Hopping out of Zagreus’ courtyard window to try and battle my way out of the Underworld for the forty-sixth time, I was no less excited than I was the first go around. Hades, the new rogue-like from developer Supergiant, released last month on the Nintendo Switch, and it’s a triumph in every way. From combat to story, the game keeps […]
Hopping out of Zagreus’ courtyard window to try and battle my way out of the Underworld for the forty-sixth time, I was no less excited than I was the first go around. Hades, the new rogue-like from developer Supergiant, released last month on the Nintendo Switch, and it’s a triumph in every way. From combat to story, the game keeps me coming back for more. And, finally, a game has given me the ability to romance death himself.
Hades takes the general structure of a rogue-like, but places a few fun twists on the formula. You play as Zagreus (or Zag), son of Hades, as you try to fight your way out of the Underworld against your father’s wishes. Each time you die, you emerge from the Styx back at dad’s house where he’ll mock you for your repeated failures.
Once you’re ready, you jump back into Tartarus to try and escape again. You make progress by clearing chambers filled with enemies. Once a chamber is empty, you’re given a reward and you’re free to move on to the next room.
Rewards come in different forms. Often, they’re boons from the gods of Olympus that give buffs to help you on your current run. Maybe Athena will give you the ability to deflect some attacks, or Artemis might give you a higher chance to land a critical hit. Once you die, the boons clear and you’re back at square one.
But some rewards, like Darkness or Gemstones, continue to build even after death. Darkness is used for permanent upgrades like increasing max health. Gemstones are used to improve and renovate the Underworld and the House of Hades.
There are a number of different weapons to use and each one makes the gameplay feel distinct and fresh. Combat in Hades is quick, chaotic, and addictive. Every enemy feels unique and dangerous. Landing a blow or dodging an attack is always hugely satisfying, and clearing a chamber to claim a reward hasn’t stopped being exciting even forty six escape attempts deep. And losing in the game never feels hopeless. Every time you hop back in, you’re a little bit better.
The developers at Supergiant have also made the game accessible for different types of players. If you’re more interested in experiencing the game for its story, then they’ve included a “God Mode” in the settings that increases your damage resistance each time you die. This way you can get the full experience without any frustration if rogue-likes aren’t your style.
Hades centers around Zagreus as he tries to leave his dad’s house and escape the Underworld for the surface. I’m going to keep this review spoiler-free, so that’s all I’ll say in terms of motivation.
The game takes advantage of its rogue-like structure in the way the narrative plays out. Every time Zag dies, he ends up right back at the house. But dying never feels like a punishment. Sure, you have to start over again, but the story continues to progress.
The House of Hades is filled with a fantastic cast of characters that each have something new to say or some piece of the story to unlock on every return trip. There is a mystery component to the story of Hades so it always feels exciting to learn a little bit more.
Nectar and ambrosia occasionally appear in the Underworld. These items can be gifted to characters to improve their relationship with Zag. This can unlock wearable trinkets that can give you a boost on your next playthrough, or it can unlock more about that character’s backstory. These gifts can even lead to a romantic relationship with some of the cast. On this note, I was ecstatic to see a queer protagonist, especially a male one, in a video game where these sorts of characters are in extremely limited supply.
The writing in Hades is smart and witty, and it feels like all of these deities actually have a history with one another. Every character and interaction is wonderfully voice-acted — especially Zag who I could happily listen to for hours.
The cherry on top of all of this is that the game is a pleasure to look at. The art style is beautiful and everyone gets a gorgeous portrait during conversations. It’s certainly the best-looking game I’ve played this year.
If this article sounds like a rave, it is. I’m usually hesitant to write a strictly glowing review. But the people over at Supergiant have created a rogue-like that never left me feeling frustrated. Instead, I can’t wait to finish this write-up and jump back in to discover more of the compelling story.
Going in to the game, I had heard about some glowing reviews, but I was a bit skeptical. Coming out the other side, I’m confident this is going to be my game of the year. If you get a chance to pick it up on the Switch, I can’t recommend Hades enough.
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