Hades – Rogue-Lite Action Indie Game – Review
With their new Hades plant, the developers have outdone themselves. Wonderfully gripping action, unmistakable style, great characters and clever story telling combine to create a hellishly motivating Rogue-lite that can count itself among the best action games of the year.
Rebellious phases are what most of us go through, but Zagreus takes it to a whole new level. After all, he is none other than the son of Hades, the god of the dead, which makes him the immortal prince of the Greek underworld. And he has had enough of her. Determined to finally leave the realm of the dead behind and find his lost mother, the casual goddess begins to fight his way up from the depths of Hades into the open air. Room by room, floor by floor, the main thing is to get up. He fails, over and over again – and thus provides the perfect basis for a motivating rogue-like, which scores not only with polished gameplay, but also with its nice story.
In Hades, not only will you be lured back into the game by permanent improvements and countless unlockable contents, the adventure is also held together by a successful plot, which unfolds bit by bit in countless little dialogues. Despite the setting of the world of the dead and countless serious moments, Hades never degenerates into a melancholy mourning show, on the contrary: Most of the time it is very positive and relaxed, a real blessing! But if you really want to know what happened to Zagreus’ mother, what truth his father hides from him and what the narrative clever final chapter after the last boss fight has to offer, you have to play through Hades many, many times. So much the better that a successful run is often completed in 30 to 40 minutes, and in addition, it is automatically saved in every room. So Hades delivers nicely portioned gameplay bites that are just as suitable for longer sessions as for a small round in between.
Like so many rogue-likes, Hades has a simple structure. You start each round on the lowest level of Tartarus, which consists of several random rooms full of enemies. There are no puzzles, free exploration or platformer interludes, in Hades everything revolves around lightning-fast battles. After you have successfully flattened the underworld creatures, you continue to the next room until you reach a boss opponent. If the boss is also on the ground, you can climb up to the next floor, where a new setting awaits you, this time the Asphodel, which is traversed by lava lakes. There the whole game is repeated, but with new enemies and intermediate bosses. After that there are two more levels – and then you’re already facing the end boss. Sounds monotonous? Basically it is! In fact, Hades could use a lot more variety in the boss fights, enemies and locations, this is the biggest weakness of the action game. But the developers easily make up for this with an extensive upgrade system.
Before each round you grab one of six main weapons from the shelf, which are also available in four different variations. Whether sword, bow, spear, throwing shield, combat glove or fantasy gun, each weapon requires a different playing style and sets different priorities. Zagreus’ repertoire is manageable, he can use a main and secondary attack, dodge with a fast dash movement and with a magic bullet he makes enemies hell-bent even at a distance.
Along the way, Zagreus regularly captures new upgrades, many of which he receives from happy Greek gods. Zeus, for example, has powerful chain lightning effects, the nimble Hermes has practical dodging talents in his baggage, and the god of war, Ares, strengthens our attacks with powerful damage spells. Demeter gives us murderous ice effects, Aphrodite has debuffs and Athena pimped our defenses with useful shield enhancements. And that’s just a tiny selection of the countless upgrades we use to build a powerful build every turn. Every god power can be upgraded in rank and level, and there are also particularly strong duo effects and synergies that make Zagreus a true fighting machine.
If you’re smart, you’ll face the end boss with a hero who bounces bullets casually, heals with every stroke of the sword, and unleashes spells that can clean up even the biggest chunks in record time! Especially cool: Two upgrades are added per run that completely change the behavior of the weapon. The spear suddenly becomes an exploding lance, the sword hurls magical energy waves and the gun mutates into a rocket launcher or suddenly fires five grenades at once.
No matter what you’re struggling with, Hades plays his way through the game with class and fluency. With a little practice, we can move through small arenas at breakneck speed, clapping enemies against the wall, dodging bullets and avoiding traps. Especially on higher challenge levels, where the enemies and bosses have more tricks up their sleeve, you’ll need first-class reflexes, but the action won’t get boring even after many hours. And for all those who just want to enjoy the story and get through it as stress-free as possible, there’s a nice extra in the options menu: If you activate the Gods mode here, it’s easy to play with the enemies, because Zagreus gets stronger with every passing.
It doesn’t matter if you crack the last boss or if you’re going to give up: In the end, the stoic Zagreus always ends up in the temple of his father Hades, who often receives him with a scornful comment. But before you plunge straight into the next escape attempt, you should take a breather, because there is a lot to do at home, too! For example, there are other characters living in the temple who encourage Zagreus and support him in his plan. No matter if you chat with Nyx, Thanatos or a happy skeleton with a tendency to self-destruction: The conversations are written crisply, set to first-class music and simply seem to have no end! Even after dozens of hours of playing, many of the characters still have fresh comments in store and make sure that they really grow on us over time. We can also supply many characters with nectar and ambrosia, which improves their relationship with Zagreus until they ask him for small favors or leave him powerful souvenirs, which then give him powerful bonuses. Again, story and gameplay go hand in hand.
But not only the inhabitants should be visited regularly, also the temple itself needs attention. With collected gems you can march to the master builder and unlock permanent upgrades, such as new level elements like treasure chests, portals or jars filled with gold, which you can encounter in future runs. In addition, we are allowed to decorate Hades’ temple of the dead bit by bit with masses of ornamental elements, much of it is pure decoration, but other things can also bring playful advantages.
The mirror of the night, because here we activate permanent advantages, which improve Zagreus’ fighting power and are available in two versions, invites to experiment. Weapons can also be levelled up in several ranks, at the dealer’s we exchange surplus treasures and if we catch a few fish on the way (via mini-game), we can deliver the loot directly to the cook, who then rewards us with further materials. And to make sure the game doesn’t get too easy, you can also add new modifiers before each run, such as larger groups of enemies, reduced healing, stronger bosses or a time limit that will keep you on your toes. All of these effects make for a much greater challenge, but they also provide new rewards that you can put back into temple upgrades and weapon upgrades.
Hades remains incredibly monotonous and linear with its constant repetitions, but the countless story bites, the ever-new upgrade combinations and the unlockable content also provide tremendous motivation. The fact that you can spend dozens of hours and more without getting bored speaks for itself: Hades has become an outstanding rogue-lite and can call himself one breath with the best of the genre.
Simply great what Supergiant Games has created here: Hades delivers great entertainment from the first moment on, aimed at both casual gamers and action professionals. Hades delivers a lot of fun per minute and is therefore also perfectly suited for short sessions, which suits me very well. My only real criticism is the lack of variety: More boss variations, more random encounters and more different settings would have certainly done Hades good. The story could have been made even more interesting – especially towards the end. Hades has become a great little game, an action highlight not only for Rogue-like friends.
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