Genre: action role playing game, Greek Mythology
Release Date: 2020
Developer/Publisher: Supergiant Games
“Signature Supergiant Style” says the cover of Hades. What does that even mean? That’s the Old Video Gamer trying to plaster a false jaded smirk prior to reviewing the game. Is it going to be the usual visual feast and flavourful soundtrack that characterises Supergiant production? The suave voice acting better be there… Without the usual Greek Pantheon innuendos, about the herculean task of writing a narcissistic game review and such, the Old Video Gamer will stick to his usual promethean self.
You play as Hades, youthful dashing son of Hades, God of the Dead, King of the Underworld. Brush up on your Greek Mythology! It’s nice to be a prince but a little journey to Olympus without boring Dad’s consent wouldn’t be bad, right? Of course, a side trip to the Elysian Fields sounds exciting, but Zagreus has “been there and done that”. How about an epic where you can grow stronger, become wiser and learn more about the Gods and yourself?
Playability: Zagreus has got the moves
Zagreus has got the moves. He is dashing in looks and in deeds. Hades is easy to pick up and plays like a Pan flute (without prior musical knowledge required). The game is an isometric roguelike hack and slash, so you’re expected to die loads (not that it matters in the Underworld). You’ll be offered keys, treasures, weapons and skills aplenty. Boons galore. Just pick any. You’ll be surprised at how wieldy the stygius is. Couple your favourite coronacht or varatha with tons of upgrades, and you might end up with a weapon akin to a pulse laser machine gun exagryph. Combine trial and error, journey of discovery, witty dialogues, and the role playing aspects of Hades rise far above mindless clicks.
Annoyance: Can’t keep all your upgrades
Actually, it would have been more judicious to call the game Zagreus rather than Hades. “Cool moves to Olympus” could have been a winner too. How about “Zagreus‘s got talent”? I don’t think you can beat the game on your first epic run. Hades is repetitive in an Archimedean clever way as the rooms you’ll be exploring on your successive runs are never the same. So rather than being disappointed at having to start over again, you look forward to meeting new characters and catching up with old personalities. The dialogues are scripted in such a way that the story continues and builds upon previous runs. Entirely Aristotelian! Rather than being annoying, a new run of Hades, is what it is, a new run and does not feel repetitive and burdensome. There’s enough variety to the game that you’ll discover new characters and upgrades on subsequent playthroughs. Since the Old Video Gamers are no longer very adroit, we’ve had the pleasure of playing through Hades countless times. And even when Zagreus finally escaped, we were quite happy to try again. Unfortunately, not all upgrades are permanent, but there is so much variety to weapons and skills that it would be a shame if you were not nudged towards learning new combinations and tricks.
Beauty: Fashion show but with proper acting
Even the explosions look stylish. Would the folks at Supergiant consider putting together a coffee table book with all their artwork? From Bastion to Hades, through Transistor? Hades is a superbly crafted visual and auditory feast. The voice over is properly acted out, delivering suave gravitas or unbearable lightness as required and on cue. Forget the proverbial togas! The Gods are vivid catwalk icons outfitted with designer jewellery and tailor made weaponry. In the heat of action, your monitor could get slightly overloaded but luckily there is ample time for tranquil exploration in this carefully imagined Underworld.
The Old Video Gamer’s Prattle: Stylish and melodious swashbuckler 9/10
It is not an easy task to balance good looks with fun gameplay, and to provide a digital experience that is worthy of playing in our busy lives. Great storytelling and eager action role playing make Hades an exuberant game. Easy enough to pick up for a quick play, Hades is a clever narrator whose eternal tales never get old. I’m docking one point because you can’t play as the daughter or trans scion of Hades. Zagreus is plenty cool but it would have been nice to customise the hero. Also because the Old Video Gamer is a big fan of Supergiant Games, sie/zie can’t be seen as impartial. We’re highly subjective in our game reviews in case you haven’t noticed.
Looking for more Supergiant Games? You can read our rave review of Transistor, another superlative action role playing gaming journey by the same folks.