of LORE upon losing. With every defeat, you gain an extra bit of insight into how the game is supposed to work and it helps you create new strategies and contingency plans for your next run. You will play this game so much and upgrade this little fuck so much that you will be able to reach the final boss of the game while only losing AT MOST a single life because the game does such a good job teaching you how to play it properly. The game is hard, don’t get me wrong, but it is never unfair.
I’ve talked about the gameplay enough, I think, so how’s everything surrounding it? Pretty damn stellar for the most part! The art style is incredibly clean and appealing to the eyes and not once was I ever confused over where I was supposed to be. Zagreus and enemies all have a fairly large outline and are contrasted very well against the vibrant and harsh background designs. The music as well is very pleasant, incorporating a fitting “Greek” sounding music mixed in with hard rock to give it that added bit of intensity. If there is another name for “Greek sounding music” please let me know because I don’t know shit about anything. The game runs at a pretty damn solid 60fps most of the time, but the Switch version does tend to lag a bit when there are a ton of smaller enemies on screen. I don’t have a picture of it but there was a point in Elysium (The third area of the game) where a bunch of small chariots spawned and made my game run in the negatives. This is VERY rare and didn’t put a hindrance on my experience at all, but I did think it was still worth mentioning.
The final thing about Hades worth mentioning is its story. Hades is about Zagreus, demi-god, and son of…take a guess. He wants to leave Hades to-and I’m just going to stop it right there. I personally think Hades’ story is best left experienced fresh since there is A LOT to unpack here. The story takes a lot of neat turns and opens itself up the more you die or even win! Yes, you do eventually escape Hades, but the game doesn’t stop after that. Far from it actually. You have to beat the game and talk to its many NPC’s and bosses tens of times if you want to grasp the full picture, and I think that’s great. It helps that the game is both written and acted out beautifully with wonderful smaller moments interspersed between the massive reveals. While I’m sure I’m making a mistake by not going further into the plot I assure you that it’s for a good reason. It’s not SUPER deep or complex or anything like that but it is 100% worth experiencing while knowing as little as possible.
So Hades is fucking great. Like honest to god. I can’t think of any huge complaints to give it. The gameplay is rock solid, the replay value is insane, the writing is fun, the gameplay is great, the art is beautiful, the gameplay kicks ass. The Gameplay Is Just Really Fucking Good, Man. I really cannot recommend this game enough. I know there’s still time left in the year and there are still games I haven’t gotten to play yet but right here, at this very moment, I think Hades is by and large the best game I have gotten to play this year. Please don’t pass this game up, it’s something special. Believe the hype.