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Escape the Underworld — First Impressions of Supergiant’s Hades

Last year, I wrote a review for Pyre. Barely a year later, Supergiant Games returns with a brand new game in their docket: Hades, announced out of nowhere during the recent 2018 Game Awards. Being a huge fan of the studio, there is no way I would not let this pass me by.

After having played Hades for a couple of hours, I can safely say that Supergiant Games continues to live up to its reputation for unique, innovative gameplay.

Since Bastion, their very first game, Supergiant has always maintained a standard in their narrative while constantly improving on their gameplay mechanics. In Hades, one can see their gameplay taking yet another evolution. It combines the aspects that made their previous games (Bastion, Transistor and Pyre) so unique and memorable.

Players take the role of Zagerus, the son of Hades himself. For reasons yet to be explained, Zagerus seeks to leave the Underworld and reunite with the rest of his family in Olympus. What follows is Supergiant’s personal take of a rogue-like dungeon crawler-esque game. From the randomly generated rooms to the constant deaths, Hades has everything players might look for in other games of this genre.

The combat system in Hades can be best described as a mix between Transistor and Bastion.

Hades combines the real time aspect and skill set up that Bastion has with the aesthetic and dynamic of Transistor. Players traverse from room to room (called ‘chambers’) and are required to clear the enemies in that room before proceeding to the next one. This continues until players arrive at the destination — or are killed, which is the most likely scenario to happen. With every run, players get to keep most of the collectibles they obtain through it. These then allow them to power up and get better, giving them the chance to go further in their next run.

One of the more interesting aspects of this game are the boons that Zagerus is able to get through his run in Tartarus. These boons, granted onto him by the different gods of Olympus, gives him different bonuses and effects depending on the god in question. Players are given one of three choices, though they are never the same. Hades randomizes the picks each round. If a player is lucky enough, they might be able to get some particularly incredible bonuses to give them the edge they need.

All this combines to a relatively solid gameplay experience through Tartarus.

The fighting and motions in this game is fluid and the enemies are hard enough without it being too challenging. For those who are not too into this particular genre, there is a chance that they may find it repetitive. Nevertheless, I feel that the drive to explore and push the story helps a lot in overcoming that tedium.

As mentioned earlier, Supergiant games have wonderful narratives that directly tie into their mechanics. Hades is no different. Every aspect that this game has is deeply tied to the narrative that it carries. Tatarus shifts because Hades does not allow one to leave his realm so easily. Fragments of darkness imbue you with strength because you’re the Prince of the Underworld, aided by Nyx herself. Every time you die, you return to your literal home, where Hades continues to scoff at your efforts to leave.

Having said that, however, the overarching narrative of the story hasn’t been established yet. There are bits and pieces one can get through dialogue and etcetera, but it feels like there’s nothing too concrete. Given the fact that this game is currently in early access, I’m inclined to give that a pass.

As solid as the mechanics of Hades are, it also wouldn’t be a Supergiant game without them adding a unique twist to the genre that this game represents.

Similar to Pyre, Hades players can also develop deeper bonds with the famous figures of the Greek pantheon. This can be achieved by conversing with them or giving them gifts that you find while going through Tartarus. The biggest benefit of doing this, though, is how players get to discover more of the plot. This includes the mystery of exactly who Zagerus is, his exact parentage, and why he’s hellbent on leaving the Underworld.

Given this is Supergiant’s first foray into world mythology, it’s interesting to see what the studio has done with it. Tatarus is an eerily beautiful sight from afar, and a dangerous place to traverse with it’s ever changing architecture. The personalities of each god are memorable and unique. Cerberus might just be the cutest three headed hellhound you may ever get to know.

It’s also worth mentioning that the art and music of Hades is fantastic.

It continues to maintain the same quality that Supergiant is well-known for, and more. It’s doubly exciting to see the how their art and music have evolved since their very first game. It’s incredible to witness the ways they have adapted to the theme and atmosphere of the game and the lore it represents while still staying true to the style that the studio has built up through their past three games.

Though still in early access, Hades is easily a game that Supergiant should be proud to add to their roster. It’s an exciting blend of dungeon crawler with visual novel aspects that provides a fresh take on familiar mythology. The fact that it’s presented with the studio’s ever gorgeous art and music only makes it better.

If you’re a fan of Supergiant Games just as I am, I highly recommend that you get this game.

Supergiant has been known to be very receptive to feedback. It seems like they’re committed to making Hades the best kind of game it can be. I’m definitely going to be playing a lot more of Hades, and incredibly excited to see the evolution of this game.

Frieda Mak
Late 20s, female, avid lover of Cadbury chocolates, ice cubes and coke. Also a self-proclaimed tomboy, serial casual gamer as well as occasional napper. Does a lot of things on the internet such as watching Youtube videos, reading fanfics and rambling a lot about her obsessions.

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