[Review] Hades – Nintendo Switch

Written by Kevin Orme
  • Publisher: Supergiant Games
  • Developer: Supergiant Games
  • Price: £22.49 / $24.99
  • Release Date: 17/09/2020
  • Review Code provided by Supergiant Games

Introducing The Hades Review For Nintendo Switch

If you have been following any of the reviews that I have completed over these glorious months at Nintendad, it feels like I’ve reviewed my fair share of roguelites. On top of that, it really feels like this is becoming a super popular genre these days. What with Rogue Legacy 2, Going Under, West of Dead, Slay the Spire, more Binding of Isaac before too long it feels like the market for these kinds of games is hyper-saturated. It won’t be too long before we say “Ugh… ANOTHER roguelite.” But… will we really?

See, I have a pretty varied selection in my library of high-quality games of this genre. I find myself coming back to some of those gems like A Robot Named Fight! and One Step From Eden more often than my other games. This is mainly because when you get that perfect balance between fun, challenging, and constantly changing, you end up with a game that’s hard to put down. If you look at the ratio of roguelikes-to-other-games on my Switch in terms of hours played I guarantee you will wonder why I spend so much on Hades as compared to other titles I own.

Folks, it’s not often I get to play through an actual masterpiece.  Let’s talk about Hades.

Hell, Sweet Hell

Zagreus, son of Hades, has a problem. It’s not terribly complex mind you, but it’s kind of a big issue. See, Zagreus is trying to escape the underworld to experience life on the surface. What’s standing in his way, you ask? Just four sprawling, continually changing, enemy-infested, trap covered areas that are constantly monitored by Hades, your notably angry father. How bad could that be, really?

Now, you might notice something that might be an issue here. What happens if you are defeated by the wretches of the underworld? Well, conveniently for you, those who die are sent back to the underworld… which just happens to be your home. So I mean, at least it’s convenient. It’s here where you can use resources you have gathered through your various escape attempts to strengthen yourself to better prepare yourself for your next run. It’s pretty basic stuff for a game like this, but trust me when I say how much better this is than anything you’ve played before. After choosing your weapon you head off to fight the waves of enemies that prevent you from achieving your goal. Repeat until you succeed!

But it is here, my fine friends, where things begin to shine! As you mow your way through hordes of the damned and the deceased you will come across sigils of the Pantheon of ancient Greece: Zeus, Poseidon, Artemis, and others who grant you boons to your weapons and skills. Each God or Goddess can bless you with a myriad of gifts that make combat more exciting and powerful. Other bonuses include resources to better yourself and your Underworldly home, or one of Daedalus’ hammers that you can use to modify your weapon! Each new boon gives you an advantage in combat (which we will DEFINITELY cover later) and help you progress further into the fight ahead.

But enough about this, there are more things we need to cover because it’s time to –

Fight Like Hell, Zagreus!

If I only had the ability to sell you on one thing for this game, it would have to be the incredible combat mechanics that the team at Supergiant put into this game. Zagreus, our protagonist, has a few basic abilities on hand:

  • A basic attack (with your weapon of choice)
  • a “special” or “unique” attack
  • A dash
  • A dash attack
  • (Occasionally) a charged attack

These five simple mechanics make for what I can safely say is one of the finest combat experience I have ever experienced in my 29 years of gaming. The speed at which each of these attacks chain into each other seamlessly combine into a furious ballet of carnage and violence is second to none. Take, for instance, the spear – the second of the hellish Prince’s weapons he can use and easily my favourite of the entire arsenal in Hades. This weapon has a charged spin attack as well as a special attack where you can throw and then recall the spear to your hand Thor-style. Within seconds of a room-filling with baddies you will find yourself dashing around the foes, slashing them from a distance, harpooning them and then hitting them as your call the spear back to you and smashing them into every wall around you, all while looking like the single greatest badass in the history of the underworld.

There is something so fluid and potent to how Zagreus moves in this game. Whether you’re bull-charging your opponents with the shield, sniping from a distance with the bow, blasting with the rail or Wolverine-style shredding your opponents with the gloves, every single fight is an absolute JOY to play. The combat in Hades is the kind of experience that will have you looking at the clock and realising it has been hours since you started playing. My first playthrough of Hades was 26 minutes and it felt like 2. The way that the whole gameplay loop works is nothing short of liquid joy to my soul.

