Hades, One of the Best Games In Recent Memory

Is Hades, the new game from Supergiant Games for Nintendo Switch and PC, worth it? Is it as good as they say? Can a rogue-lite stand out for its history? Short answer: yes to everything.

hades intropic zagreus

If there is one facet that until now had resisted the roguelike/rogue-lite genre, that is the narrative. We are talking about games in which the objective is to go from point A to point B distributing firewood and repeating exactly that same process over and over and over and over again. There are relatively recent examples, like The Binding of Isaac or Dead Cells, that have tried and succeeded to some extent, but the storytelling is so basic that, in the end, the story is the last reason we return to those games.

And it's understandable because there's very little room for manoeuvre - there's no room for scripted sequences or quiet moments, no room for script twists or character development. There is no escape.

Or there wasn't until Supergiant Games, the independent studio responsible for Bastion, Transistor, and Pyre (one day we have to talk about their meteoric trajectory; they are all great games), decided to dare with the genre and develop Hades, their new game that is now available for Nintendo Switch and PC in version 1.0 after several years in Early Access.

Because Hades takes a story, some characters, and narrative development, and integrates them so successfully into the formula "Kill. Die. Repeat" that it is even surprising that no one had thought of it before. We travel to mythological Greece, and specifically to the depths of the Underworld, to find the first roguelike that we would recommend for its history. And it is only the first of its many virtues.

hades world1

Escape From the Underworld

In Hades, you can see quite clearly the influence of the previous works of Supergiant Games and how much they have learned in the last eleven years. Playable, for example, it does not differ much from Bastion: we control Zagreus, son of Hades and prince of the Underworld, in the third person and from an isometric perspective. We have an attack button, a special attack button, a dodge button, and a ranged attack button. Broadly speaking, that is all.

What has changed is the feeling when we put ourselves at the controls: Hades is the most satisfying game from Supergiant Games, and by far. It is a pleasure to control Zagreus, move at full speed between enemies and deal sword blows left and right. This is key because we remember that we are going to be doing it for many, many hours.

You may be thinking that it sounds "too simple". And you are right, but that simplicity is key and we find it in another aspect of Hades that, first of all, hit: there is no exploration. The games are a continuous succession of combats: we enter a room, we eliminate all the enemies and we go to the next. Thus, until death.

How can such a simple game work so well? Well, to start with its immediacy, we don't waste time looking for routes or going back in search of objects or shops. Here, these situations have become decisions: at the end of a confrontation, many times we are given a choice between two, perhaps three, rooms to follow.

For example, we may have to decide between going to a room where it is guaranteed that upon winning we will get a blessing from the gods, and another where the ferryman Charon's shop awaits us, who has an assortment of merchandise for sale. You could say that we decide the form that the Underworld takes in each game, and of course, these decisions are very important for the build we have in mind.

Because as you may have already imagined, the gameplay of Hades goes far beyond its mechanical simplicity. On the ascent to the surface, we can obtain different types of improvements that give us new abilities, such as the hammer of Daedalus that modifies the operation of weapons, or the mentioned blessings of the gods. The latter is the most interesting due to its high number, variety, and infinite combinations.

hades hermes

We may get a blessing from Hermes that gives us additional dodges, or Athena allows us to reflect shots with the standard attack, or Artemis improves the chance of critical hits, or Poseidon allows us to make a call that makes us invulnerable, or that Ares will grant us revenge damage when hit, or have Zeus' rays accompany our special attack... There are a huge number of blessings for each god, as well as dual blessings where the power of two is combined. And they all have rarities and power levels, just like in an RPG.

But what is truly incredible is how all these effects can be synergized to achieve devastating results, something clearly inherited from Transistor and the multiple possibilities of the functions. So that you understand, we give you a recent example that we have lived: after improving the sword so that each hit returned a small amount of health, we obtained another improvement that allowed us to press and hold the standard attack button to perform hits automatically and then Hermes' blessing increased attack speed. Result? A mince-making machine.

Oh, and of course the sword is not the only weapon: there are five others waiting to be unlocked. And yes, they all have their own mechanics that require us to understand and master how they work. The blessings can have different effects depending on the weapon, and it is interesting to discover which god is best suited to each one.

Despite the enormous variety, there is always the possibility that there are players who only use one weapon or always choose the same blessings... But even in that, they have thought: Hades constantly invites us to vary, rewarding the change of weapon after each game and offering great prizes to those who put all the blessings and improvements to the test.

hades boons

Something quite curious about rogue-lite is that despite differing from roguelike in the fact that it is possible to improve permanently, many times these improvements are not too tangible, and in the end we depend more on luck and our ability. It is not the case with Hades, which allows us to improve aspects of Zagreus such as attack damage, health, the number of times we can revive... So when advancing in the game there is a real sense of progress.

