When I finally gave in to all of the peer pressure I felt from the deluge of praise people were hurling at Hades and begrudgingly bought it, I felt this immediate wave of buyer’s remorse wash over me. After playing a little of it however, I can honestly say that it’s one of the most fun action games I’ve played this year. I can also confidently say that I won’t be seeing it through to the end because I’m bad at it.
Hades is a rogue-like action game and the latest release from Supergiant Games, makers of such classic indie titles like Bastion and Transistor. With previous titles like those, Hades had some big expectations around it and a lot of hype that seemed to dull between its release into early access at the end of 2018 and now. That’s at least how I perceived it considering I never really heard much about the game until its official release a few days ago, so I might be entirely incorrect on that front. I know people have a lot of strong feelings about Supergiant’s past games, but I truly think Hades might be the best game the company has released up to this point.
That might come as a surprise to anyone who frequents the site and knows my disdain towards the rogue-like genre as a whole, but that’s how good this damn game is. I won’t lie and say that my feelings toward the genre have changed in any meaningful way, but I am enjoying Hades in spite of the fact that it’s a rogue-like. Hades does some interesting things in weaving the story around the concept of you dying and returning only for you to perish once more. Characters acknowledge these cycles and play off of it in some pretty neat ways that I won’t spoil for anyone who hasn’t played it.
It also helps that the game looks incredible and is just oozing with style on all fronts. The character design is incredible, with NPC’s and enemies alike all rendered in a gorgeous art style that’s even better to watch in motion, Hades has its visual presentation locked in. Even the way menus and title cards explode into frame are exquisitely done, letting it be known that every part of the visuals of Hades were crafted with the highest level of care and attention. Also the soundtrack is rad as hell and you should listen to some of those tracks.
Despite the quality of the writing and the brilliance in presentation, Hades biggest strength is in the quality of its gameplay. It’s honestly been the main factor that’s kept me wanting to keep coming back to Hades. I’ve only gained access to the second weapon thus far, a bow and arrow, but that alone made the game feel completely new and fresh thanks to how it works and the power-ups you can get for it.
Every weapon has a standard and heavy attack that can be augmented by various upgrades you can find throughout the levels, adding higher critical chances, replenishing health, making certain attacks better against armor and a lot of other standard upgrade stuff. But when Hades hits you with an upgrade that allows you to shoot lighting bolts that chain between enemies as you use your dash, that’s when the true fun begins.
From run to run you’re collecting all sorts of different flotsam and jetsam that you can use to trade in for upgrades, items, weapons and some other things that I still don’t fully understand just yet because of early into Hades I am. But unlike a lot of other rogue-like games, Hades doesn’t seem like it’s obscuring information from you. Every power-up and ability increase that I’ve been presented with has very clearly explained what it’s going to do, which I appreciate very much. I’ve always hated when games try to be overly secretive and obfuscate simple item descriptions to seem more mysterious or enigmatic. I don’t have the time or patience to learn about the origins of this health potion, I just need it to keep all of my blood inside of me.
I haven’t seen too much of the game considering I’m still very early on in it, but I’ve heard it only continues to get more and more buck-wild as you progress. I look forward to potentially seeing some of this stuff, but I can’t shake the feeling that no matter how strong every other aspect of the game is, I still won’t be able to shake the fact that it’s still a rogue-like. It sucks because I like just about everything else about Hades except the genre it’s in. Actually, I don’t love when enemies off-screen manage to hurl themselves at you with a speed that’s borderline impossible to dodge, but I’m sure I’ll “crack that nut” soon enough.
I’m genuinely glad that I decided to give in to the heaping helping of praise that people have been dumping on Hades, but I do wish it was more of a standard action game that I could progress through normally. I suppose the way the story is handled in its current form wouldn’t work as well in a genre where constantly dying isn’t a thing, but there is a “god mode” setting I want to try out that allegedly let’s you play it without having to worry as much about dying that seems right up my alley.
I don’t think Hades is going to change your mind about rogue-likes as a genre if you’re like me and just don’t click with them, but it might make you a believer for a little while. But if rogue-likes actually are your thing, then Hades seems like one of the best ones that’s been released in a while.
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