One Hell of a Time
Hades is a roguelike dungeon-crawler that has gradually garnered immense hype. The praise has only grown as it arrived on Game Pass on August 13th, 2021. Developers at Supergiant Games have introduced a gold standard for the genre with Hades. It has so much polish that it’s hard to believe the studio employs just 20 people. Hades is a game that started in early access in 2018 and has been tweaked and refined to the successful game that it is today, earning overwhelming critical acclaim while claiming numerous gaming awards. So, should you try this game, even if you aren’t familiar with the genre? We’ll take a deeper look at what makes this game stand out in the crowd of Game Pass games.
The game takes place from the perspective of Zagreus, son of Hades, as he attempts to make his escape from the Underworld and reach Mount Olympus. As is the custom for the roguelike genre, Zagreus enters each room in the Underworld populated with random enemies to cut down and traps to avoid. Along the way, Zagreus must choose the next room by deciding what reward he wants after completing it. What is unique to Supergiant’s take on the roguelike genre is the heavy influence of story to dictate the pace of play within Hades. Each time the player dies a new bit of storyline is released, and a new aspect of gameplay is unlocked. This differs from many roguelikes where players have access to every facet of the game at the beginning.
One way it does relate to its roguelike cousins is the fact that you will die many times. Hades is not for the easily discouraged. While I personally may fall into that category, the quality of gameplay kept me intrigued just enough that I never fully put down the game for good after an embarrassing number of deaths. Eventually, Zagreus becomes a demon slaying god. The hack-and-slash style of combat becomes addicting as the player rips through enemies that at one point seemed invincible.
Playing Hades makes you feel like a star in your own ‘B’ action movie. A movie complete with a pulse pumping soundtrack that matches with the over-the-top action taking place on screen. Occasionally, a run will come together perfectly, where the player will have complimentary Boons and/or Daedalus Hammers that make Zagreus an unstoppable killing machine. In those scenarios the pressure is even higher to succeed to capitalize on good fortune.
The controls are fairly straightforward for its hack-and-slash style. There is a standard attack, cast (ranged), special, and a call (ultimate). Each of these attacks take on a different form when a Boon is applied. Some Boons act as a poison application, others bring a shocking boost to straight up attack damage. Much of the fun for me is mixing and matching each God’s boons with Daedalus Hammers (powerful weapon upgrade) and seeing what devastating build I can create. There are also other ways to buff your character, whether it’s the mirror which adds permanent buffs to Zagreus, or the house renovator who can add benefits within the dungeons themselves. The loot system can seem a little complicated at first (so many choices!) but keep the game feeling fresh. There are many different avenues in which to upgrade Zagreus which keeps replayability high.
Related: Hades Beginners Guide
Story is not typically a very important aspect of roguelike games. However, the story of Zagreus’ prison break and the cast of characters involved is what sets this dungeon crawler apart from its peers. The inclusion of familiar Greek Gods such as Zeus, Poseidon, and the keeper of the Underworld himself Hades is fresh. Negative remarks from your father as you continue to fail (relatable!) inspire the player to push forward as does words of encouragement from your fellow gods on Mount Olympus who want you to join them.
For what it is, the writing is clever and witty. Each God has their own unique personality that really shines through. The voice acting in this game is some of the best I’ve heard of which only adds to the great character personalities and development. The relationship that Zagreus shares with each character in this game is truly engaging and doesn’t get old.
The art in this game is another factor why the story is enjoyable. From the beautifully drawn character sprites to the effects that come from each attack to the moody, brooding, atmospheric dungeon environment, it’s the glue that brings all the working parts together. Animations are smooth. Impacts are crisp. Colors pop where they are meant to. While not special in any way, the UI is not obtrusive. The only issue visually with this game is that it’s possible that the screen is filled with too many different things. It can be hard to really tell what’s going on at any given moment.
Should You Try Hades on Xbox Game Pass? Yes!
There hasn’t been a roguelike that has kept me as engaged as Hades has. As someone who isn’t a fan of the genre, this game may have turned me into one. From its enthralling game play to its engaging story, to its beautiful art style, Hades is well deserving of all the praise it has received. This game is certainly worth giving a shot and sinking a few hours into at the very least. Especially if you have game pass! Will you be trying your luck in the Underworld? Check out our beginners guide! Let us know in our Discord server!