Rogue-like games are a strange departure from my comfort zone. I’ll normally moan to anyone who will listen that I dislike open worlds for giving me too much to do with out any real guidance or direction. Rogue-likes do more or less the same thing, a nearly endless challenge of doorway after doorway forcing you to try your best to survive till the very end and if you die? Start again!
However, for some reason known only to the almighty themselves, I adore them, I can’t get enough of the little rooms and quest to just live, I become addicted in no time and sink hours into them. So, guess what happened when Respawning gave me the chance to review a rogue-like based around Greek Mythology…
Coming from devs Supergiant games (who brought us such greats as Bastion and Transistor) Hades is a beautiful looking isometric rogue-like set in the Underworld run by Greek god of death Hades, who is portrayed in game as a hard done by office worker, sort of like Dragonballs King Yemma. You take the role of Prince Zagreus, the remarkably handsome and polite son of Hades who has made it his mission to escape from the Underworld to go party with the rest of his family up on Olympus. Of course, the way out isn’t all smiles and rainbows, Zag must weave his way through many procedurally generated rooms fighting all manner of beasties to get out. Death is common and is a key part of the gameplay, like any rogue-like. Each Time Zag dies you’re sent back to Hades desk to meet up with the denizens there to learn more about the world you are in and to equip upgrades or new weapons to try and make it a bit further next time.
The game handles incredibly well with combat being a satisfying mixture of magic, physical attacks and well timed dodges. Zag has a choice selection of weapons ranging from a sword to some very fun gauntlets (can you tell which my favourites were?).
Along the way you may receive help from Zag’s family upstairs as various gods like Ares, Athena and Zeus will leave powerups to be collected, for example Zeus will give you attack boosts and lightning effects, While Athena will make your dodges give you invincibility frames. Talk about a supportive family! Playing on a switch has been a joy too. Being able to kick back on my sofa with the console in hand and such a gorgeous game presented so well on the tiny screen, I was easily able to get fully engrossed on what was happening and focus entirely on the experience.
Health pick ups are a no go in this title which dials up the tension early on, Zag has a set number of hit points at the start of his adventure and no way to restore lost health aside from boatman Charon’s shop which only ever appears before a boss room, so keeping an eye on your health is vital! Though if you still find yourself struggling even after a few upgrades, there is always an easily activated god mode which boosts Zag’s stats dramatically and allows you to blitz through the game while still enjoying the environments and story beats. For those who don’t have much time or just fancy exploring, this is for you!
During my runs what impressed me most besides the tight combat are the interactions between characters, Zag is an unflappable leading man who handles everything before him with sarcasm and wit, while the remaining cast range from supportive and hilarious to cruel and bitter as he undertakes his quest. The other gods of Olympus in particular brought me plenty of joy as they give out their magic and tell Zagreus how proud they are of his mission.
Then there is the music, the soundtrack is rammed with glorious metal to fit the backdrop of the underworld perfectly. Often, I became lost in the tunes as I lay waste to whatever bad guys were dropped in front of me. The music rises and falls with the action on screen as post battle things become silent while your collect your winnings and relax, ready for the next fight and bout of sick speed metal!
Hades has been a surprise hit for me, up until I was issued the title I had honestly not heard a thing about it. After playing however, I think it is a must for any Switch owner out there. This game will provide hours of joy and challenge to even the most seasoned gamers. Get on it as soon as possible and play on the hidden gems of 2020!
I give the Nintendo Switch version of Hades 9/10