Hades by Supergiant Games
Supergiant Games has been a tour de force since early in the modern indie boom. Their uniquely stylish approach to both gameplay and narrative design has created a steady stream of instant classics, from 2011’s Bastion through to 2017’s Pyre.
However, when their latest, Hades, was first announced, it presented something of a departure from the norm for the company.
Not only would the game be a Rogue-like, a departure from their previous adventure titles, but it would also be released in Early Access. More than a few people, myself included, were a tad skeptical about this. What would happen when combining Rogue-likes, a genre built off of repetition and an emphasis on gameplay, with the company’s signature love of fully-voiced, expansive narrative?
The answer is that it would yield the best damn game Supergiant’s ever made.
Reign in Hell
Zagreus, the perpetually-snarky son of Hades and relative to the gods of Olympus, has never been especially keen on either his home or his father. When he discovers that his mother is not only alive but that she was able to leave the underworld for good, it’s all the push he needs to make his bid for freedom, assisted along the way by both his subjects and his (in)famous relatives.
Hades wears its love of Greek mythology on its sleeve, and the game’s story is all the better for it. While its cast is instantly recognizable to anyone even slightly familiar with the residents of Olympus, they’re injected with so much charm, wit, and personality that they feel more real than gods have any right to.
Whether it’s Zeus’ booming yet fragile bravado, Dionysus’ love of all things decadent, or Demeter’s cold disaffect, these archetypal figures are some of the most memorable characters I’ve encountered in modern gaming. It also helps that every character in this game is absurdly attractive, both in design and in voice.
Walk with Me in Hell
Of course, a Supergiant game having charming characters is nothing new. I mean, these are the folks who were able to make a talking sword charming in Transistor. As mentioned above, Rogue-likes are made and broken by gameplay. So how does Hades play?
Brilliantly, that’s how it plays. Each run through the procedurally-generated layers of the underworld features room upon room of fast-paced, visceral hack and slash combat, and it feels great to play.
What helps is also the sheer amount of variety in the equipment available to you with each run. Zagreus not only accumulates six different weapons to choose from, but each has different unlockable upgrades and alternate modes that offer an absurd amount of customization.
The gods regularly grant boons throughout your runs as well, each of them enhancing your attacks with their own respective features. Want your attacks to chain lightning between your enemies? Zeus is your guy. Would you like a special attack that weakens all enemies caught in the blast? Aphrodite has your back.
There are even unlockable abilities that only become available when you have certain combinations of gods.
Oh, and did I mention there are plenty of permanent upgrades to unlock between runs? Between buffs you can switch up per your playstyle and relics that not only boost your abilities but improve as you use them, there’s more than enough content to keep you coming back for hours.
See You In Hell
In a time when there’s no shortage of excellent Rogue-likes, such as Dead Cells and Risk of Rain 2 to play, Hades sets itself above the crowd through a seamless blend of Supergiant’s unique narrative style and superb gameplay.
Throw in some beautiful graphics and yet another stunning soundtrack by Darren Korb, and games truly don’t get better than this.
In the name of Hades, please accept this message: you need to play this game.
Hades is available via the Nintendo Game Store, Epic Games Store and Steam.
Watch the official trailer for Hades below: