Review | Hades

Review | Hades

LifeisXbox’s Hades Review | Hades is a roguelike action dungeon crawler video game that has been developed and published by Supergiant Games, Private Division, and Take-Two Interactive.

The game centers around the son of Hades, Zagreus who must fight his way through a randomized labyrinth of underworld nasties to reach the outer world. If you are not familiar with your Greek mythology it’s essentially a re-telling of Sisyphus, a poor soul who is doomed to forever push a boulder uphill without rest. Each time heโ€™d push it up, it would roll back down again and heโ€™d have to start again. But did I manage to escape the clutches of the underworld? Read on to find out.

โ„น๏ธ | We played Hades for Thirty Hours on Xbox Series X. This game is also available on Xbox One and S/X, PlayStation 4/5, Nintendo Switch, Microsoft Windows, macOS, and Steam.

What we liked!

  • Weapons, Skills, and Abilities | The world of Hades is filled with all sorts of Demons and creatures to fight off. Some have variations and health buffers that make them exceptionally difficult to beat. On top of this, you also have the Gods that Hades himself sends to try and stop your ascent to earth. Thankfully, the weapons you can unlock and upgrade prove worthy against a majority of these foes. The beauty of which is that because you are in randomly generated dungeons every time you restart, you never really know what is the best weapon to take. Believe it or not, this is a clever tactic to get you to learn each of the weapons intimately. Not only this but there are also special abilities to use such as casting, dashing, and calling wrath. Each power is used alongside beautiful animations and stunning effects that pop with colour against the dullish backgrounds, creating a juxtaposition not seen in many games. It’s a clever use of the style of substance that I appreciated during my time with the game. 
  • The art style | You would think a game in this style was hand-drawn 2D sprites and animations, but they are 3D characters modeled and rigged like any modern 3D game. This is what gives Hades its unique style and look. The textures here are all hand-painted in substance painter and baked with their height maps and ambient occlusion all into one. This allows the artist to create a very convincing cel-shaded look or what we commonly refer to as a comic book style. This gives the game a 2D-looking effect and looks very clean and crisp when playing. Doing this in a traditional 2D way would have been a long process, and as Supergiant games are only 20 people strong, this was a very clever and artistic way to get the look they were going for whilst cutting down on development time. 
  • Attention to detail | Combat aside, at the heart and soul of Hades, lies in the interactions with various non-playable characters portrayed by the mythic figures from Greek stories. Each character feels like they have their own personality and really conveys and plays the character of classic Greek myths well. There are hours of dialogue here, and some of these interactions were so engaging, I found myself spending large amounts of time interacting with these, just to know their story. Each person feels authentic in a way that is missing from many games that have similar cast members. The voice acting work is high quality too and this only adds to the overall quality of the game. Certain characters will allow side quests to be undertaken and advancing quests far enough win you keepsakes and valuables which are both invaluable tools in aiding your quest to escape from Hade’s clutches. The audio is well suited for the style of the game, with dialogue being the main focus and having the audio take more of a backseat. The music that is used is sombre, conveying a feeling of deep seriousness and sadness with the urgency of escape conveying the theme of the game as well.

Somewhere between

  • Can be overwhelming at times | No roguelike is without its challenges but in the case of Hades, it can sometimes be too much. Your eyes are constantly drawn to the center of the screen due to the way the camera moves and can make looking around and pre-empting enemy movement a bit of a hassle. As a result, this can make enemy encounters especially hard and somewhat problematic. Considering you can’t heal yourself until after the battle in the area has finished using the provided cauldrons, life and death can be anything from just a single hit away. It takes some getting used to for sure, and sometimes this can lead to some slight frustration especially if you have only just started again. There is an additional God Mode under the options which will give you a +2% damage resistance bonus upon each death that can help take the edge off a little.
  • Can be repetitive at times | Despite not being an issue for me overall, I have to think of how the average player might react to starting over again and again (because it will happen). Despite being randomly generated dungeons, there are times where you will experience the same place time and time again and sometimes without enemy variation. This can sometimes feel like a step back in the overall excitement of the game, after all, experiencing new enemies in unfamiliar territory is part of the thrill of the game.  Landing back at the start too soon and too often also won’t allow you to progress in any of the overlaying story arcs of the other characters mentioned earlier.
  • A slow grind in places | With the story elements being well written and generally engaging, the cinematic parts of the story where you start to make progress feel extremely spread out. This ultimately makes the main story and all of the interactions that come with them a slow burn at times. This may not be noticeable right away, but you will know when that time arrives when the characters you interact with along the way have nothing new to say and you feel like you are not making any progress in your escape.

What we disliked

  • Lack of VSYNC | The biggest issue I had playing the game which also feels like a big oversight for me was the lack of VSYNC in the game. There are occasions (especially when the action gets frantic) that there is a very profound amount of screen tearing. I suspect this was done in favor of keeping high frame rates instead of employing a variable frame rate cap and having reduced resolution when the action picks up. Whilst this may not be an issue for everyone, it can be quite jarring in the middle of combat and having to put up with a horizontal line going across the screen.

How long to beat the story | 30+ Hours
How long to achieve 1000G | 100+ Hours
Similar with | Transistor and Curse of the Dead Gods. The art style, Isometric view, and combat really make the games feel alike.

85%

Hades is an all-star game that really sets the bar for future games in this genre. There is a lot to offer here with a seamless end of abilities, weapons, countless hours of dialogue, and side stories to explore. One of the best parts of this game was the feeling of defeat. Having to go back to the beginning to see old friends, hear the next part of their stories, and level up my character. After 30 hours into the game and over 50 escape attempts, I finally managed to make it onto the earth realm. Even after all this time and so many defeats I can’t seem to put my controller down.ย 
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