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When I downloaded Hades, I feared it would be hellish, and not just because the game takes place in the Greek mythological underworld. Hades is a roguelite–a less punishing variation of a roguelike–which might be my all-time least favorite video game genre due to its emphasis on constant death without tangible progress. Though Hades can’t hide the genre’s flaw, its endlessly replayable combat and storytelling that takes advantage of the looping structure elevate the format like no game before. Miraculously, it has become one of my favorite PC games of the year.

Whereas most roguelite stories are nothing but thin pretexts for the infinite action, Hades wants you to invest in its narrative. Hades is the newest game from Supergiant Games. The developer’s house style, present in previous releases like Bastion and Transistor, shines brightly in Hades, too. A key part of that style is a rich plot with well-written, well-realized, well-acted characters. Impressively, the game’s identity manages to stand out despite being rooted in the extremely familiar world of Greek mythology. You won’t confuse this with Assassin’s Creed Odyssey or God of War.

You play as Zagreus, hunky prince of the underworld and sulking son of Lord Hades himself. Each run represents an attempt to escape from the underworld to the mortal world on the surface, away from your wrathful father and back towards your unknown mother. Along the way you encounter your highfalutin Greek god relatives, from Artemis to Zeus, eager to help you come home to Olympus. Each death sends you back beneath Tartarus to the bloody pool in the House of Hades, where you interact with fellow dark residents to further the plot or just pet your three-headed dog Cerberus.

Hades structures its entire plot around the fact that you’ll die and play again many times. Even after you “beat” the game once you won’t entirely know what’s going on. Supergiant’s previous game Pyre used a similar gimmick, but it feels much more at home within the roguelite structure. Furthering your relationships with whatever Greek deities you encounter during a particular run encourages you to continue no matter how hard the challenges get.

You’ll seek out these characters not only because they give gameplay upgrades (although fellow punished soul Sisphyus give good upgrades). You’ll seek them because they are compelling characters. The more I talk with Orpheus and Eurydice, the more I can listen to their haunting vocal tracks. The more I realized how cool Megaera “Meg” the Fury is, the more tragic it is whenever I inevitably slay her during a boss fight.

To experience this story, you need to do a lot of fighting. Fortunately, Hades’ combat matches its narrative when it comes to gripping you and never letting go. Hades’ fighting harkens back to Bastion’s straightforward action-RPG combat, which itself recalled genre standard-bearer Diablo. I wonder if even the name Hades itself is an allusion to Diablo naming itself after an evil god.

In Hades, you fight waves of enemies inside isometric dungeons. You always go through the same four action-packed worlds, and generally fight the same bosses at the end of each of them, but the individual layouts change every time. Sometimes, you’ll catch a break and enter a room with just an item shop or healing fountain. Other times, a minotaur ambushes you before you’re officially supposed to fight him.

Fortunately, level layouts aren’t the only things that drastically change. I spent hours experimenting with the intricacies of Hades’ combat and felt like I only scratched the surface. At the beginning of each run, you choose a weapon. The fast, close-quarters sword slashing requires a drastically different playstyle than the long-range bow. The shield, which works as a melee weapon, as well as a Captain America-style throwing weapon, opens up its own strategies.

Your weapon is just the start, though. During your run, gods offer you various Boons–abilities that customize your playstyle even further. The possibilities feel almost as endless as the game itself. In my first successful run, I used a Boon that cut down my max health in exchange for a sword that recovered health with every normal attack hit. Meanwhile, my dash summoned waves in my wake, thanks to Poseidon, while my special attack left enemies as drunk and slow as guests at one of Dionysus’ parties.

That’s just a fraction of the synergies you can come up with. Maybe you’ll opt for Aphrodite’s love or Demeter’s chill? Some Boons activate a new ability once your God Gauge fills up, like Athena’s shield that protects and deflects. Others augment a limited projectile you have called a Cast, so enemies you hit with your Cast may suffer Ares’ Doom damage. Knowing how enemies behave also influences your combat decisions. Safely take down lumbering giants from afar, or quickly murder swarms of vermin before they release toxic gas.

I never got tired of mixing and matching combinations to find the most fun and overpowered builds possible. Think God of War meets Gunstar Heroes. Seeing which potential Boon or upgrade you might acquire behind each dungeon door actively shapes how you chose to tackle the random levels. Like the story, exploring the depths of the combat encouraged me to play Hades again and again.

