The myth of the underworld has fascinated humanity since time immemorial: the deities who, over the centuries, have dotted its ravines, painted, sung, or written through pagan religions and timeless stories, have been the protagonists of infinite poems and as many reinterpretations. Those same gods have also given life to famous videogame sagas, with often remarkable results or at least worthy of applause. After sharpening the blades for nearly two years in Early Access, Hades is finally available in its definitive form for PC and Nintendo Switch.
The biting and light-hearted – but not ridiculous – narration puts us in the shoes of Zagreus, son of Hades. The prince of the underworld is not such a renowned figure among the legends of Hellenic folklore.
This allowed the developers to move with a certain freedom in this gray area of a Greek fiction, creating an unusually interesting tale for a roguelike devoted entirely to action. Even if you are taken aback at first, you are almost immediately curious about the story of this rebellious “boy,” totally disinterested in the sedentary and hardworking life proposed by his father and eager to reach Mount Olympus.
Halfway between a colorful bazaar and a congested municipal office, the underworld’s representation immediately pulls a half-smile. Hades, submerged in paperwork, mutters his status between intolerance and hatred, openly mocking his son’s attempts to escape Olympus. The main hall of hell, which also acts as the hub of the game, is a whole bustle of souls, and there is no shortage of mythological figures with whom to chat like Achilles or Orpheus. The protagonist’s constant departures are the gear that moves the entire narrative construct, with new dialogues and events waiting for us between one death and another.
Far from being a pedantic ballast to the action, this expedient puts a further step in the title’s overall picture, whose vision is centered on catching the player and pushing him to endless escape attempts. Because of this, it is an action with a three-quarter view from above, in which slashes and blows of various kinds are used – depending on the weapon used – special moves, lightning shots, and evocations; all strictly upgradeable, both temporarily and permanently.
The roguelike structure unfolds, offering us renewed labyrinths at every attempt, and the variables are not few. Zagreus begins his journey with a sword, but it is possible to unlock other weapons, few in appearance, but so well-diversified and with infinite combinations of powers, that they rise to proud instruments of death in continuous evolution. The combat system is reactive and darting; the underworld prince sinks the blows and dashes away from danger with grace and ferocity. The exits available at the end of each fight are doors decorated with initially unknown symbols, which will lead us to new ravines, following those signs that we will soon learn to know.
Current currency made of gold coins is only used to purchase temporary potions or items; diamonds and keys permanently unlock passive abilities for Zagreus and the new weapons. With the jewels found around, we can adorn our room and even part of the initial hub, with results that are not only aesthetic and that it would be a crime to reveal in advance. The various Olympus gods alternate at each attempt, offering us their gifts, divided by rarity and associated with the individual actions available (shot, super, sprint, and throw).
Therefore, we have electrical powers linked to Zeus’ lightning, and intoxicating stuns donated by Dionysus, or waves of repulsion offered by Poseidon, all enhancements that contribute to a real “build” capable of generating combinations of a dazzling variety. The continuous unlocking of small or large upgrades is the almost perverse mechanism that will push us to play non-stop, experiment with new combinations, or take advantage of the multiple modifiers for always different attempts. There are temporary penalties to submit, which will offer us a valuable bonus in case of survival. Playability, variety, and longevity are the sacred triad on which Hades builds his perfect playful framework.
Hades competes without any problem to run as one of the best roguelikes of recent years and perhaps of the entire generation. The extraordinary magnetism surrounding it, the desire it instills in the player to try again without stopping, maybe even just to read yet another sarcastic comment of the divinity on duty, are very precious characteristics. The precautions of Supergiant Games in briskly outlining every little detail of his creature are the children of a true and palpable passion. A rare commodity these days, which no player should miss.
A superfine roguelike, elegant and full of unlocking elements, capable of entertaining for dozens of hours. A small, unmissable classic.