It takes a little self-confidence to give yourself a name like Supergiant Games. And whether Bastion, Transistor and Pyre – the last games of the small indie studio – were really that gigantic, remains to be seen. One thing is certain, however: the developers have outdone themselves with their new work Hades. Wonderfully catchy action, unmistakable style, great characters and clever story-telling come together here hellishly motivating rogue-lite, which can count itself among the best action games of the year.

01:32
Hades: Cool trailer reveals the end of early access and the switch version







Don't worry, this is not an opponent: the watchdog Cerberus is a beloved pet for Zagreus.



Don't worry, this is not an opponent: the watchdog Cerberus is a beloved pet for Zagreus.

Source: PC Games




It's not really surprising: Hades has been playable in Early Access since December 2018 and was in top form right from the start. We were also able to put a good 60 hours into the game in advance, and another 40 were added to test the finished version (PC and Switch). Although the Box through the main story in significantly less time, but even then there is still so much more to do: In our test we mowed our way through the Greek underworld dozens of times, beat up countless mythical creatures, flirted with gods, charmed Medusa, paired heroes, competed with the Grim Reaper and killed with three-headed hellhounds cuddled. A great experience that, despite all the repetitions, simply won't get boring.

The story: Totenprinz is serious

Most of us go through rebellious phases, but Zagreus takes the whole thing to a completely new level. After all, he is none other than the son of God of the dead Hadeswhat makes him the immortal prince of the Greek underworld. And he has fed up with that. Determined to finally leave the realm of the dead behind and find his missing mother, the casual goddess begins to fight his way out of the depths of Hades up into the open air. Room by room, floor by floor, the main thing is that it goes up. He fails, over and over again – and thus provides the perfect basis for a motivating rogue-like that not only scores with polished gameplay, but also with its nice story.






The relationship between Zagreus and his father Hades is ... complicated.



The relationship between Zagreus and his father Hades is … complicated.

Source: PC Games




Because in Hades not only do permanent improvements and tons of unlockable content lure you back into the game, the adventure is also held together by a successful plot that gradually unfolds in countless, small dialogues. Despite the dead world setting and umpteen serious moments, Hades never degenerates into a melancholy mourning show, on the contrary: Most of the time it is very positive and relaxed, a blessing! But if you really want to know what happened to Zagreus' mother, what truth his father is hiding from him and what the narrative clever final chapter has to offer after the last boss fight, Hades has to play through many, many times. All the better that a successful run is often done in 30 to 40 minutes, and data is saved automatically in every room. Hades delivers nicely portioned gameplay bites that are just as suitable for longer sessions as for a small round in between.

Linear structure: Just get out of the underworld!

Like so many rogue likes, Hades has a simple structure. You start each passage on the lowest level of Tartarus, which consists of several random rooms full of enemies. There are no puzzles, free exploration or platformer interludes, everything in Hades revolves around lightning-fast battles. Have you successfully flattened the underworld critters, you continue to the next room until you reach a boss at some point. If that is also on the ground, you climb up to the next floor, where a new setting awaits you, this time the Asphodel with its lava lakes. The whole game repeats itself there, only with new opponents and intermediate bosses. Then there are two more levels – and then you are already facing the final boss. Sounds monotonous? It is basically too! In fact, Hades could use a lot more variety in the boss fights, opponents and locations, this is the biggest weakness of the action game. But the developers easily compensate for this with an extensive upgrade system.






Spoiled for choice: which door should it be? Above the gate we can see which upgrade is waiting for us.



Spoiled for choice: which door should it be? Above the gate we can see which upgrade is waiting for us.

Source: PC Games




Guns and Upgrades: Thank God!

It starts with the choice of weapons. Before each round, you grab one of six main weapons from the shelf, which are also available in four different versions. Whether sword, bow, spear, throwing shield, combat glove or fantasy ratchet, every weapon requires a different style of play and has different priorities. Zagreus' repertoire is manageable, he can use a main and a second attack, dodge with a quick dash movement and with a magic bullet he makes enemies hell even at a distance.






There are four different forms for each of the six main weapons.



There are four different forms for each of the six main weapons.

Source: PC Games











Most upgrades come in several quality levels and ranks. & Nbsp;



Most upgrades come in several quality levels and ranks.

Source: PC Games




But now the fun really starts: On the way, Zagreus regularly steals new upgrades, many of which he receives from happy Greek gods. Zeus, for example, has powerful chain lightning effects, the nimble Hermes has practical evasive talents in his luggage and Ares, the god of war, strengthens our attacks with powerful damage spells. Demeter gives us murderous ice effects, Aphrodite has weakening spells and Athene pimps our defensive with useful shield improvements. And that's just a tiny selection of the myriad of upgrades that we use to create a powerful build every playthrough. Each god's power can be upgraded in rank and level, and there are particularly strong duo effects and synergies that make Zagreus a true fighting machine.

If you act wisely, you will face the final boss with a hero who lets projectiles ricochet off, who heals himself with every stroke of the sword and unleashes spells that clean away even the thickest chunks in record time! Particularly cool: Two upgrades are added per run that completely change the behavior of the weapon. Suddenly the javelin becomes an exploding lance, the sword hurls magical waves of energy and the gun mutates into a rocket launcher or suddenly fires five grenades in one fell swoop.






Effect thunderstorm: Here we have upgraded our bow with Zeus' powerful chain lightning.



Effect thunderstorm: Here we have upgraded our bow with Zeus' powerful chain lightning.