Hades can be a very difficult game. That’s a staple of the genre; you don’t make combat this excellent and not demand players learn it inside and out. While you only have about four buttons to actively worry about (light attack, special attack, dash, Cast) everything happens so quickly you need to constantly pay attention, to the point where you reach an intoxicating instinctive-driven Zen state. To go back to Diablo comparisons, it plays like Diablo at three times the speed, with a sprinkling of bullet hell. I played with a controller because I didn’t think constantly clicking a mouse could keep up and feel comfortable.

However, I appreciate the generous difficulty options. Hades doesn’t have to be too punishing to be enjoyable. As a flexible roguelite, not a strict roguelike, you gain permanent upgrades after each run. Various currencies unlock damage boosts, extra lives, and weapon-specific buffs. Giving gifts to the gods unlocks keepsakes that guarantee you access to their Boons when you start a run, if you want to somewhat shape your playstyle instead of leaving it totally up to the Fates. And activating God Mode permanently boosts your overall defense every time you die.

Since I have no shame, I used all of these perks and can now beat the game in about half an hour. This solves my biggest issues with roguelikes: Constant, arbitrary death that wastes my time for no reason and with no tangible reward. Compare that to Spelunky, a game that flat-out frustrates.

Hades’ digestible length also frequently tricked me into doing multiple “one last runs” per session to test new skills. Conversely, upping the difficulty through the Pact of Punishment modifiers provides a satisfying challenge for those looking to push themselves. It’s also the fastest way to grind for the special Titan Blood currency necessary for truly unlocking everything the game has to offer.

That said, Hades still heavily relies on the repetition inherent to the roguelike structure. The plot contorts itself in fascinating ways to justify the rebirths, and the combat makes grinding a joy, but the game still wants you to fight the same enemies in the same places again and again. Previous Supergiant Games were short, tight experiences. Hades lasts much longer, and has added plenty of new content and character interactions since launching in Early Access two years ago. Still, I couldn’t escape the nagging sense that the entire conceit’s true purpose is to keep players more engaged for longer periods of time through somewhat artificial means.

Another part of Supergiant’s house style is impeccable art direction. Hades is no different. 3D characters dart around illustrated backgrounds. The artwork conveys the radically different moods of the environments you encounter while using classic, ancient Greek aesthetics to tie everything together. The flaming rivers of Asphodel give way to Elysium’s idyllic blue realm of eternal champions. Meanwhile, lovingly detailed, dating sim-esue character portraits have inspired a level of online thirst not seen since Overwatch’s early days.

To play the game on PC, you need a computer that houses at least a Dual Core 2.4GHz CPU, a 1GB VRAM GPU with DirectX 10 support, 4GB of RAM, and 15GB of storage. The graphics, while stunning, aren’t super demanding. However, on weaker machines the normally 60-frames-per-second action may exhibit slight slowdown when tons of enemies and graphical effects appear on screen at once. It’s hardly noticeable and never game-breaking, though.

As a Steam game, Hades supports nearly 50 Steam Achievements, Steam Cloud Saves, Steam Trading Cards, and Remote Play on TV, phone, and tablet. Accessibility options include subtitles, displaying damage numbers, and the ability to turn of screen shaking.

The game also runs on Nintendo Switch, which also suffers from very minor slowdown, and both versions will soon have cross-save support.

I’m not sure if Hades is my absolute favorite Supergiant Games release. Transistor remains criminally underrated. Hades, however, is the one I’ve spent the most time playing and thinking about. It’s the rare roguelite that convinces me of the genre’s merits. Hades masterfully nails its minute-to-minute mechanics alongside the larger character and story progression. I didn’t want to love Hades, but still loved it. I love looking at, fighting in, and absorbing more of this underworld that never stops. So, if you come in with an even slightly more open mind, chances are you’ll love it even more.

Stay up to date with all of our latest PC game coverage by joining PCMag’s Steam Curator page. There, you’ll find all of our Steam reviews, as well as in-depth previews of upcoming Steam titles.

PCMag is obsessed with culture and tech, offering smart, spirited coverage of the products and innovations that shape our connected lives and the digital trends that keep us talking.