I Fight For (and With) My Family

Supergiant has something extremely special – unique I might even say: The ability to make endearing characters in perfectly believable relationships. The people in the worlds of Hades are loveable and relatable in nearly every way. I see Hades, a god who is frustrated that a son doesn’t take after him in his eyes. I laugh as I see Artemis as a girl who is used to being alone as a huntress become flustered as a handsome boy offers her gifts. Besides the gods, the other smaller characters you encounter give life and charm to what would otherwise be a dreary and desolate afterlife. Every time you come back after an unsuccessful attempt at escaping the underworld there is a chance that not only will there be people to talk with, but sometimes they will be interacting with each other while you simply listen in. It feels like these people actually live their own lives while you are off living yours. I know it’s cliche, but this world feels lived in.

As Zagreus continues over and over again, occasionally things will come to light that changes both Zagreus’ intent and desire to continue his quest. These moments come to light through some of the rare moments that Zagreus falls asleep. It’s in these glimpses that we are given intimate moments within the family that runs the underworld. It’s something that Supergiant has perfected through the other games they have crafted. Think about the stories put together in Bastion and Transistor. These folks are constantly weaving a masterclass in story and worldbuilding and you can be very excited to dive into these experiences. This is certainly some of their finest work.

Crafted by the Finest Artisans

If you are familiar with any of Supergiant’s work, you know full well that these people work in nothing but the finest. Every character is artfully rendered to a level of fineness and elegance that you just don’t see these days. Well, I mean, not unless you’re Supergiant who tend to make a habit out of making incredible art. Seriously, the incredible craftsmanship exuded by the art team for this studio is second to none. Each piece of the world is so masterfully created to reflect the ancient Greek timeframe the game reflects, but it’s something more than that. This is a living, breathing world that is teeming with life and character that you don’t normally see in roguelikes. There is always so much subtle stuff happening on the outskirts of the rooms which you travel through that is easy to miss, but if you stop for a moment you can see some really beautiful things in these worlds.

Each character is crafted so beautifully for their portraits too. When you receive a boon from one of the Gods, they will appear on-screen for a bit while you talk to them and select their gift. Each God is perfectly unique and I never get tired of seeing them. Their personalities have been so perfectly encapsulated in how they are posed and dressed that you can get lost in their world a little bit every time they show up to say hello. This is a masterwork of design and function. Literally no complaints here.

The music is nothing to dismiss either. More exquisite songs with haunting melodies (as Supergiant is so dang great with) add a perfect amount of variety to the pulsing rushes that the combat music gives to the entire experience. Hades has a fabulous soundtrack that should not be missed. Each new area is given a unique feel to it that is accompanied by the special instrumentation that Supergiant has laid out. Seriously, this is good stuff.

The Devil in the Details

Hades is nearly flawless in just about every regard. In my twenty-plus hours of playing both docked and handheld modes I never had the game crash on me nor did the game glitch on me at any time. This gem spent its fair share in early access on the PC, so any bugs that were present or any gameplay tweaks that needed fixing were patched out over the last two years or so. This game works absolutely flawlessly on the Switch hardware.

Now, where there aren’t any real issues to talk about for performance, I actually wanted to touch on something that I think will help you as you play this game. Both modes work perfectly. Docked mode is perfect for taking in just how great this game looks, but I have to say that the way to perfectly enjoy this game is in handheld mode for one specific reason: The only reason I stop playing this game is because I run out of battery power. Seriously, it’s the right way to do things, because otherwise I wouldn’t stop for hours and I have a FAMILY.

Fading Into The Night

Folks, this is one of those rare moments when you can experience perfection and I cannot recommend it more than I already have. This game is just… you can’t see or hear it, but I’m doing that chef’s kiss thing to express how amazing this game is. When asked what my top five games for the Switch are (as we did at Nintendad earlier last week), without hesitation I put Hades as my number two. TWO! This game, in my eyes, is only second to Mario Kart 8 in terms of quality on the Switch. Seriously, folks, THIS GAME IS INCREDIBLE! So let’s close up.

Pros

  • Unbelievably smooth and addictive combat
  • Some of the best writing and voice performance I’ve ever heard
  • Style and finesse for DAYS
  • You can pet Cerberus

Cons

  • I lose track of time so fast that I blink and it’s been an hour.
  • Collecting gems to upgrade the majority of things in the game takes FOREVER.

Verdict
Hades is, for all intents and purposes, the pinnacle of the genre it belongs to. This game will be remembered for generations.

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