Hades is an Isometric rogue-like hack and slash with a heavy focus on Greek mythology. It was made by Supergiant Games, who are well known for other Isometric hack and slash games like Transistor and Bastion. And both of those games are some of my favorite games ever. So I had high hopes for Hades and it did not disappoint.
Stepping into Hades
One thing about Hades is that it is amazing but difficult to find where to start when reviewing. This is because there is a lot about it that I fervently adore. From the art style, the smooth combat, the dialogue with characters, the lore, and especially the music. And this only scratches the surface of the game, not including the gameplay loop, the story itself, and their focus on mythology.
In the game you play as Zagreus, the son of the god Hades. You had lived in Tartarus your whole life but you want to go see the surface. Obviously your father is not happy with that. And in every escape attempt the gods of Olympus help you with blessings. So through the game you are trekking through the ever changing walls of Tartarus. Collecting buffs from gods to improve yourself and fighting through tough fights.
And every character has tons of dialogue written for them, and there are lots of dialogue for very specific interactions. This level of attention to detail is amazing and really brings the characters to life in Hades. I can get a buff from Dionysus and then when I get Zeus next he’ll comment about it. And every character is very unique in design and even the antagonists I enjoy a lot. Hypno is one of the funniest characters in the game. You see him after every death and if you talk to him he’ll comment on how you died.
These are just some of the amazing and colorful cast of characters, and I could spend all day discussing why each one is great.
One thing Supergiant games does great in every game they make is the soundtrack. All of the music is wonderful and very theatrical which adds to the storytelling and ambiance of the game. Some characters such as Euridice are connected to individual songs. And when you see her, she is singing it. Similar to Zia in Bastion, who sings her theme, Build That Wall.
There is a lot of enjoyment to be had while listening to the soundtrack of Hades. It’s one of the few games that has music I’d listen to outside of the game. It’s unique, pleasing, and especially when you’re near death in a run, it is tense and adds to the pressure.
The rogue-like genre is a very simple idea, you have an objective and with every death you can upgrade yourself as you get better. This makes the game extremely challenging yet not impossible to do for people of lower skill. Meaning if you’re really good you don’t need any upgrades to advance. The other side being if you’re not very good, upgrades can mitigate the challenge to you can overcome it. Hades functions in that exact way but even with the upgrades do not expect the victories to be handed to you. If you do some thing wrong, it will punish you.
This makes the game both challenging and accessible for less skilled players. This allows almost everybody to enjoy the game and get what they want. And if you want more of a challenge you don’t need to upgrade, it’s entirely optional.
Besides difficulty there are other great things about the gameplay, especially the combat. My biggest issue is when a game doesn’t have responsive controls and I feel that I’m fighting the system, not the enemy. But Hades’ combat is quick, clean, tight, and responsive. If I get hit its not because I accidentally got stuck in some stupid animation or that my character just wont move. It is because I dodged at the wrong time, didn’t kill the enemy, or otherwise messed up. And this makes fights way less frustrating, it was completely in my control and I fumbled.
Health is limited so not taking hits in the goal, and only certain areas will replenish lost health. Your options of negating damage is primarily dodging. And weapons like the shield will block a certain amount of damage while you charge a heavy attack. But for the most part you will need to dodge, positioning is very important and you need to be ready to move if something will hurt.
Time for some variety
And with the variety of weapons to use there are plenty of different ways to fight. The sword, a spear, a shield, gauntlets, a bow, and a gun. Though I personally don’t recommend you use the gun for a lot of reasons. But Hades has variety in all the right areas.
The sword is your starting weapon and is very balanced on speed and power. The spear is a longer range weapon that you can even throw for good ranged damage. The shield is incredibly easy to use but most of the damage is done by pushing enemies into wall for extra damage, and makes combat kind of a joke. The bow is really good and hits pretty hard but the combat will be slower as you have to stay out of reach while you draw it. The gauntlets are insanely quick and some of the most fun to be had in combat, allowing you to stack combos for more damage but have really limited range.
And lastly the gun, I wont spoil too much about it but it requires you to reload a lot and it doesn’t hit as hard as you would expect. Its probably the weakest weapon of all found them and I found the combat to be boring and long. But ultimately you decide the weapon to use in each run, and all of viable in their own way. So I encourage you to test them all and find your favorite.
What do I think about Hades? Well simply put it is another amazing game made by an amazing team of developers. I might say it’s my favorite out of all of them due to it’s storytelling, character development, and music. I could go on for hours about the correlation between Zagreus’ struggles and Sisyphus’ punishment in Hades. But that doesn’t fit into this review very well.
But this game is absolutely amazing and for anyone who likes greek mythology, rogue-likes, isometric hack and slashes, or good storytelling, this is a must have. It is also reasonably priced at 24.99 on Steam, and it is completely worth it.