Whereas most roguelite stories are nothing but thin pretexts for the infinite action, Hades wants you to invest in its narrative. Hades is the newest game from Supergiant Games. The developeru2019s house style, present in previous releases like Bastion and Transistor, shines brightly in Hades, too. A key part of that style is a rich plot with well-written, well-realized, well-acted characters. Impressively, the gameu2019s identity manages to stand out despite being rooted in the extremely familiar world of Greek mythology. You wonu2019t confuse this with Assassinu2019s Creed Odyssey or God of War.

You play as Zagreus, hunky prince of the underworld and sulking son of Lord Hades himself. Each run represents an attempt to escape from the underworld to the mortal world on the surface, away from your wrathful father and back towards your unknown mother. Along the way you encounter your highfalutin Greek god relatives, from Artemis to Zeus, eager to help you come home to Olympus. Each death sends you back beneath Tartarus to the bloody pool in the House of Hades, where you interact with fellow dark residents to further the plot or just pet your three-headed dog Cerberus.u00a0

Hades structures its entire plot around the fact that youu2019ll die and play again many times. Even after you u201cbeatu201d the game once you wonu2019t entirely know whatu2019s going on. Supergiantu2019s previous game Pyre used a similar gimmick, but it feels much more at home within the roguelite structure. Furthering your relationships with whatever Greek deities you encounter during a particular run encourages you to continue no matter how hard the challenges get.u00a0

Youu2019ll seek out these characters not only because they give gameplay upgrades (although fellow punished soul Sisphyus give good upgrades). You’ll seek them because they are compelling characters. The more I talk with Orpheus and Eurydice, the more I can listen to their haunting vocal tracks. The more I realized how cool Megaera u201cMegu201d the Fury is, the more tragic it is whenever I inevitably slay her during a boss fight.u00a0

To experience this story, you need to do a lot of fighting. Fortunately, Hadesu2019 combat matches its narrative when it comes to gripping you and never letting go. Hades’ fighting harkens back to Bastion’s straightforward action-RPG combat, which itself recalled genre standard-bearer Diablo. I wonder if even the name Hades itself is an allusion to Diablo naming itself after an evil god.

In Hades, you fight waves of enemies inside isometric dungeons. You always go through the same four action-packed worlds, and generally fight the same bosses at the end of each of them, but the individual layouts change every time. Sometimes, youu2019ll catch a break and enter a room with just an item shop or healing fountain. Other times, a minotaur ambushes you before youu2019re officially supposed to fight him.

Fortunately, level layouts arenu2019t the only things that drastically change. I spent hours experimenting with the intricacies of Hadesu2019 combat and felt like I only scratched the surface. At the beginning of each run, you choose a weapon. The fast, close-quarters sword slashing requires a drastically different playstyle than the long-range bow. The shield, which works as a melee weapon, as well as a Captain America-style throwing weapon, opens up its own strategies.

Your weapon is just the start, though. During your run, gods offer you various Boonsu2013abilities that customize your playstyle even further. The possibilities feel almost as endless as the game itself. In my first successful run, I used a Boon that cut down my max health in exchange for a sword that recovered health with every normal attack hit. Meanwhile, my dash summoned waves in my wake, thanks to Poseidon, while my special attack left enemies as drunk and slow as guests at one of Dionysusu2019 parties.u00a0

Thatu2019s just a fraction of the synergies you can come up with. Maybe youu2019ll opt for Aphroditeu2019s love or Demeteru2019s chill? Some Boons activate a new ability once your God Gauge fills up, like Athenau2019s shield that protects and deflects. Others augment a limited projectile you have called a Cast, so enemies you hit with your Cast may suffer Aresu2019 Doom damage. Knowing how enemies behave also influences your combat decisions. Safely take down lumbering giants from afar, or quickly murder swarms of vermin before they release toxic gas.u00a0

I never got tired of mixing and matching combinations to find the most fun and overpowered builds possible. Think God of War meets Gunstar Heroes. Seeing which potential Boon or upgrade you might acquire behind each dungeon door actively shapes how you chose to tackle the random levels. Like the story, exploring the depths of the combat encouraged me to play Hades again and again.u00a0u00a0u00a0

