I'm really feeling it!
I'm really feeling it!
Illustration for article titled Hades: The Early Access review, updated

Hades is a game that I have played. It features Darren korb playing James Callis playing Alucard from Castlevania (you’ll understand when you play it) as Zagreus, the son of Hades. Zagreus is done with being in Tartarus and is trying to escape to find his mother.

Zagreus is helped along his way by the pantheon of Greek Gods who bestow upon him temporary (for his life) boons. Each room Zagreus progresses through will yield either a boon, a currency, or a health upgrade. All in all there’s nothing here that hasn’t been done before and I should honestly be way more bored with this game than I am because...

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I can’t put it down.

Supergiant has this way of taking things that are not really special, and making them highly memorable. I have no idea why I liked Bastion as much as I did - on paper it’s a pretty standard game that seems best fit for mobile based on its level of complexity. Transistor had a pretty soundtrack, a story I still don’t understand, slightly above average gameplay and that’s about it. Pyre...well ok I didn’t like Pyre but that’s because I don’t like sports games and for all the extra trappings, the gameplay was straight FIFA 1990 + skills. I couldn’t get into it.

Let me try to articulate why I like this game so much:

  • It’s a linearish roguelike. I was apprehensive about the game because I don’t really like roguelikes. But this one is done well, and every time you die someone back at base has some new information for you. The game is fantastic at “guessing” about where you’ll be in your escape and parceling out just enough information at just the right times where you never feel that the game is getting repetitive. What’s a neat trick that should annoy me more than impress me, is that when you have to traverse through every level in order, including bosses. What’s neat is that when you get to the first boss she will have something to say to you that is dependent on if you killed her last time or if she killed you. See, since it’s Hell, she too comes back when she is killed. It’s a nice little touch that makes me not mind having to kick her butt over and over.
  • Combat is great and varied. You have a variety of weapons each handles differently. There’s the defensive Aegis (my personal favorite), a long range spear that can be thrown, your AoE type sword, The coronacht bow, a machine gun (I don’t know the mythology behind this but hey I’m not complaining. Each time you get a boon from the gods (and there are several different gods granting three different types of boons a pop) it will upgrade your specific weapon with new powers. In addition to your standard combat using your weapon, you have a dash, which can be upgraded, a cast (long range, seeking attack) which can be upgraded, and a call (I honestly can’t figure this one out but it mostly seems to make you invincible). So the permutations on how you play are pretty limitless and no two runs are the same as you’ll one run decide you want to prioritize ranged casting attacks and making your dash do massive damage, and the next that you want your melee attacks to do chain lightning damage thanks to a boon from Zeus. The initial random freebie boon helps you figure out how you’re going to approach the run and yes, some are very broken (most chain lightning or “bounce” attacks are pretty op), but for the most part they are just different. Not better or worse, but different.
  • Upgrades are endless. I touched on it a bit above but there are several different forms of currency for you to use. There’s the overall currency, “darkness” which you can get by clearing rooms or through conversations mid dungeon with different NPCs. This is used to upgrade your character permanently in your base. There’s jewels which you can trade in to alter the dungeon to make it easier - adding rooms that are just healing fountains and a random boon, or cosmetically altering your base. Then there’s coins that you get from defeating enemies, as a room clear reward, or from NPCs, that can only be used in the dungeon and that disappears when you die. In addition to these currencies, you can find potions ocassionally that can be gifted to the various NPCs to make their view of you more favorable, whereupon they bestow gifts to you. These gifts are equippable items that make your run a little easier. For example one gift allows you to recover health (a rarity once you enter the dungeon) equal to a percentage of darkness you obtain. Like absolutely everything else in this game, these gifts can be upgraded. In this case, you must be wearing it and clear a number of rooms in order to level it up so the percentage health regained goes from 25% to 100%.
  • It rewards you for different playstyles. In order to upgrade your weapons, you have to have titan blood. The first time you beat a boss with a weapon you get titan blood. Subsequent boss battles yield darkness if you use the same weapon. However, if you change your weapon, the first time you beat the boss with any particular weapon will always give you titan blood. In this way the game encourages you to try all the different weapons. I originally thought I’d hate the bow, and for the most part I do, but when I got a particular boon (a bouncing, rapid fire shot) the game was easier than any other weapon I’d played with. To date, I’ve gotten farther with that build than any other and I’d never have picked the bow up if not for the fact that I needed titan blood to upgrade the aegis (my personal favorite).
  • The story is interesting. The story is pretty interesting and I won’t spoil anything.  They do a great job of pacing important bits with what I will affectionately call “lore” dialogue.  I’ve a fairly good idea of where we’re going with it but there’s a few random elements that might throw a curve into my predictions (one of the gods you can receive boons from is Chaos, and I’m wondering if he will play a bigger part in the overall story or if he’s just included as a way to introduce a “risk/reward” boon as all of his boons are along the lines of “for the next x encounters you have -28 health, afterwards, gain +1 cast”).
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Overall I highly recommend the game if you like hack n’ slash roguelikes. This one is really among the best I’ve played.

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