Being the son of the god of the Underworld isn’t easy.
It’s even harder when your father Hades doesn’t even tell his family about you. Suddenly, Hell feels quite overrated, and good old dad isn’t looking so good. That’s the plight of protagonist Zagreus, son of Hades and Prince of the Underworld: he craves his freedom. And he’s going to do anything to get it. Rogue-like game Hades, from developer Supergiant Games is an exciting, story-rich, action-packed title that will pull you in from the very start.
When you first start out in Hades, you’ll likely be a bit overwhelmed. There’s a lot to see. The game drops you into the Underworld and doesn’t explain how to fight. It’s easy enough to figure out on your own though. One button does your standard attack, another your powerful attack, and you can also dash and do a ranged attack. Monsters will attack you, and soon enough you’ll die; you’ll need more upgrades before you can defeat more of the Underworld’s cronies. Your father will greet you, trying to convince you that this “escape” you’re attempting is ridiculous – but you’re not going to give up that easily.
Each time you die (and you will, a lot) you’ll spawn back in the home of Hades. There you’ll be able to upgrade yourself using any of the resources you earned while you were out killing monsters. And there’s all manner of baddies to take down. In the beginning, you’ll fight off a few brutes and one or two floating skulls, but as you upgrade yourself and move further along you’ll soon be fighting hordes of powerful enemies and bosses. The more you play, the more the game warps and changes; it keeps players on their toes from beginning to end.
There’s more than just monsters to worry about though. Hades isn’t the kind of the guy that just throws monsters into his domain and calls it a day. The guy has clearly also spent a fortune on booby traps. That’s right; as if the endless groups of witches and brutes wasn’t enough to make our hero’s escape from Hell feel impossible, you’ll also be dodging floor spikes, bombs and more. What about monsters that also throw bombs? Yep, Hell has those too. There’s a constant stream of bad stuff trying to keep you from your task, but with every death comes more ways to upgrade yourself.
Zagreus’ home is also where you’ll find some lore which Hades is teeming with. Being a Rogue-like game, it was a pleasant surprise to discover just how much story the game has. You might find a note here or there in other games, but Hades will have players not only reading about the history of the Underworld, but speaking to Gods and Goddesses as well. The Gods of Goddesses of Ancient History want to help Zagreus as much as they can and players will be able to choose who they’d like to build relationships with as they progress. Give one goddess a gift, and another might grow angry with you. The choices you make can alter the game in your favour or against it.
Hades is gorgeous. An incredible amount of detail has gone into not only the game’s world, but its character as well. Zagreus is a young, dashing prince; he’s clearly a bad boy, but that is likely due to his upbringing. After all, being Prince of the Underworld doesn’t exactly give you many opportunities to help old ladies cross the street. When you speak with a character in the game you’ll get a close-up of their portrait, and each character is drawn beautifully. You’ll meet some interesting folks down in Hell itself but you’ll also speak with Zeus, Athena, Achilles and more, who each have their own unique portrait and voice actor or actress.
Hades‘ world has also been created with a great amount of detail and care. Each room is randomly generated – so it’s different every time you play – but they all bring about the same “doom and gloom” that one would really feel if they were trapped in the underworld trying to escape. Hallways are dark and foreboding, but colour pops from the rich red of the blood river, and the bright green flames of the fire. The walkways are cracked from age and some of the dead roam the halls.
However, the level of detail can occasionally be something of an obstacle. There are certain moments when things in the foreground – like the tall statues that line the exit – get in the way and impede the player’s vision. There were a few times I didn’t know there was a floating skull or a witch hiding behind one of the statues and I was hit – but this is the one and only place where one might find a grievance.
Unlike other Rogue-like games, you’ll never feel discouraged from having to start over time and again; in fact, it’s the best part about Hades. There’s nothing more satisfying than finally getting far enough to earn the money that you need to purchase the upgrade you’ve been wanting. And it feels fantastic getting cheered on by the Gods, or grumbled at by your father as you pass him by on your way back into the Underworld. I can see how the difficulty at the start might put off certain players, but those who appreciate the beauty in its challenge will surely be in their element here.
Hades is a fantastic title. Even after sinking multiple hours in, it never gets boring. It’s a beautiful-looking game; from the environments to the character art, a lot of love and care has gone into bringing it to life. Better yet, it’s simply a joy to play. Returning to the Underworld time and again, striving to get just that bit further every time, is endlessly entertaining. With smooth controls, a fantastic story filled with charm and humour, a satisfying upgrade system and a whole host of other great elements, I can’t recommend it enough.