The release of Hades is one that is probably every developer’s dream (or nightmare, depending on how you look at it). Within days of its release, it blows up across social media, jumps towards the top of the best selling list on the Nintendo eShop, and has several publications praising it as “game of the year” material. The SwitchRPG discord has even been taken over by the excitement of the game. Hades has a lot of buzz surrounding it lately, but is it actually worth the hype?
Hades is a roguelite action RPG where your goal is to escape from the Underworld, and every time you die, you start over at the beginning. However, because this is a roguelite and not a roguelike, you carry over items from your previous runs that can be used to unlock new items and abilities to make future runs easier to get through. You can unlock new weapons as you collect keys, giving you a variety of options to select when figuring out your play style.
Each room is randomly generated and what you see during one run may not show up during the next. As you clear a room, you are given a choice of what type of reward you want to receive in the next room. This can be anything from run-exclusive power-ups, gemstones to unlock new items around the castle, money to purchase items or power-ups in the shop, and much more.
You can move with either the left analog stick or the arrow buttons and you have the option of three different attacks (four depending on whether you have a boon to give your dash a damage effect). You can attack with the Y button, cast a spell using the A button (although ammo for your spell is limited), or use your special attack with the X button. Very quickly you’ll find yourself getting into the groove and figuring out which types of attacks are best to use depending on the situation. Or, you can be like me and mash your dash button and hope you don’t dash right into an AOE.
For those who are either looking for a challenge, or looking to take it easy and just play for the story and interactions, Hades has options for you. You can select Hell Mode, which ramps up the difficulty by adding five mandatory conditions that the user will be faced with during their playthrough, and this difficulty setting can’t be changed later. On the flip side, you can select God Mode in the settings menu, which will make your character stronger with each death so that eventually, you’ll be able to clear through the game with ease. You start off with 20% damage resistance, and you gain 2% with each death, eventually capping off at 80%. Or, you can just stick with normal mode, which remains a happy medium between the two options.
The main narrative of Hades is very straightforward. You play as Zagreus, the son of Hades and your main goal is to escape from the Underworld and figure out the secrets surrounding your mother. Of course, that is easier said than done. As you go through the game, you’ll find yourself dying quite a bit. However, you actually unlock new character interactions the more you progress or die. Better yet, said interactions vary depending on what you experienced during your last run. Did you beat Megaera before your untimely death? You may or may not run into her in the castle where she’ll be less than pleased to see your face. Did you fall face first in some lava and didn’t get out in time? Well, you better believe Hypnos has a smart comment for you upon your return.
All of the NPCs are other members of Greek mythology. If you have a deep knowledge of Greek mythology, then you’ll recognize all of the characters that appear in Hades. Even if your knowledge is more surface level, worry not because it isn’t a requirement. As you play, you will find the relationships between the Greek Pantheon and beyond unfolding. Certain characters will even banter between each other, depending on which power-ups you’ve chosen for your run.
You also have the option to increase the relationship of the NPCs by giving them an item known as Nectar, which you can earn as a reward by completing rooms just like you earn gemstones and money. There are more character specific stories locked behind raising affinity, so if you’re looking for more interactions between Zagreus and your favorite NPC, then you’ll want to focus on giving them Nectar whenever possible.
The art, the music, and voice acting are all beyond amazing. All of the character art has so much personality and the colors and shading used are just breathtaking. All of the character portraits are in 2D while the models moving around in the game are in 3D. Each environment has so much detail packed in that it can be hard to take in everything with enemies attacking you at all times. But, if you can, just take the time to stop (once you’ve cleared out all of the enemies in the room, of course) and look at the art of the rooms, especially the beginning areas of each new realm of the Underworld.
The music by Darren Korb is phenomenal. The mix of light acoustics and classical sounds with the heavier hitting rock and metal brings something that I honestly didn’t know I needed in my life until I heard the full soundtrack. And, speaking honestly, if you are able to, listen to the full soundtrack because just hearing it in the game is not enough. This is a soundtrack that I quickly added to my playlist as soon as it was released.
A good, sleek UI is an often overlooked characteristic in games, but goes a long way in making a gaming experience simple to navigate and play. In Hades, everything is spelled out pretty clearly and it never felt too cluttered on the screen when pop ups appeared. This game has nice styling that sets it apart from other games. They could have just gone with a simple menu UI, so I appreciate the step towards making everything look stylish AND accessible.
Impressions and Conclusion
Hades has been praised up and down by publications and gamers alike, and for good reason. This game is a treat to behold. It is addicting to play, making it so easy to say, “Just one more run!”. It has been a while since a game has drawn me in so much with the cast, gameplay, music, and art. This game has everything, and does everything so well.
The writing and character interactions in particular are my bread and butter. I love when a cast of characters resonate with me, and I found myself loving each NPC as they appeared. And while I love some more than others, I can’t really say I dislike any particular character, either. Their personalities are portrayed so well, both with their voice actors as well as their art.
I would say wholeheartedly to check this game out. Of course, if roguelites aren’t your jam, check out a gameplay video or two just to see if it would be something that you would enjoy. But, if you’re looking for a new game to try out and are still on the fence, I would say make the jump and give it a try. You may find yourself sinking several hours into it before you realize just how far you’ve dug yourself into the game.
Oh, and if you have already started and you haven’t noticed the little arrows on the left hand side of the abilities you’re leveling up with the mirror, just give that a look. You might find something surprising.