Hades Review – PlayStation, Xbox, PC and Mac

Hades is a combination of a 2D combat platformer and a bullet hell shooter, requiring you to make quick decisions about movement, dashing to avoid death and when to attack, all the while listening to the game’s fantastic soundtrack that adds intensity and depth the further you get. 

Hades could easily be described as “difficult”. While it may not be as difficult as some other top-down shooters out there, it makes up for this in its dynamically changing situations that constantly throw new challenges at you.

Hades Review - PlayStation, Xbox, PC and Mac
Hades Review – PlayStation, Xbox, PC and Mac

Hades is a rogue-lite platformer RPG with roguelike and metroidvania elements that tells the story of an ancient Greek hero’s quest through the underworld. 

The game is both a challenging platformer and a combat-focused action-RPG, set in a sprawling cavernous underworld filled with interesting loot to find, enemies to fight, and allies to recruit. It’s inspired by classic Greek mythology, where Hades will send out waves of enemies at you on each run, as you climb your way upwards through Hell. 

Your only way out is to get stronger, smarter, and more powerful with each new attempt—but no matter how many times you die along the way, the next time you come back to life will feel familiar, but just slightly different.

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Storyline

Hades allows you to experience life in the Underworld by giving you control over a dead character named Zag who goes on a journey to return to the land of the living. The game breaks up its adventure gameplay into 14 regions, each with a unique theme or characters, and you must navigate through each one and solve puzzles in order to progress towards your ultimate goal of escaping Hades.

In Hades, you play as Zag, a young man who wakes up in hell after dying in an unfortunate sock-related accident. He must then embark on a journey through the underworld to discover the truth about his death and earn his rightful spot in the afterlife. It is a game where grief has weight and time is your most precious resource, second only to how much you care about the quirky characters found within it.

You play as a brand new soul who has died and made their way to Hell, and it’s your job to escape while becoming stronger while fighting monsters. The combat is incredibly satisfying as you hang back and attack enemies at range until they get close enough for a charge attack which spins them around several times before slamming them into the ground. 

From there, you have a limited time to use more powerful moves before the impromptu combo ends. Enemies will keep you on your toes by often trapping you between multiple tough enemies, forcing you to make quick decisions about which one to fight first. 

Oh, and don’t get me started on the boss battles. They are tough, flashy, and usually last longer than you though possible. They’ll test everything you learned throughout the game, including facing off against multiple bosses at once.

With a clever premise, innovative combat system, and colorful characters, Hades delivers an unforgettable roguelite experience. 

The player controls one of the Greek gods attempting to escape from the pit of human suffering that is the underworld. 

They must do so by mastering combat with a variety of weapons and abilities, slowly powering up as they defeat enemies, getting help from talkative foes, and unlocking various powerful abilities. Every slain enemy and errand accomplished powers up the player further, making their eventual escape all the more likely.

The entire game is based on the Greek Myth of Sisyphus and his descent into Hades. Gameplay-wise, it feels more like a classic action game than a roguelike, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing; there’s something familiar about the mechanics and upgrade tree, as well as the enemy variety and boss fights. 

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Sometimes when you play a game that is trying to do something new, you feel constantly held back by its complexity or never given enough time to get used to it before you die. Not so in Hades – each time I died, I felt more powerful than I did last time, especially from learning from my mistakes.

It has engaging combat, great environments, and both online and offline play with different ways to play the game. And while it is similar to the combat in Bastion, Hades creates its own identity with it’s randomization and great combat mechanics.

Death comes for us all. Most of the time, it’s quite peaceful. It’s nothing to fear. But in Hades, you don’t get to rest in peace either before or after your time is up. Every time you die, you return to Hell and have to start anew—but with a twist. Each death makes you stronger as you remember more of the game’s secrets, gain new powers, and collect new abilities and gear along the way.

Gameplay

As you make your way through the underworld, you may pick up Steel coins that are color-coded to a type of weapon. 

These rare disks serve two purposes, though it’s not entirely clear which one at the time: First, they’re the game’s currency and can be spent to upgrade your equipment at your leisure (though the process requires certain rituals), or given to a benevolent entity to gain an additional life. 

Second, they allow you to upgrade specific weapons up to four times. Some weapons remain static in their behaviour when upgraded but others change them entirely in combat – for instance, from a spear that hits in a small oval when thrown to a double-bladed claw that strikes both vertically and horizontally. 

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As you make your way through the underworld, you may pick up Steel coins that are color-coded to a type of weapon. 

These rare disks serve two purposes, though it’s not entirely clear which one at the time: First, they’re the game’s currency and can be spent to upgrade your equipment at your leisure (though the process requires certain rituals), or given to a benevolent entity to gain an additional life. 

Second, they allow you to upgrade specific weapons up to four times. Some weapons remain static in their behaviour when upgraded but others change them entirely in combat – for instance, from a spear that hits in a small oval when thrown to a double-bladed claw that strikes both vertically and horizontally. 

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As you make your way through the underworld, you may pick up Steel coins that are color-coded to a type of weapon. 

These rare disks serve two purposes, though it’s not entirely clear which one at the time: First, they’re the game’s currency and can be spent to upgrade your equipment at your leisure (though the process requires certain rituals), or given to a benevolent entity to gain an additional life. 

