Hades is pretty much a masterpiece, even though rogue-lites aren’t really my thing

Hades is a rogue-lite action RPG from Supergiant Games, the team behind Bastion, Transistor, and Pyre. In the game, you play it as Zagreus (the prince of the underworld) as he tries to fight his way out of the Greek mythological underworld.

With each attempt, you make it a little bit closer to the surface but when you die you have to start all over again. However, there are upgrades and abilities that you will retain between attempts allowing you to get a little closer to your end goal each time you attempt to escape.

Pros

  • Engaging story
  • Deep mechanics and power-ups
  • Excellent visual and audio presentation

Cons

  • Combat can get repetitive
  • Procedural levels feel generic
  • Progression doesn’t necessarily correlate to skill

After three games that looked and sounded excellent, you’d hardly be surprised to find out that Hades also looks and sounds great. The studio’s hallmark isometric style is there and it’s supported by another superb Darren Korb soundtrack that will now be on regular rotation even when I’m not playing the game.

Unlike a lot of the rogue-lite games I’ve played, Hades isn’t lacking in narrative depth. The story elements are so well-written, entertaining and engaging that when you die and get sent back to Hades’ Palace, you don’t feel that annoyed as it gives you an opportunity to learn more about the characters, build your relationship with them, and unlock even more story content.

Mechanically, the game is also full of ways to change things up, too. The abilities and equipment you can unlock are so varied that it allows for a lot of different playstyles and experimentation, further adding to the depth this game can offer.

However, Hades does suffer the same core problem that every rogue-lite game faces; the difficulty will always decrease as you play and victory become almost inevitable. This can make it hard to tell whether you’re actually getting better at the game, but it still felt incredibly rewarding when I did beat it because this is a challenging game to beat.

As for the combat, there are moments where you’re not really sure what’s going on and you’re just hoping that your current build is effective enough to dispatch the enemies that you face as you mash the buttons that do the most damage. It’s still a whole heap of visceral fun, but a few escape attempts in one sitting will leave your hands and fingers sore!

The procedurally-generated levels are hardly memorable, but the game’s so beautifully presented that you’re not too bothered about the layout as you’re too busy fighting off hordes of baddies and then enjoying the scenery once they’ve been dispatched.

The Verdict

This is a game that looks and sounds great, is fun to play, but struggles with the same problems that plague all rogue-lites and, despite the criticism I had to level at the game in order to be objective, this is still nothing short of a masterpiece and the best game I’ve played, indie or otherwise, in a very long time.

Hades was developed by Supergiant Games and is available on PC and Switch.

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