A cross between Aesop’s Fables and Hollyoaks, Greek myth forms the basis of every story ever told. Scarface, King Lear, that episode of Hey Duggee where they find a dead body in the woods, all of them are essentially rehashes of the time Zeus and his pals got up to some mischief around the pantheon.Hades, an isometric beat-em-up from developer Supergiant Games, offers all these things even in its early access launch state, and sets its sights even higher. By blending the layered, mechanically meaningful storytelling elements of its last game, Pyre, with the addictive, almost endlessly replayable structures of games like Rogue Legacy and Dead Cells, Supergiant appears to be on its way to making a “rogue-lite” the likes of which we’ve rarely seen.
The previously blood-filled orbs on each door drain to reveal the potential rewards in upcoming rooms. A heart symbolizes an upgrade in my health bar — healing items and health boosts are few and far between — and a purple teardrop gives me more currency for when I inevitably fail this run and invest in better tools for the next go-around. The default sword gets samey quickly, and the rhythmic draw and release of the bow just doesn’t feel as good as spanging a shield off a horde of weak foes. I have enjoyed using them all, though. So much that Supergiant’s latest hack ‘n slash is all I want to play right now. The only real “Early Access” aspect to Hades that we noticed during our time with the game is that endgame content is somewhat sparse. This doesn’t prevent Hades from being a thoroughly enjoyable game, though. If anything, it makes us look forward to seeing the development process unfold even more as we enter 2019.New characters appear the more you die, and new chambers open upBefore heading out again you can unlock new weapons, and improve your skills with a magic mirror. I’m used to Supergiant games being slow and dreamlike, but Hades is repetitive, quick, and plays nicely in short sessions.Each boon I collect spawns a bit of dialogue with my uncle Poseidon or my cousin Athena. After a short and awkward chat, they offer me a bit of their power in the form of a choice between three unique effects.
Hades, doesn’t endorse his decision, though, setting up Zag’s repeated attempts to fight his way out of the stark but colorfully drawn Underworld the long way — a task that no man or god has ever completed. He never stops Zag, but When he fails — and you will fail many, many times — Hades always seems has something to say about it. Vacillating between teasing quips and expressing parental disappointment in his deep, Kratos-esque voice, he gets in his fair share of effective digs from run to run.Reviving back in Hades’ manor, the residents will always have new things to say or slivers of backstory to reveal. Hypnos, who acts as a sort of live-in receptionist for hell, greets you warmly each time you resurrect, and usually with some wry commentary on the specific kind of grisly end you just met. Your old man Hades lounges on a throne, which you must guiltily slink past whenever you’re about to attempt another futile escape, each time enduring his sarcastic put-downs and withering disappointment at your successive failures. Like any normal father, really.And after each run, Zag returns to Hades’ palace, where the God of Death and his rotating retinue reside. As you make progress, either by getting further from home or through buying upgrades, Zag’s friends, servants, and mentors frequently have new things to tell you. Layer by layer, those bits of gossip and anecdotes blend together to create a cast of beautifully articulated characters. Characters like Dusa, the adorably anxious Gorgon maid, and your mentor, the legendary warrior Achilles, make it refreshing to come home and hear more about the Underworld and its residents.If I receive Ares’ ability to strike down enemies with a delayed attack on my spear throw early on, the boons that I’ll select in the future should be to improve that playstyle or supplement my weaknesses. The boons don’t always offer the same choices each run, leading me to create a different kind of build every run I’ve made.
I’m currently struggling up against Hades’ first major boss, and I find myself almost seizing up with tension as I double dodge at lightning speed around the arena, narrowly missing one attack only to hit another enemy, or one of the game’s bastard spike traps.By playing in Early Access, you’ll be able to see the game take shape over time based on our plans and your feedback. We expect to add features, events, characters, weapons, powers, environments, and more, all while fine-tuning every aspect of the experience, for at least a year and a half from our initial launch. During Early Access, we expect to launch major content updates on a regular basis, with the possibility of smaller updates in between.” My main concerns are with the progression systems, and how they work alongside the randomised buffs you pick up on each run. You have three attacks: a basic strike, a special attack, and a magic attack. In some rooms a glowing orb spawns that lets you upgrade one of your attacks with a buff from one of the gods of Olympus. These are themed upgrades. Attacks buffed by Zeus tend to generate lightning. Ares gives you extra delayed damage, and give your dash a damaging razor blade effect.The first boss is one of the Furies, and she constantly blocks my path to the second level of Hades. Defeating her is easier and easier each time due to a combination of upgrades in the game and my own abilities. But once I exit her door, I only get a brief reprieve before continuing my journey through the layers of hell.
Your choice of weapon defines plan of attack: With the sword, you have a classic slash and an area-of-effect wave attack, but with the bow you have a chargeable standard shot or a crowd-controlling multi-arrow shot. Some of the weapons add extra options: The shield, for example, lets you hold the attack button to block, then release for a stronger dash attack. Each weapon is easy to pick up and serves as an easy baseline for the extra abilities Zag earns on each run.Not only are the circles of hell richly drawn, inked and coloured in a bold, comic book style and full of detail, but each denizen of the underworld you meet is beautifully illustrated during dialogue, in a lush art style that’s somewhere between Jet Set Radio and the Necronomicon. As a side note, Zagreus has a single, naked grey nipple on display at all times, which can be distracting whenever it catches your eye. His tit is just there, hanging out, and he knows it. He likes that you can see it.