Source: PC Games




No matter what you are fighting with, Hades plays consistently great and fluently. With a little practice we can move through the small arenas at breakneck speed, while we clap the enemies precisely on the wall, dodge projectiles and avoid traps. First-class reflexes are required, especially on higher challenge levels, in which the opponents and bosses have more tricks up their sleeves, but the action doesn't get boring even after many hours. And for all those who just enjoy the story and want to get through the story as stress-free as possible, there is a nice extra in the options menu: If you activate the gods mode here, you have an easy game with your opponents, as Zagreus then becomes stronger with each death.

Graphics and sound: stylish through the underworld

Hades doesn't just play well, it also looks great: The comic style from the isometric view shines with lots of details, soft animations and pretty effects. Here and there the overview suffers, especially when at the end of a run many spells patter across the screen at the same time, but most of the time everything is clearly in view. The colorful look is not only pleasing on the PC, the implementation for the switch is also impressive. The frame rate can rarely drop a little on Nintendo's console, but the playability practically never suffers. Hades also looks pretty in handheld mode and is always easy to read. The sound is in no way inferior to the look, because typical for Supergiant Games, the musical accompaniment is also a direct hit: Hades is accompanied by a great soundtrack, which underlines the events atmospherically and was well coordinated with the game speed without getting on our nerves.






Lightning-fast evasion is particularly important in close combat.



Lightning-fast evasion is particularly important in close combat.

Source: PC Games




The characters: dead but happy







The characters are set to music well, consistently personable and well written. The texts are also optionally available in German.



The characters are set to music well, consistently personable and well written. The texts are also optionally available in German.

Source: PC Games




No matter whether you crack the last boss or give up the spoon again: In the end, the stoic Zagreus always ends up in the temple of his father Hades, who often receives him with a scornful comment. But before you rush straight into the next attempt to escape, you should take a break, because there is a lot to do at home too! For example, there are other characters living in the temple who encourage Zagreus and support him in his plan. Regardless of whether you are chatting with Nyx, Thanatos or a happy skeleton with a tendency towards self-destruction: the conversations are crisp, well-written, first-class (in English) and they just seem to go on forever! Even after dozens of hours of play, many characters still have fresh comments in store and ensure that we really grow fond of them over time. We can also supply many characters with nectar and ambrosia, which improves their relationship with Zagreus, until at some point they ask him for little favors or leave him powerful souvenirs, which then give him powerful bonuses. Here too, story and gameplay go hand in hand.






After each pass, Zagreus returns to Hades' temple.



After each pass, Zagreus returns to Hades' temple.

Source: PC Games




Unlockable: There's a lot to do

But you should not only visit the residents regularly, the temple itself also needs attention. With collected gems, you can march to the builder and unlock permanent upgrades there, for example new level elements such as treasure chests, portals or jugs filled with gold, which you can then encounter in future runs. In addition, we are allowed to gradually decorate Hades' mortuary temple with loads of decorative elements, much of which is pure decoration, while others can also bring playful advantages. Just try!






Each property on the mirror can be toggled into two variants, which enables different builds.



Each property on the mirror can be toggled into two variants, which enables different builds.

Source: PC Games




Especially important in the first few hours: The mirror of the night, because here we activate permanent advantages that greatly improve Zagreus' fighting power and are also available in two versions, which invites you to experiment. Weapons can also be leveled up in several ranks, we exchange excess treasures at the dealer and if we catch a few fish on the way (via mini game), we can deliver the loot directly to the cook, who then rewards us with additional materials. And so that the game doesn't become too easy, you can also add new modifiers before each run, for example larger groups of opponents, reduced healing, stronger bosses or a time limit that will keep you on your toes. All of these effects make for a much greater challenge, but also throw off new rewards, which you can then put back into the temple expansion and weapon improvements.






The multi-headed Bone Hydra is the boss on the second floor. Here you can see the stronger version.



The multi-headed Bone Hydra is the boss on the second floor. Here you can see the stronger version.

Source: PC Games




With its constant repetitions, Hades remains unbelievably monotonous and linear on the one hand, but on the other hand the countless story bits, the constantly new upgrade combinations and the unlockable content also ensure tremendous motivation. The fact that you can spend dozens of hours and more with it without being bored speaks for itself: Hades has become an outstanding rogue-lite and can call himself the same breath as the best of the genre.

01:59
Hades: New Trailer for Early Access Start on Steam

Hades is for PC and Nintendo Switch available, the price is a fair 21 euros. Implementations for other platforms have not yet been announced, but are very likely. There will also be a cross-save feature in a future update with which you can swap scores between PC and Nintendo Switch.

Hades in the test: rating and conclusion

My opinion

Send help! Hades grabbed me and won't let go of me.

Just great, what Supergiant Games has created here: Hades delivers great entertainment from the first moment, aimed at both casual gamers and action professionals. Regardless of whether I have moody conversations with the likeable characters, pound my way through the hordes of monsters in a wonderfully fluid manner, discover powerful skill combinations or just enjoy the successful style: Hades delivers tons of fun per minute and is therefore also wonderfully suitable for short sessions, which I do very accommodating. My only real criticism is the lack of variety: more boss variations, more chance encounters, and more different settings would certainly have done Hades good. Even more could have been made of the story – especially towards the end. Apart from that, I'm more than satisfied: Hades turned out to be a great little game, an action highlight not only for rogue-like friends – and for me definitely a top title of this year.

Fluid, satisfying action
Lovable characters throughout
Decent story with tons of dialogues
Motivational upgrades and improvements
Atmospheric underworld setting
Great background music
Six different weapons
Lots of optional stuff to unlock
Challenging, but not too difficult
Little idle
Gods mode for beginners
Cross-save function between PC and switch in brief
A lot of game for the money
Little variety in the long run
Little boss fights or surprises
The story ends in a somewhat unspectacular way
Occasionally confusing

Hades in the test for PC and Switch (Source: PC Games)

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