Monday, 11 January 2021

Hades Review (Nintendo Switch)

Supergiant Games are not ones to rush things. The company seems to take the approach that games are released when they are ready and as a result all three of the studios previous releases have hit an incredibly high benchmark. Bastion is perhaps the most iconic with its pitch perfect bashing but Transistors considered style and upgrade system and Pyre bringing its own twist on the RPG have carved put a loyal following. But what if all these elements could be combined? What sort of digital nirvana would that produce? Welcome to Hades everyone.

Based heavily in Greek mythology Hades has you playing as the lord of the underworlds son as he repeatedly tries to escape and reach the world above. Standing in his way are all manner of traps and monsters and some pretty full on boss fights as well. In order to succeed you’ll need to make it through from start to finish in one run as there are no shortcuts here. No one said the journey out of hell was easy after all.

Set over four areas, Hades is a Rogue style action game. Combat is in real time in the vein of Bastion. As you progress you’ll pick up enhancements from the many Gods and familiars that you meet. These last the length of your current run and reset upon death. Permanent unlocks are also available and allow you to expand your weapon set, health and a host of wide ranging other elements such as gold and resistance.

Each area of Hades is broken down into different enclosed rooms. Once all enemies are defeated you normally get an enhancement of some kind before progressing to the next. Sometimes these are health or gold but gifts from the Gods are also available and they stack. The key is to pick gifts that compliment the weapon you are carrying so that by the time you reach the upper levels you’ve got a fiend slaying device to rival any mythological sword. These can be very flexible as well with each God giving out gifts that range from simple speed buffs to things that weaken or poison enemies or create explosions or lightning strikes when moving. This is where the Transistor and Pyre influences come in.

While the game draws on the company’s previous work it certainly doesn’t feel like them in terms of how it plays. Hades is very much its own game and while you can see the influences everything has been altered so that the various systems focused on in previous titles begin to blend together and create a weird and wonderful hybrid of awesome possibilities.

Combat is solid and you have a basic attack and dodge button, magic and summons attacks and the ability to cast an object into enemies which makes them more vulnerable to attacks, acts as a grenade or does whatever else you’ve got it do with your many gifts of the gods. Once you find the right weapon for your style it works in a satisfying way and allows for a flexible approach to battling beasties. It’s has its moments when it’s not very colour blind friendly as well, especially in handheld mode where projectiles can be near invisible against the backdrops at times.

Hades doesn’t do anything wrong but with so many systems incorporated each one doesn’t quite have the focus of the games that influence them. The combat isn’t quite at Bastions level and the upgrade system in Transistor still feels a touch more dynamic and flexible for instance. It’s amazing to have everything merged together but we feel Bastion and Transistor may still be the ones that hold the most love for long term fans.

When it comes to the Rogue genre there is always a certain amount of bashing against a brick wall for a number of hours and Hades is as guilty of this as any other game. We did find ourselves thinking “just stick with it” in the early going and after a while things did begin to click. It did take a fair few initial hours though to get to grips with all the different systems and how to go about making progress. There’s a lot to look at and understand. It will click though and then everything becomes so much more rewarding.

Once you’ve passed that point progress is quite steady but you’ll also need a fair amount of skill to beat the game. No matter how much you level there will always be a challenge awaiting you and for those who just want to relax there is a God mode included which will strengthen your character with each failed attempt. The game keeps things fresh as well by altering end of area bosses and changing other small elements which means there is always something new to see and do with each run (and it also stops you breezing through early levels).

Overall, Hades is a massively ambitious and successful take on the Rogue genre. Everything here works well and will allows both hardcore and casual players to get something from the experience of playing. The setting is inspired, the story is deep for those that want to experience it and the presentation takes the game to new heights. It’s simply a great example of a game with triple AAA ambition and appeal from an always impressive indie studio.

Overall 8/10

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