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Home > ‘Hades’ (2018): A Review

‘Hades’ (2018): A Review

The Point of 'Hades' is to Die...A Lot

After years of development, Supergiant Games released the Early Access version of Hades II on Steam on May 6, 2024. With exciting new characters and content and plenty of stellar reviews that seem to indicate the success it will have in its full release, it’s worthwhile to take a look at the first game and what made it into the pinnacle of roguelike games.

Hades centers around Zagreus, son of Hades, as he attempts to escape the Underworld. Along the way, he meets various other gods and heroes, with his relatives on Olympus offering him boons to aid him in his journey.

Have You Tried Moving Out of the Way?

The point of a roguelike game is to die—a lot. When the player dies, they are transported back to the beginning of the game to start over, gradually making progress as they learn the game’s mechanics in more depth. Hades follows this genre expertly, with each run building on the ones before it. Certain items collected throughout each run are saved even if the player dies, allowing the player to level up their skills, add bonuses, and redecorate the House of Hades. Thankfully, returning to the House of Hades does not always feel like a disappointing failure – characters add to the unfolding of the main story, with bits of Zagreus’ past revealed over time. Sometimes, they even sarcastically comment on how the player dies, giving pieces of… advice unique to each scenario.

Combat itself is smooth and precise, with various weapons available to give players a wide range of options. Additionally, each run is randomized, meaning that rooms, enemies, and boons from the gods are different every run, creating endless combinations. As the player gains more skills and understanding of the game mechanics, the randomization of the runs begins to matter less, allowing them to feel a sense of accomplishment for succeeding despite the challenges. It can feel frustrating at the start of the game, as a poor combination of difficult enemies spells disaster, but watching the growth process can be fulfilling.

Myth-Building of the Pantheon

The story’s plot is well woven into the game mechanics, as Zagreus can converse with various gods and heroes to discover more about his familial history and those around him. As players continue grinding through the combat, returning to the House of Hades repeatedly, they have painted a picture of what it is like to have Hades as a father and why Zagreus is so desperate to escape.

The story draws on familiar Greek myths, including characters like Sisyphus, Orpheus, Eurydice, Achilles, and Patroclus, who tell their stories and multiple encounters with Zagreus. The blending of old myths and new stories, including Olympian and Chthonic gods, makes for a fascinating culmination of lore, which the player can explore and fill in throughout their many journeys. Even if one does not escape the Underworld during a run, they can still talk to characters, expand the plot, and gain items to help them in the future. While highly advanced players and completely inexperienced players may find the pacing too slow or fast for their gaming style, overall, the experience is well-balanced and attempts to fit the needs of all players across any skill set.

If all that isn’t enough to win the skeptics over, you can pet Cerberus. Every single time you enter the House of Hades. Or, quite honestly, as much as your heart desires.

Onward and Upward

The parts of the game that are most agreed on as unquestionably superb are the graphics, the soundtrack, and the voice acting. Each character in the game is fully voice-acted, saying the important lines that advance the plot or make up a conversation and the incidental quips that Zagreus says during combat or after conversations with a character. Though largely inconsequential, his little comments help flesh out his character’s personality. Each actor brings their all to their character, which shows through the pacing of their delivery, tone of voice, and the little dialogue quirks that round out their characters. 

Added to that is the beautiful artwork and design of the characters. Whether enemy, god, or hero, each design is unique and well thought out. Many people have commented on the beauty of the characters, citing certain ones as their “queer awakening” characters. The color schemes and designs of each level of the Underworld are gorgeous as well, with each level seemingly centered around certain color palettes. Tartarus’ soft and muted browns, reds, and greens serve as the introduction to the journey. In contrast, Asphodel’s fiery reds and oranges highlight the second level’s dangers (and heat), and Elysium’s vibrant blues and greens serve as a false paradise, hiding the dangers beneath. Each area is stunning, and players may wish to take in the view once they’ve defeated all the enemies in a given chamber.

The soundtrack does its job as both a reflection of its setting and a motivator for the player. Upbeat tempos and unique rhythms help hype the players up as they fight hordes of creatures, giving them the needed rush of adrenaline to fight a tough boss. Soft melodies from Eurydice and Orpheus provide the player breathing room should they be lucky enough to encounter either character during a run. As a friendly reminder, Darren Korb, the voice actor for Zagreus, Skelly, and Orpheus’s singing voice, also composed the soundtrack for the game. He also composed the music for the previous Supergiant titles and Hades II.

But is the Grind Worth It?

Though Hades is advertised on Steam under the tag of “difficult” and… well, there is a ring of truth to it, especially for players who may not be as skilled in video games, the grind doesn’t get stale. Hypnos may stop giving his “helpful advice,” and occasionally, there won’t be new lines of dialogue from characters who are floating about. Still, there are always more features to unlock, skills to level up, and changes to make in the decor scheme. Even if progress in the game is slow, the game is formatted in a way that keeps it new and engaging for players across all skill levels.  And the rush of adrenaline and pride at beating yet another part of the map (even if not finishing the entire game) is a reward unto itself.

For more skilled players who may beat the game more quickly, the after-game features boast a whole new genre and world to discover, with endless new modes to keep Hades interesting even if you have finished the entire story.  

Hades can be played on PC through Steam and the Epic Games Store, mobile through the App Store, Nintendo Switch, PS4 and 5, and Xbox X|S. Its sequel, Hades II, is available in Early Access on Steam and the Epic Games Store.

Hades (2018) Official Trailer of Supergiant Games

Source: Dead Talk Live

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Cailen Fienemann is a current student at Le Moyne College pursuing her BA in English and Communications with a film studies minor and a creative writing concentration.  Though uncertain about her career end-goals, any job that allows her to write is a cherished one indeed.

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I am an aspiring author living and working out of Honolulu, Hawaii. I received my bachelor's degree in Art History at Westmont College and then pursued a master's in Museum Studies at the University of Hawaii. I am currently working on a few novels, and am thankful for the opportunity to expand my creative writing voice at Dead Talk Live.