Hades can be a very difficult game. Thatu2019s a staple of the genre; you donu2019t make combat this excellent and not demand players learn it inside and out. While you only have about four buttons to actively worry about (light attack, special attack, dash, Cast) everything happens so quickly you need to constantly pay attention, to the point where you reach an intoxicating instinctive-driven Zen state. To go back to Diablo comparisons, it plays like Diablo at three times the speed, with a sprinkling of bullet hell. I played with a controller because I didnu2019t think constantly clicking a mouse could keep up and feel comfortable.u00a0

However, I appreciate the generous difficulty options. Hades doesnu2019t have to be too punishing to be enjoyable. As a flexible roguelite, not a strict roguelike, you gain permanent upgrades after each run. Various currencies unlock damage boosts, extra lives, and weapon-specific buffs. Giving gifts to the gods unlocks keepsakes that guarantee you access to their Boons when you start a run, if you want to somewhat shape your playstyle instead of leaving it totally up to the Fates. And activating God Mode permanently boosts your overall defense every time you die.u00a0

Since I have no shame, I used all of these perks and can now beat the game in about half an hour. This solves my biggest issues with roguelikes: Constant, arbitrary death that wastes my time for no reason and with no tangible reward. Compare that to Spelunky, a game that flat-out frustrates.u00a0

Hadesu2019 digestible length also frequently tricked me into doing multiple u201cone last runsu201d per session to test new skills. Conversely, upping the difficulty through the Pact of Punishment modifiers provides a satisfying challenge for those looking to push themselves. Itu2019s also the fastest way to grind for the special Titan Blood currency necessary for truly unlocking everything the game has to offer.

That said, Hades still heavily relies on the repetition inherent to the roguelike structure. The plot contorts itself in fascinating ways to justify the rebirths, and the combat makes grinding a joy, but the game still wants you to fight the same enemies in the same places again and again. Previous Supergiant Games were short, tight experiences. Hades lasts much longer, and has added plenty of new content and character interactions since launching in Early Access two years ago. Still, I couldnu2019t escape the nagging sense that the entire conceitu2019s true purpose is to keep players more engaged for longer periods of time through somewhat artificial means.

Another part of Supergiantu2019s house style is impeccable art direction. Hades is no different. 3D characters dart around illustrated backgrounds. The artwork conveys the radically different moods of the environments you encounter while using classic, ancient Greek aesthetics to tie everything together. The flaming rivers of Asphodel give way to Elysiumu2019s idyllic blue realm of eternal champions. Meanwhile, lovingly detailed, dating sim-esue character portraits have inspired a level of online thirst not seen since Overwatch’s early days.

To play the game on PC, you need a computer that houses at least a Dual Core 2.4GHz CPU, a 1GB VRAM GPU with DirectX 10 support, 4GB of RAM, and 15GB of storage. The graphics, while stunning, arenu2019t super demanding. However, on weaker machines the normally 60-frames-per-second action may exhibit slight slowdown when tons of enemies and graphical effects appear on screen at once. It’s hardly noticeable and never game-breaking, though.

As a Steam game, Hades supports nearly 50 Steam Achievements, Steam Cloud Saves, Steam Trading Cards, and Remote Play on TV, phone, and tablet. Accessibility options include subtitles, displaying damage numbers, and the ability to turn of screen shaking.

The game also runs on Nintendo Switch, which also suffers from very minor slowdown, and both versions will soon have cross-save support.u00a0

Iu2019m not sure if Hades is my absolute favorite Supergiant Games release. Transistor remains criminally underrated. Hades, however, is the one Iu2019ve spent the most time playing and thinking about. Itu2019s the rare roguelite that convinces me of the genreu2019s merits. Hades masterfully nails its minute-to-minute mechanics alongside the larger character and story progression. I didnu2019t want to love Hades, but still loved it. I love looking at, fighting in, and absorbing more of this underworld that never stops. So, if you come in with an even slightly more open mind, chances are youu2019ll love it even more.u00a0

Stay up to date with all of our latest PC game coverage by joining PCMag’s Steam Curator page. There, you’ll find all of our Steam reviews, as well as in-depth previews of upcoming Steam titles.

Source: https://uk.pcmag.com/pc-games/129011/hades-for-pc

Hades, Supergiant Games, Roguelike, Nintendo Switch, Zagreus, Boss

World news – GB – Hades (for PC)

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