The critically acclaimed roguelite, Hades, has arrived on PlayStation and Xbox consoles. You play as Zagreus, the son of Hades, attempting to escape from the Underworld to better understand your past. The game is developed and published by Supergiant Games known for stellar titles like Bastion, Transistor, and Pyre. The indie game had its initial release in 2020 on the Nintendo Switch and PC. It went on to win multiple awards for its unique gameplay, art style, and creative storytelling. Zagreus has returned on next-gen platforms, let’s find out if the experience translates well on new hardware.
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One/Xbox Series X | S
and Nintendo Switch
Reviewed on: PlayStation 5
Developer: Supergiant Games
Publisher: Supergiant Games
Genre: Action Role-Playing Game
Modes: Single Player
ESRB Rating: T for Teen
The prince of the Underworld
You play as Zagreus, the son of Hades, who is desperately trying to escape the Underworld to reckon with his past. Aided by Nyx and the Gods of Olympus, you are given unique powers in the form of Boons and Infernal Arms to aide you on your quest. Hades won’t let Zagreus leave without a fight, so he releases the forces of darkness to stymie your progress at every turn. Facing off against the Lord of the Underworld and his minions will have you dying a lot. Don’t fret, you are an immortal god after all, after each “death” you simply respawn in the House of Hades ready for another run. It’s up to you to guide Zagreus through a seemingly unending underworld to unearth truths about your past.
Hades in 4K
The art direction and graphics in Hades are stunning and unique. The weapon effects are dazzling and move at blistering pace that keep up with the combat. This time around everything is even sharper on the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. The biggest difference over the original 2020 launch on the Nintendo Switch comes via a resolution bump on the new consoles. The PS4 and Xbox One Hades displays at 1080p and target 60 FPS. When it comes to the PS5 and Xbox Series S|X the game is an ultra-sharp 4K / 60 FPS. I only noticed slowdown a few times when there were multiple enemies onscreen. Hades is a visual feast with incredible hand drawn backgrounds and a style all its own.
The signature gameplay loop of Hades has gone relatively unchanged since its original release, and this is a good thing. The controls are streamlined and easy to grasp at first, you have a standard melee, special attack, cast for ranged strikes and a dash button. You can battle with 6 different weapons that have four different variants. This helps to keep combat fresh and constantly evolving through each different playthrough. The game introduces more complex combat as you progress letting you decide your playstyle through various upgrades. These come in the form of “blessings” from the Gods that you can combine. Some work well extremely well together, while others are best left in the depths of the Underworld.
Live, die, repeat
The game follows a pattern of introducing you to a new “room” where you need to defeat all the enemies to progress. Once all the enemies have fallen you are rewarded with a boon or currency for a future run. Areas and encounters are randomly generated, which really keeps the experience fresh for hours on end. Even when you are defeated you slowly progress becoming more powerful leaning from your mistakes. The game is built around replayability, it encourages you “live, die, repeat” to discover all the experience has to offer.
Newly added accessibility options
If you find the high stakes combat a little daunting a “God Mode” is available as an accessibility option. This allows players that just want to experience the game grow permanently stronger each time they die. It’s a great addition in a rogue lite that really opens the experience up to a bigger audience.
Hades’ stellar soundtrack
The games’ soundtrack and voiceover work are another big highlight of the experience. Just like the other artistic elements in Hades that work in tandem, the audio design is no different. As you enter a showdown or a slower area the tempo of the music matches the pace of the action. The multi-instrument, industrial soundtrack is part of the game’s signature experience. The arrangements are hard hitting much like the fast-paced combat you are constantly confronted with in Hades.
Overall thoughts on Hades
Hades is an incredible experience that you shouldn’t pass up. Supergiant Games has created a winning formula that redefines the roguelite genre. It rewards players for their efforts, even when they are unsuccessful in interesting new ways that build into the game’s narrative. The sharper visuals and more stable framerate on the PS5 and Series X has gone a long way to improve the overall experience. It would have been ideal to see better optimization from the DualSense controller, but overall, I highly recommend this trip to hell.
+ Incredible storytelling
+ Exceptional gameplay loop
+ Beautiful graphics and overall visual design
+ Plenty of replayability
+ Excellent soundtrack and voice acting
– Minor drops in framerate on next-gen hardware
– Next-gen hardware like the DualSense controller could have been better optimized
OVERALL ASSESSMENT OF HADES
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 5/5