Second, they allow you to upgrade specific weapons up to four times. Some weapons remain static in their behaviour when upgraded but others change them entirely in combat – for instance, from a spear that hits in a small oval when thrown to a double-bladed claw that strikes both vertically and horizontally. 

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Hades has a great sense of humor and its own original style that sets it apart from others like it. From the moment I fired this up and was treated to an intro with over-the-top fantastical writing reminiscent of Terry Gilliam’s work, I couldn’t help but smile and wonder where this game could take me. In Hades, you play as Zagreus, son of Hades (hence the title), on his quest to escape from the Underworld after becoming trapped there as punishment for killing Cerberus. I won’t dwell on the story because it’s not why you’re here for; you want to know about the gameplay and whether Hades is worth your money.

Whether you’re a new player or a seasoned veteran, Hades is a complex character to master. But if you can master him, he’s one of the most lethal forces in the game.

Zag’s passive is called Shifter’s Mark, and it allows him to mark an enemy for death with his basic attack. With this passive alone, Zag can make a huge difference in team fights by focusing down priority targets quickly and efficiently.

Zag’s first ability is called Shadow Step, and it allows him to dash forward in a straight line while leaving behind shadow clones of himself that deal damage on contact with enemies. This ability is perfect for getting into team fights or escaping from them.

The next ability is called Extinction Field, which creates a ring around Zag that damages enemies who try to cross it while he stands inside it. Extinction Field also increases Zag’s movement speed while active, allowing him to chase down fleeing enemies with ease.

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In my first few hours with Hades I found myself relying almost exclusively on my standard attacks — an overhead swing that has Zag slamming his axe into monsters heads while they’re stunned by his other attacks. It’s not flashy but it’s effective enough that it doesn’t need to be flashy. That changed when I unlocked another attack called ‘Return to Sender’, which allows Zag to smack enemies back with his axe like some kind of reverse-Whac-a-Mole game. From there I started experimenting with more diverse combos; throwing out standard attacks followed by casts or even just letting loose with Return To Sender over and over again until everything was dead.

The cast does provide some interesting strategic options for players who want to outsmart their opponents. There are times when it can be advantageous to fire off multiple casts against multiple targets at once, but doing so will deplete your supply quickly. In other cases, if you see an enemy running away with low health and don’t have enough casts left to finish him off, shooting him in the back might be worth sacrificing your last bullet for the sake of finishing him off quickly before he runs away completely.

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Another interesting mechanic is Zag’s ability to parry certain attacks by pressing jump when prompted. This is useful for avoiding damage but also for triggering some more powerful moves. It’s not something that comes into play often enough to be annoying but when it does happen, it adds another layer to combat, which is always welcome in action games like this one.

The final thing to mention about combat is that there are some limitations on what weapons can be used where. For example, you can use guns in most areas but not in others where they would be impractical or ineffective such as underwater areas or indoors due to their loud noise making them unsuitable for stealth missions. It sounds like an odd restriction but it actually makes sense when you think about it

The Verdict

With its excellent blend of roguelike and brawler mechanics, Hades successfully achieves a rare feat by creating a game that is both endlessly replayable and deeply engaging. Its outstanding level design features an almost-but-not-quite random distribution of power-ups, new locales, bosses, and more, and its hand-crafted rooms ensure that starting over each time isn’t just a task but a joy. 

Each death only makes your next set of powers more fun to use, while the colorful cast of characters who remember your previous attempts creates a sense of innocent camaraderie. In fact, the whole thing is so much fun that it makes you wish you were in Hell!

As a game, it’s important to note that Hades is relentlessly difficult. An act can take 10 to 15 minutes or up to three hours. That adds up if you’re trying to get through a full run of all five acts, and you can’t save in the middle. Likewise, you can try again for free in a New Game+ mode with new powers, but if you die here then it’s back to the beginning with all your upgrades and progress gone.

Supergiant wanted this extreme difficulty to be the core of the game, and they have achieved that goal with admirable dedication to the experience they want players to have. It’s not something I recommend jumping into unless you have at least a day off when you start playing it as there’s no looking away once you begin Hades.

The tight controls, excellent level design and music keep the action-focused combat extremely engaging throughout despite the high difficulty level. Add on top of that a gripping story that gives context to what is otherwise just another boss rush adventure game and you have one incredibly memorable romp through Hell.

If you’re a fan of games with roguelike elements, Hades is definitely worth checking out. The solid combat, beautiful and varied settings, and the story – which advances based on your current run’s actions – all make for an experience that keeps getting better the more you play it. If you enjoy tough but fair challenges, Hades will keep you coming back for more. It may put a dent in your wallet to get started, but it’s an investment that’ll last for quite some time to come. Supergiant is certainly an indie powerhouse to watch when it comes to game design and execution as of late, and Hades is another excellent title under their belt.

Hades Review - PlayStation, Xbox, PC and Mac
  • Gameplay
  • Storyline
  • Graphics
4.6

Summary

For all its dark and terrifying dangers, Hades is a game that’s an absolute joy to play. Death is a great deal more than hitting the Game Over screen, and there’s always something new to find and see on your next attempt. It’s a rogue-lite that emphasizes the “loot” part of roguelike by focusing on customization and synergy, with constantly evolving gameplay and a high level of challenge that makes every victory feel earned.

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