Hades Review

Hades - Early Access Trailer - YouTubeHades is a fun game, and you should play it. I don’t have much more to say about it than that.

You play as Zagreus (the son of the god of the dead, Hades) and your goal is to escape the underworld. Catching wind of your escape attempts, the Olympian gods try their best to help you, granting you some of their abilities along your journey.

Hades is made by Supergiant Games (creators of Bastion and Transistor) and is a roguelite; if you die during an escape attempt (and you probably will, a lot), then you return to the palace of the underworld, where you can prepare for your next attempt.

You keep certain items that you collect during each escape attempt, which can then help you power up and give you a better chance to make it farther next time.

Hades is a standard roguelite where you fight successive (procedurally generated) rooms of baddies until you come to a boss that guards the path to the next region. The game doesn’t do anything that much differently than other games of its genre, and makes me feel the same fun and frustrated feeling of “just one more try” that I feel when I play other roguelites like The Binding of Isaac, Rogue Legacy, and Dead Cells. What sets the game apart, though, is its strong characters and dialogue.

Whenever Zagreus receives a “boon” from one of the Olympian gods, they send along a sort of imprint of their personality, usually a message of encouragement, sometimes a little comment about their relationship with the gods of the underworld or the other gods on Mount Olympus. All of these messages are full of character and reflect the actual personalities of the gods of Greek mythology that they were based on. All dialogue in the game is voiced, and the actors did an amazing job bringing the characters to life.

Though most of the characters in Hades have analogues in Greek mythology with a lot of source material to draw from, the main character Zagreus is a minor god that we don’t have much information about today. Nevertheless, he is one of the best-written, best-acted characters in the game, full of witty comebacks and calm determination. Supergiant smartly used Zagreus’s obscurity to their advantage, using his myth as a blank canvas on which to draw their story.

At its root, Hades is a story about a dysfunctional family, and Zagreus’s attempts to find his place among that family. As a player, you get to help him on his quest to escape the underworld as you watch his story unfold.

Though Hades had been in early access since the end of 2018, last month v1.0 was just released for macOS, Windows, and Nintendo Switch. If you like Greek mythology or roguelike games, you should absolutely play it. Even if you don’t like either of those things, it’s a great game regardless, and you should play it anyway. In the coming years, it’s going to be regarded as a quintessential game of its genre and one of the best indie games of all time.

If you want to know more about the game’s development, check out this Reddit AMA or this Noclip documentary.

Rieson is a game dev and writer. In his spare time, he's usually playing indie games. He lives in the Bay Area.