Supergiant Games has always had a penchant of developing games that garner critical acclaim from both critics and fans alike. Bastion (2011), Transistor (2014), Pyre (2017), and now their latest digital offering—Hades.
Like their previous games, Hades sports over-exaggerated, almost cartoonish graphics that are virtual kaleidoscopes of color. The vibrant menageries on display in Hades are matched by an equally over the top backstory with a cast of many colorful characters.
Here, you play as Zagreus, the son of the ruler of the realm of death himself: Hades. Zagreus isn’t too keen on staying within this forsaken place so his story unfolds as he tries, repeatedly, to escape from it. Herein lies the game’s roguelite mechanics—Zagreus will fight through many legions of dangerous denizens, perish, and then rise up again and again to repeat the cycle. However, each time you repeat this you’ll learn more insights with regards to the storyline.
First and foremost, this is a tale involving ancient Greek mythology and all of the drama that comes along with it. So, throughout Zagreus’ quest to locate a mother he’s never known, he’ll encounter a veritable plethora of classic Greek deities, including Zeus, Achilles, Athena, and of course, Hades himself. The rich interactions between these strong personalities are deftly woven into the storyline and allow you to learn more about the ancient Greek gods.
Each time Zagreus attempts another escape, he traverses colorful maps that represent distinct realms within the game. The various denizens that he goes up against come in a pretty decent variety although you will see some overlap here and there, eventually.
Once you learn some of Zagreus’ different abilities you’ll be able to engage your enemies in a variety of impressive ways. All of this pulse-pounding combat is lightning fast (a little too fast for me to be honest) and is also highly stylized. Everything happens from an isometric, top-down perspective that can get so fast and furious, that I occasionally found myself resorting to crazed button-mashing in order to keep up. It sort of reminded me of trying to play fighting games with expert, fast-twitch youngsters and eventually resorting to spastically mashing any buttons I could, in a desperate ploy to get lucky and beat them.
Something that is great about combat encounters in Hades is that every single weapon that you choose to deploy (whether it be melee or ranged) can be utilized differently. That’s because, with each run, you can acquire god-granted gifts that bestow unique abilities for each of those weapons. This can offer a seductive gameplay loop since you will always wonder how you might approach some of the same situations armed with different weapons, armor, and other equipment, with variations in their powers.
Although all of these slight variations of common themes were intriguing for the first dozen or so hours, it soon felt as if the game’s “just-one-more-run” hook began to wear a little thin. Some of the story elements also felt as If they were offered up as artificial fillers instead of something necessary or relevant to the overall picture. Sometimes, you just want to reach the end of a game and see all of its disparate loose ends tied up, or at least alluded to in some way, shape, or form.
Also, for good or for worse, the writers of Hades have made attempts to delve into Greek mythology and make these ancient stories seem updated somehow within this new digital medium called gaming. I will say that their experiment has been interesting, that’s for sure.
I don’t think that folks who are attracted to this type of frenetic gameplay are coming to Hades for the storyline anyway. As it stands, this is an intensely fun button-mashing bonanza that should appeal to fans of the genre.
Hades has some pretty good looking graphics that make its roguelike gameplay truly shine. However, you want to have a pretty beefy gaming PC or gaming laptop in order to play it at a decent framerate. So, you may just want to invest in a decent gaming rig:
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