This year’s Game Awards event presented us a lot of announcements for new video games. Among all those trailers, gameplay videos and other promo materials, our attention was attracted by the new Supergiant Games title, called simply Hades. If the studio’s name sounds familiar, it’s the guys who made Bastion, Transistor, and Pyre, the latter being a bit of a detour from Supergiants’ usual style. With Hades, they are back at their usual tracks of action platformers with puzzle and RPG elements. This early access title is already available for the tryouts. Supergiant Games combined layers of storytelling elements, which we could see in their previous game Pyre, with the addictive action elements with almost infinite replay value.
Although Hades is still in early access and therefore far from finished, it already shows its quality as a supreme indie action game. The main character of Hades is Zagreus, a son of the titular god of death. His reluctance to torture the poor unfortunate souls of the dead people brings him closer to the initiative to escape the Underworld ruled by his dad and join the Greek gods on the Mount Olympus. The problem is, Hades isn’t very supportive for his son’s decision and tries to prevent his deflection. He cannot directly stop him, though but he can make his way out of hell as long and as hard it can be, putting Zagreus on the ordeal no man or god has ever completed. Whenever Zagreus fails, and he will fail a lot of times, his father will appear and say something about it. Sometimes it will be teases and quips, other times bitter expressions of disappointment.
The defining component of the story are the residents of the Hades’ Court you will meet whenever you die. One of them gives you pieces of the story in the intermissions of episodes of mindless action. When you die you will come back to your father’s residence and meet the different advisor. As you advance through the game, you will hear new things from Zagreus’ friends, mentors, and servants. Little by little, these characters will evolve into a lovely compatible group of people that will make you feel like home whenever your death brings you back to Hades’ castle.
The combat is conceived like a sequence of battling waves of enemies. Zag will clean room after room full of demons and the arenas will be generated procedurally. There are 27 Chambers in two areas of the underworld in the current version of the game. Consequently, the number of room constructions it’s kind of limited because of the early stages of the development. The layouts are easily recognizable, but it wouldn’t be fair to call this game repetitive, because it offers a lot of variations based on progression.
What we meant is that Hades gives you the opportunity to create a new and improved version of Zag every time you play. His arsenal is always made of three attacks, a primary strike, special move, and cast shot. Besides the offensive skills, there is a dash, to avoid dangerous situations. Zag will have only a sword at the beginning, but he quickly can unlock more weapons (a bow, a shield, and a spear) and he can swap them between the rounds. The choice of Weapons directly influences the game plan. Some of the equipment gives you additional options, for example, shield gives you block when you hold the attack button. The common thing is that all weapons are easy to master and they greatly complement the abilities Zag earns throughout the game.
It is still too early to give a final verdict at this stage of development, Hades shows amazing potential. This game combines the best elements of rogue-like games with complex and intricate narrative and dialogues. We can only hope the finished version will be more of this because we are mesmerized with what we experienced so far.