STAFF REVIEW of Hades (Xbox One)

Wednesday, October 13, 2021.
by John Elliott

Hades Box art When I was working at video game store last year, I heard people talking about Hades and how it was must play for the Switch, as it was addictive and perfect travelling game for the handheld. It was a title that intrigued me that I then put on my 'to check out' list but regretfully I never did get around to checking out on the Switch. However, with it coming to Xbox Game Pass I no longer have an excuse to not try it out.

Hades is the name of the God of Death and the underworld he governs over is also known by the same name throughout all of Greek mythology. Zagreus is the son of Hades and Prince of the underworld who you play as throughout your adventures throughout the underworld. The underworld has been Zagreus’ home his whole life and yearns to leave it behind and escape to the world above where his extended family of the likes of Zeus, Aphrodite, Athena, Hermes and Poseidon have dominion.

The thing about the underworld is, once you’re there you are not allowed to leave, but this doesn’t deter Zag at all as he battles his way through the realms. Hades, his father, is confident that the warriors, monsters and other undead creatures throughout the underworld will do their job and prevent Zag from escaping. However, the gods of Mount Olympus step in and lend their aid with boons (special powers) and gifts (upgrades and items) to help Zag escape to the surface. With these boons and gifts I quickly beat the undead that guarded the halls of Hades before reaching the first of three Fury Sisters, Megaera. Meg is guarding the gates to Asphodel, the next realm in Hades where she toyed with me for a bit before putting me out of my misery as I obviously out classed.

As with most roguelike games your death doesn’t mean your ultimate demise, and upon your death you are revived in a pool of blood within the House of Hades. All your memories and experiences are intact to attempt another escape or as many as you need to. As you progress through each escape attempt through the realms of the underworld you will collect darkness, gems, keys, nectar and other items that you can use to trade for abilities, artifacts and new weapons. Darkness is best represented as your experience you gain and will help you unlocked new abilities through the Mirror of Night that is located in your bedchambers.

There is a wide variety of abilities that allow you to do more damage, increase your chances of getting better boons and gifts, or the one you really need to complete a run through Hades is the ability to auto-revive after a death. There is plenty more and you have to customize which abilities you use to your gameplay style, or in some cases, gear it towards the type of weapons you are using. There are six weapons in total which includes a sword, trident, shield, bow and arrow, gauntlets and a cannon. Obviously, there is a mix of melee, missile and power differences between all of the weapons, and for myself I found the most success with the sword and trident but you will have to explore what works best for you. Each of the weapons can be upgraded and transformed to have different abilities or stronger powers.

There is also a variety of keepsakes that you earn by gifting Nectar to the individuals that cross your path like Nyx, your adoptive mother, or Achilles, the warrior who trained you to fight or any of the gods that lend you their boons. These keepsakes have specific enhancements in battle, from simply increasing the odds of getting better boons, more hit points or temporary invincibility. My advice at the beginning of the game is to give Nectar at least once to anyone who will take it to unlock these keepsakes and start using them. The more you use them, the more powerful they will become and you can incorporate them into making your escape attempts slightly easier.

Combining of all these resources will help you have a successful run but you have to keep in mind that even though it seems like a hack n’ slash combat system, there is a fair bit of strategy in how you fight. Sure, the common enemies you can slash around and mow them down pretty quickly, but when you get to any of the bosses you need to think how your current loadout is going to work. Personally, keeping your health as full as possible is a pretty good strategy for me as I tend to not block at all and go full aggression. I tend to find items that will increase my health or lets me absorb health back for every hit I deal out.

I did find the first Fury Sister, Meg, the hardest of the bosses to get through as I was just figuring out my style and the best way to take her out with my preferred style of play. The others were a bit easier until I got to the final boss who absolutely destroys me almost every time I encounter them. I have done over 100 runs in Hades so far and I have only managed to beat the game twice. Even though you do die quite often, when you do succeed the victory is so much sweeter as the game challenges you on so many strategic levels.

Hades is visually stunning and can be best described as an artistic masterpiece. Parts of the game representing the depths of hell with molten lava, rusty chains, decaying corpses and of course all of the denizens of the underworld when combined together create something that is quite beautiful. In stark contrast to rest of the underworld is of course Elysium where heroes and those blessed by the gods spend their time when they have passed on to the underworld. The bright and vibrant setting is full of life, vegetation, blue waters and of course the many guards that keep those blessed caged in the underworld. Although it is quite beautiful you are still reminded that this is part of the underworld and is the God of Death’s domain. This world is crafted with so much care and artistic quality that I could easily get some prints made of some of the scenery in the game and most visitors would not even realize it all came from a video game.

Hades is beautifully voice casted by a myriad of amazing voices and isn’t just a bunch of grunts, attack sounds or stereotypical sound effects you often find in these types of games. There is a full-on narrator throughout the whole game, complicated backstories and sub-plots happening between Zag and all of the individuals he encounters. Zag also tends to get himself in the lives of those he encounters and will aid them to bring them closer to their individual desires. These stories are all discovered the more and more conversations you have with all that you encounter, and each time you do more is revealed often through the spectacular voice acting. Backdropping all of this is amazing original soundtrack that was created by Darren Korb who has created soundtracks for Pyre, Transistor and a personal favourite of mine, Bastion. All of these soundtracks are amazing in their own right but Darren has definitely outdone himself on Hades.

Hades, in my opinion, is probably the best roguelike game I have ever played and I can not find a single negative thing to say about this title except that I wish there was even more levels or perhaps the addition of a co-op mode with some of the characters that Zag bonds with. But that doesn’t take away from how spectacular this title is and how much I highly recommend that you try out Hades. My only regret is I didn’t get to play Hades much sooner.

**Hades was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 10.0 / 10
Gameplay: 10.0 / 10
Visuals: 10.0 / 10
Sound: 10.0 / 10


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