In fact, not everything is lost when dying, most importantly, the currency we gain allows us to improve the character, which is preserved. So even if death is painful, we know that in the next game we will be stronger. Hades is the rogue-lite that we would recommend even to someone who hates rogue-lite.

You may no longer think it is simple; you may now think it is... too complex. But Hades manages all his mechanics very well so as not to saturate the player, introducing them little by little. Sometimes it is enough to die and start another game, while others will have to meet certain requirements. But there is the key: there is constantly something new. Having already played more than twenty? thirty? hours, and having completed five games, we continue to unlock new features.

The sum of all these elements causes something that, as bad as it sounds, can only be described as an addiction. Hades is addictive. So addictive that right now we don't remember anything like it. We end a game and say "well, here we leave it... But first, we are going to try to improve Zagreus... And as we are, we are going to improve the relationship with some character... And by the way, we are going to choose the weapon for the next game. Well, since we are here, we are going to start the game... "And when we find out, it is four in the morning and we have beaten the game again (based on real events).

hades characters

Hades is a cocktail in which each of its ingredients is designed so that we do not let go of control. But its secret ingredient, the one that will keep you playing again and again, is history.

And at first, it couldn't be simpler: Zagreus is fed up and decides to leave home. Hades, of course, doesn't like it at all, so he's not going to make it easy for him. The prince must fight his way through the different levels of the Underworld, fighting all kinds of creatures to reach the surface. Luckily Zagreo has divine blood, so if he falls in combat - as you have already guessed - he returns home and must start over. He's basically like Diablo, but instead of descending into the depths of hell, he ascends.

So far everything is normal, but now the interesting thing comes: in each game, we will meet new characters, whether they are inhabitants of Olympus, the Underworld, or other... places. Needless to say, they are all based on Greek mythology, although many of them have traits that make them even more interesting and current. In addition to the great LGBTQ representation; which shouldn't surprise us at all if we consider the source material, but it's always commendable.

All these characters have associated stories and relationships (some unknown to us, at first) that develop as we come across them. It is largely reminiscent of the way in which Pyre's narrative evolved before our eyes until it became that universe so rich in detail. The quality of the script is outstanding and there is not a single sentence or dialogue that is not interesting, witty, and/or full of humour.

hades aphrodite

And of course, there is the main story, which is the compelling reason that pushes us to move on and want to know more. And even when we succeed, when we manage to escape from the Underworld, the excuse for having to start over is so well raised at the plot level, that as soon as you finish a game you are going to say: "I have to escape again, I need to know how this goes ".

Because, yes, Hades has an ending. The story has an ending. Because when it comes to content, it seems like an infinite game. But unlike Dead Cells, which to this day continues to be updated with new levels, weapons, enemies, etc., in Supergiant Games they consider that Hades is finished, so the only thing we are going to see are patches and corrections (and who knows if versions for more platforms). Since we talked about that, we must mention the version of Nintendo Switch, which is the one we have played to elaborate this analysis: its resolution is 720p, both in portable mode and on TV, and it moves to 60fps most of the time.

When there are many enemies and effects on the screen (something that happens very often), slowdowns are appreciated; They don't spoil the experience, but they are very, very obvious. And if you play on a 4K television, there are elements, such as 3D models, that are quite blurry.

Luckily, the artistic section manages to hide these imperfections quite well. From hand-drawn sets to character portraits, everything exudes an intoxicating style that is a hallmark of the work of Supergiant Games and its artistic director, Jen Zee. In the case of Hades, he has opted for a style close to the American comic, with very marked shadows and intense colours, which makes him scared.

hades w1 1

And what about the Hades soundtrack? As in the case of the artistic section, it is another of the elements that have always stood out in the Supergiant games, and here its composer, Darren Korb (who is also the voice of Zagreus and Skelly of all characters), has been surpassed again. The soundtrack is dynamic, presenting simple melodies in the first room of a level, which changes depending on the situation... and the level of the threat.

At first, it sounds like we would expect the soundtrack of any work that carries Greek mythology as a banner, but little by little the songs grow in intensity until they transform into something that can only be described as DOOM. Hellish guitar solos that accompany our movements in the boss fights at a dizzying pace, and that we are listening as we write these words to give you an idea of ​​how good they are.

And we haven't even talked about the absurd, absurd amount of lines of dialogue in Hades. After all the games we have played, we are surprised to continue hearing new comments from the characters when performing actions such as picking up a blessing or going through a point in the Underworld that we have already passed twenty times. It's... it's like they never end.

For its price, which is too low in my opinion, the same feeling I get with Hollow Knight, Hades offers more than a hundred hours of the highest quality. More than a hundred hours. We are facing a game that we will return to again and again for the next days, months, and who knows if even years to continue unlocking content while we enjoy its gameplay, art, and soundtrack. And all this, without resorting to game elements as a service and developed by an independent studio of just twenty people. If this isn't ambrosia, let Zeus come down and see it.

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