You know when you miss the bus sometimes, and then you’re not only late to *somewhere
*, but you’re a bit lost at all on how you missed it in the first place? That’s me with Hades
. I had it on Switch
, but barely had access to my Switch because it was being used on an almost 24/7 rinse-repeat Breath of the Wild
cycle courtesy of my nine-year-old, and I didn’t want it on PC
because it felt like one of those couch games I’m more fond of (for this type of thing). I also didn’t have to review it, so there was no urgency for me to really jump in.
Then the accolades came.
And kept coming.
I was on the outer and now it felt unsurmountable to get into it. This Hades -- this cool *thing
* I’d missed because, well, I guess I was lazy; late. Ashamed. Lost. Whichever. Left waiting at a lonely old bus stop out in the middle of nowhere… might as well kick in some rain in this imagery, and me without an umbrella.
But there’s always another bus, and where there’s a bus, there’s a destination.
All aboard Cerberus Coaches, consolers
. Destination: Hades.
"The Greek mythology at play, as seen on numerous other occasions, foundationally perfect, in concert with game craft...”
Self indulgence aside, even a year late to this party I still feel like I’m fashionable upon arrival. Half because as part of this review I got a rare treat in being able to handle a physical copy
of the game (available here now
and across Australia
at select retail), and half because I’m really good at it. Well, that’s not true, I’m as good as the game lets me be, and, largely the way Hades makes you look when you play is as god
(s)-like. Oh, wait…
With its Greek myth setting the narrative is as key to the experience as the fluid and engaging combat. As integral as the Boon system that lets you create a malleable and intuitive action-RPG build on-the-fly, throughout the course of each run. Via the helping hand of various gods each ability, skill, or variation is given personality. Story isn’t often a part of the endless nature of the dungeon crawler, where combat and fast reaction times blend with numbers and abilities and skill combinations. Often the story is just that, your own weapon and build-of-choice -- a journey told through critical hits...In Kosta’s review
, which I’ll draw upon a lot here given the game is fundamentally unchanged in its all *verb phrase* let loose-age
, he lauded its narrative setup as much as its gameplay makeup; the Greek mythology at play here, as seen on numerous other occasions
, foundationally perfect, in concert with game craft.
Hades was a game destined
to be made.
What wins here is the game’s casual compliance. Each escape attempt is your in-office hours. It’s business. Upon death, you’re off the clock. Chat with Meg
in the lounge. Mock your father, Hades
, and the destruction you’ve just caused his life’s work while patting your three-headed dog, Cerberus
. Flirt inadvertently with Dusa
the cleaning, blushing Gorgon and probe the famed Achilles
for a bit of a leg up ahead of your next attempt at fleeing the state of your bedroom floor. That Megagorgon of Asphodel
is a bloody pain, but so is picking the right colour drapery for the House decor. Such is the life of a Prince of the Underworld.
"Each freedom embark and subsequent failure will bring about new lines of dialogue from the story’s many players, all of whom exist in two parts within the game -- House and Underworld...”
Hade’s delivery of “must-see” narrative is ‘Netflix
and chill’ levels of binge. But in order to soak up this dramatis personae, you have
to attempt escape. Each freedom embark and subsequent failure will bring about new lines of dialogue from the story’s many players, all of whom exist in two parts within the game -- House and Underworld. The gods of Olympus
, your extended family-in-waiting, keen to embrace their homebody cousin or nephew, occupy the latter and are at first a very helpful lot who explain, in much droll, their respective relationships with Lord Hades, your father, and his Underworld tribe.
Said Hades tribe exist within
the House side of the equation, the “off the clock” watercooler space you move through in an entirely different way than when attempting to scale from Tartarus
, and the hopeful beyond.
Twixt these heterogeneous areas, the game is in a constant state of reflection. Each decision you make; each enemy that snuffs the escape out of you; each weapon you choose; each Boon you manage to level up; each Keepsake you pin to your hopeful chest -- all find their way into dynamically-generated points of reflection. In this way, the roguelike formula is given a chance to breathe; the sense of grind is there, but it’s less binary and more progress-laden. You feel like you’re impacting the game and that you’re actually getting somewhere without it being only
about powering up.
It’s interactive magic when it all works together, when your progress exceeds that of your own expectation. Surprise and variety mean no two attempts are ever the same, and for that alone Hades is immediately intoxicating.
In the end, persistence is what drives it all. So much so that reaching the surface and overcoming that final obstacle presents a feeling so monumental, that it borders on deeply emotional.
Kosta’s use of “emotional” in his review is poignant, because investment in Hades is its biggest draw, but works solely as a byproduct of its moving parts. You’re not forced into taking it for long walks on the beach, is what I’m saying, but in spending ‘chill’ time with Hades, your infatuation with its myriad cogs is just a matter of time. And time, here, is entirely on the side of the game. You’re pressed to escape your Underworld lockdown, but if you do it quickly and pull it off without greasing those cogs along the way, you’ll miss the full engine that lies in wait, ready to roar.
The miracle or genius isn’t that Hades tells a wonderfully realised story that unfolds over several hours, it’s that it does so alongside the depth and breadth of its mechanics, combat and fluid movement.
In finally landing on all platforms this epic is now yours for the undertaking, and in 4K no less. Let down perhaps only in its clunky menu navigation, thanks largely to Supergiant
preferring the game’s notes of import be delivered to you in dynamic and contextual ways. And that’s about as negative a point as I can find.
Under the Underworld hood you get a game that's no Hydra bones about it -- a roguelike experiences that features all the pre-run and mid-stride buffs and bonuses you can expect, procedural levels (that don't overtly impact proceedings, it should be said) and traditional bosses. You can level up with degrees of permanence in a handful of ways, while the rest of the game offers you a minor roll of the dice, some risk-reward decision making and a clear goal. From these basic ideas as far as genre check-listing goes, Hades does not stray. Instead, the genius is how that's packaged against the story and its ever-rolling delivery. That you find almost no line repetition in hours upon hours of playing a game that is foundationally repetitious is simply jaw-dropping.
This is the team that gave us Bastion
though, so there's that.
Hades is a rare breed of game. Supergiant’s design confidence is almost reflected in the cavalier attitude of the game’s protagonist, Zagreus; capable and arrogant, young and vibrant. But evermore charming as a result. I’ve used the phrase before, but this is absolutely a franchise-in-waiting, and more, if the studio and Private Division were so inclined. But know this, at the very least: those accolades? The ones that kept coming? We’re adding to them -- a year on, and now with a new audience and new homes, Hades is still near-perfect and an absolute must-play. Don’t miss the bus again.