Last year Hades took the gaming world by storm. The unique take on the gods of Olympus set in a brutal roguelike just checked all the right boxes. It didn’t just have style, there was plenty of substance that really brought it to another level. Unfortunately, the initial release was limited to Switch and PC. Many expected this would, at some point, change, which finally occurred this week. Now that PlayStation and Xbox players can see what everyone was talking about, was it worth the wait, or was it overhyped?
Hades follows Zagreus, son of Hades, who longs for freedom from the Underworld. The adventure chronicles his journey to defeat foes and progress beyond his father’s domain, with the help of many different gods and goddesses both well-known and more niche.
A creative take on each Greek god
It’s an interesting story, especially if you are interested in Greek mythology, with Hades often taking its own unique interpretation of these characters. It’s enough to make the experience stand out if you’re not particularly interested in Zagreus’ quest for freedom, with it being a bonus for those who are, assuming you’re good enough to get to the end.
Having played many roguelike games and being a guilty pleasure, Hades hits that sweet spot in regards to difficulty. On my first attempt, I made it past a couple of rooms before a particularly difficult enemy overwhelmed me. Following that, I unlock Zagreus’ bow and made it a bit further, with a great initial power-up giving me a huge advantage on the third run ending at the second boss.
Most runs ended due to a lack of knowledge, over a question of skill. Sometimes that deciding factor was an upgrade I chose earlier and other times I simply approached an enemy the wrong way. This made the journey a bit more enjoyable, without Hades ever leaving players in the dust.
Several power ups change how the experience plays out
Unlike some roguelike games, Hades has RPG elements based on resources collected on previous runs. These can be used to increase your health, unlock new weapons, and more. While I was able to beat the second boss with only one upgrade, it is good to know every failure can be used to make later runs easier. Simply getting the revive can be game-changing, with the second one being a massive investment, at least earlier on, but there if players struggle.
Level design and enemies are also extremely well done. Each falls in a specific category, with certain advantages and disadvantages. Floating skulls can overwhelm you, multiple large enemies need to be avoided, some enemies throw bombs and it just progresses from there. Part of what makes this work is great weapon enhancements.
One of the biggest tricks to Hades is figuring out what you can’t do and where your weapon is weakest and pick upgrades that make up for it. For example, I love getting abilities that add damage to my special attack with a bow. This makes it extremely easy to kill small enemies, allowing me to focus my aim on larger or bigger threats. With the sword, it’s a great bonus to shockwaves or quick and easy damage with the shield. This worked for me, though there are a decent number of abilities that make several different play styles viable.
If there is one downside to Hades though, it’s that runs can start to blur together. To its credit, this is more pronounced the longer you get stuck, as later enemies can start appearing towards the start of new runs, but my tactic never really changes. One run I might have attacks that apply hangover (it’s a damage over time status), lightning special attacks, and additional damage, with another run my attack might have additional damage, I still have hungover and now I have a different special attack that does sizable damage after a brief wait.
Mind you, this isn’t to say Hades devolves into the same game after enough time, though it absolutely can if you want it to, just that core experience doesn’t change too much beyond modifiers and even those feel largely static until they start to merge and change later in a run.
Hades Review Verdict
Overall, Hades is a great game that is a lot of fun to experience. It has some bite but not enough where it will likely be an unsurmountable wall for those less skilled players out there. Toss in a unique art style, a different take on the gods, and some fun levels and it’s an absolute blast to see what horrors await further. And while it might not change drastically between each run, there is enough to get your fill come to the end of the adventure.
[Editor’s Note: Hades was reviewed on PlayStation 5 and a copy was provided to us for review purposes.]