Hades first released for PC in 2018, but only in early access. Two years later, the full game is not only out, but it’s also available on the perfect platform: The Nintendo Switch. In this roguelike adventure, you play as Zagreus, the incredibly handsome son of Hades, as he attempts to escape from the underworld in a bid to reach Mount Olympus.
What makes Hades similar to the other great games in this genre is just how fun it is to play. What makes Hades unique, though, is everything else. There is a genuine, tangible story. Hades has the player focusing just as much on the narrative trickled throughout, as does the dungeon-crawling gameplay the genre is renowned for. By this point of the review (if the name of the game didn’t give it away first), it’s pretty clear that Hades is based within greek mythology. It’s this setting that allows for the game’s rich story to shine through. Everything that’s often associated with roguelikes is simply explained away easily and makes sense in Hades. Why do you come back every time after you die? Because you’re escaping the underworld, so you just end up back where you started. Why do the rooms always change with each playthrough? Because that’s how the labyrinthian underworld is designed, ensuring no one can escape the clutches of Hades. It’s expertly crafted and designed.
Zagreus isn’t attempting this escape without aid; he has the help of his estranged and dysfunctional family in Olympus. All of the characters that appear, whether it’s the gods helping you during each run, or the characters back at the hub area, are all voiced excellently. Each time I got the opportunity to talk to someone new, I would. Dialogue appearing on my screen was a genuine joy and just as rewarding as unlocking something new to aid Zagreus’ escape. The cast are all incredibly charming and well written, boasting a huge amount of dialogue, ensuring every time you talk to a character feels fresh and worthwhile.
The main draw for any roguelike, however, is the gameplay. It has to be fun, rewarding and make you desperate to play more. Hades captures all of the above and then some. The biggest compliment that you can pay to Hades is, it doesn’t matter how long you have been playing; you just can’t put it down. Battling your way through the dungeons is fast and chaotic, challenging yet incredibly enjoyable. On top of that are the boss battles at the end of each area. The boss battles are far from easy, but they act as a great way to test your skills so far, and the feeling of elation when you finally beat that boss you’ve been stuck on is unparalleled.
Before you get started on your grand plan to escape the underworld, Zagreus is in the House of Hades. This is also where you spawn after each death, and it acts as your hub for the game. It’s here where you can unlock new weapons, chat to some of the characters, including your dad and most importantly it’s where you can stroke your ol’ pal Cerberus. It is also here where any upgrades you find/earn can be applied. After you die, you lose your boons from your previous run — the boons are upgrades given to Zagreus by the gods, they are discarded after each death — but there are also upgrades that can be permanently unlocked to help each time. These upgrades help make the next run feel just that little bit easier. On top of this, you can also make renovations to the underworld in the House of Hades. Some are purely cosmetic to help spruce the place up a bit, but others (like adding health chambers) will ensure you can get further than you did before.
The four areas of the game all look and feel unique. The enemies in each location are different, proposing new problems for you to try and solve, with your weapon of choice. There are six weapons in total, each one feeling unique when compared to another. These aren’t all unlocked from the start, but as you unlock more, it will become increasingly clear how much each weapon drastically changes the combat of the game. The shield, for example, feels miles away from the bow and arrow, demanding you change your approach and maybe even which boons you would want. It’s to developer Supergiant Games’ credit that all the weapons feel different, yet the controls remain the same, even if some weapons are more challenging than others. The weapons, combined with the variety of boons, will keep bringing you back for more, even once you’ve finished the game.
Elevating Hades even further is just how aesthetically pleasing the whole game is. The art style compliments the characters, the enemies and the environments they are in. By looking so good, it just increases your desire to see everything and speak to everyone. On top of that, the music is also pulling in the same direction. It’s most notable during the boss battles when it really kicks up a gear, helping add a genuine feeling of thrill as you fight for Zagreus’ life.
There aren’t enough positive things I can say about Hades. It genuinely is one of the best games I’ve had the pleasure of playing this year. If the gameplay doesn’t get you hooked, then learning about Zagreus’ heritage and exploring his toxic relationship with his father will keep you coming back time and again. Hades feels refreshing and unique, helping it stand out in what has been a very, very, strong year for games.
Pure Nintendo was not provided a review code for this game. The copy of this game was provided by the reviewer.
Review: Hades (Nintendo Switch)
Hades is a complete package. The writing will make you laugh, the gameplay will make you smile, the bosses will frustrate you, and the art will make you stare in awe. All of which combined makes Hades a must-play, and once you start, you won’t want to stop.