Friday, September 25, 2020

First Impressions of Hades

Supergiant Games has released their latest game, Hades. I am a huge fan of their previous games: Bastion, Transistor, and Pyre. Hades has finally come out of Early Access, so I snapped it up.

I'm barely into it, but it's really good so far. In both Pyre and Hades, Supergiant is trying to weave defeat into the narrative, and it's really interesting to see their approach.

Hades is a "rogue-like" game. It's an isometric RPG like Diablo. You play Zagreus, Prince of the Underworld, son of Hades, as he attempts to escape to Mount Olympus. The basic game-play is you moving from room to room in a randomly-generated map. In each room you kill the monsters and get a reward. You keep going until you die.

When you die, you go back to Hades' palace where you pet Cerberus, talk to various NPCs, uncover more of the story, and spend resources on improving your character for your next attempt. Dying is part of the story, as various NPCs will comment on your last attempt. I got mocked for stepping in a spike trap.

Some resources exist only for the attempt, like gold and boons from the other Olympian gods. Other resources allow you to improve your character or unlock weapons or upgrade the underworld with new rooms. The gods' boons improves or alters one of your attacks, so each run plays slightly differently as you get boons from different gods.

That cycle of "attempt, death, conversation, improvement, repeat" is very well done. It makes dying become just part of the game. It also makes for nice stopping points for the individual play session.

There are multiple weapons. So far, I've unlocked a sword, a bow, and a shield. I'm not very good with the bow because it requires aiming, but I like the shield. It has a small knock-back which does extra damage if the enemy is slammed against a wall.

You also have a "Cast" ability which throws a projectile at an enemy. By default, the projectile debuffs the enemy and you can't use Cast again until you kill the enemy and pick up the projectile. It's an elegant way of allowing you a powerful ranged option, but keeping you from just kiting all the time.

So far, Hades is just superb. I'm playing on PC with a controller, but I hear that the Switch version is extremely well done.


  1. Hades is probably my game of the year. I picked it up around May-ish, so still in Early Access but mostly feature complete aside from a couple small tweaks.

    I'm not normally a huge fan of that sort of action gameplay, but this game is so exceptionally well done. I've never played a Supergiant game before (though I've heard of them) and Hades keeps pushing me to try out some of their back catalogue.

    1. I loved Bastion, and Transistor and Pyre were quite good, though flawed. Supergiant's games are interesting because their aesthetic style is similar (art, sound, narration) across all their games. But the gameplay loop and story is very different from game to game.

    2. After you posted this I decided to pick up Pyre (I actually picked up all 3, since they were 70% off last weekend). I played through Pyre, and loved the setting and theme, although I'll admit the gameplay got repetitive after while. Enough that I decided against playing through with different choices in the "big" moments.

      I was going to check out Bastion and Transistor next, but Genshin Impact has taken over my life at the moment, but I'll be returning to Supergiant! I also need to get a few more of the super hard things in Hades.