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Geek Review: Hades (PS5)

Good things are worth waiting for, and for fans of Supergiant Games, the long-awaited full release of Hades back in September 2020 on PC and the Nintendo Switch heralded a new age of narrative roguelite, and also set a high bar for any to follow. The premise of repeating a cycle of death and new attempts may appear to be tedious, but it is a testament to the expertise under the hood that makes Hades a joy to enjoy, and on the PS5 release, it is no different.

Against the backdrop of ancient gods and Greek mythology behind it all, players have only one task, and that is to escape the depths of hell as Prince Zagreus. A straightforward task, if there ever was one, but Supergiant has certainly beefed up the supports wherever it is needed.

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Aided by gods in both the underworld and on Mount Olympus, every single character you will meet in the game are amazingly realised. From their appearances to the dialogue, and of course, their connections to Zagreus and this universe as a whole, it is no wonder that Supergiant is rightfully recognised for its attention to detail.

Such worldbuilding is not just for show, it engages the player and paints a picture of a much larger world that exists, and it is entirely up to you to invest in it and reap what you sow. If learning history, albeit dressed up by the Supergiant magic, is so interesting, it would not be a surprise to see the world more interested in the subject matter.

The gods and creatures all look gorgeous with the distinct art direction that fits perfectly well thematically, and the 4K visuals really do make the hand-painted characters and environments pop. Additionally, the voice actors have all knocked it out of the park with the performances. This is a cast of characters that are all worth a spinoff game of their own, that is how good it is.

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Zagreus is a big standout as the hero, a young fellow but blessed with an undying need to seek the truth, and the fortitude to carry him all the way through. The likes of Hades and Nyx are but just two of the highlights in a star-studded cast, each adding another layer of intrigue and spice to the proceedings. 

Beyond that, Hades’ attention to the little things come through most importantly in the gameplay that powers each of your attempts to escape the clutches of hell. The PlayStation 5 version is similar in gameplay and levels to last year’s release, but comes in high definition glory that makes it shine in every other way.

The moment-to-moment combat is exhilarating, brought to stunning life with the game’s 2.5D artistic goodness, running at a targetted 60FPS at 4K. Compared to the PS4 version, which runs at 1080p at a target 60FPS, it makes a world of difference whether Hades is in motion or you are marvelling at the visuals while standing still.

While there are multiple systems at work at any given time, it is this smoothness and higher resolution that adds to the Hades magic on the PS5, elevating an already excellent game. The developers have also taken advantage of the PlayStation 5 DualSense’s controller to up the immersion, with haptic feedback providing contextual indicators whether you are petting dear Cerberus or calling in some help.

The game also takes advantage of the light bar to match the colours of the gods you will interact with, adding to the fun of it all. With an already solid foundation enhanced by the bells and whistles of a new platform, everything else in Hades on the PS5 just works that much better.

And what a variety of intricate and synergistic systems there are in Hades, from the moment you make your first attempt to escape as Zagreus to the countless deaths that await, it would be safe to say that you would hardly be bored by it all. As a rogue-lite, there is some leeway in that players are always going to be making progress, and it is this accessibility that enhances what Hades brings to the table.

Starting with your pick of an Infernal Arm – such as the dependable Stygian Blade or Coronacht, the Heart-Seeking Bow – Zagreus will be accumulating resources and blessings from the gods to aid his journey. The catch is that you will lose almost everything when you die, but even so, the game allows you to make things easier by spending those hard-earned resources.

The Darkness unlocks a number of different passive bonuses that are extremely useful, and Chthonic Keys can be used to increase the library of bonuses as well as add new Infernal Arms to your arsenal. 

Defeating bosses also rewards players with the likes of Titan Blood and Diamonds, which upgrade weapons even further, and should you find the elusive Nectar, you will be able to curry favour with the many beings around you and get a powerful Keepsake out of it. Lastly, precious Gems can be paid to the underworld Contractor to not just beautify the surroundings, but also add beneficial rooms to the mix.

The latter is perhaps most significant since the worlds are never the same, rotating and changing with every run. The same goes for the different gods you will meet and the boons they will confer onto you. In a sense, to succeed in Hades is to hope for the perfect balance, with the right weapons, boons, room layouts, and all to give you the best shot at success. While the rogue-lite nature of the game makes it a little easier to succeed, the nature of randomness is still going to be the biggest factor.

At the very least, you are going to have fun on every run. Zagreus moves swiftly and can dash around the world with ease. Depending on your choice, you could be doing damage up close or from a distance, without the enjoyment subsiding anytime soon. The different abilities at your disposal also make no run ever truly the same, which allows for the experimentation that is core to Hades as well. 

Soon, you will be an expert on the enemies that lie ahead, how best to tackle them, and putting together the perfect run that grants you the rewards you are searching for. That is, until Hades throws another monkey wrench into your plans. If you think that you can easily formulate the best plan of attack for the bosses that block your path to glory, think again. 

Just like the rooms, boons, and the enemies, Supergiant Games have not forgotten about the big bads that hold the keys to Zagreus’ future. While the first few runs may yield the same bosses and patterns you are used to, future attempts will see distinct variants start popping up. It could be different Furies that stand in your way, or a variant Bone Hydra, no matter who or what shows up, the attacks are going to be different, so you will always have to be on your A-game.

Making death enjoyable is not exactly an easy task, but Supergiant Games has certainly outdone itself. With the game already a bonafide success on both PC and the Switch, Hades‘ new arrival on the PS5 opens up the gates for even more players to be blessed with its presence. 

While the randomness of the rogue-lite genre can genuinely be frustrating at times, the sheer awesomeness of everything else in Hades more than makes up for it in spades. This is a rocking good time that anyone would be dying to enjoy, and with Hades, you are going to be doing it over and over again on the PS5, loving it with every dying breath.

Hades is available on the PSN Store for $34.90.

GEEK REVIEW SCORE

Summary

A truly remarkable rogue-lite with the signature Supergiant Games’ touch, Hades is a blessing of a game that everyone should be dying to play.

Overall
9.8/10
9.8/10
  • Gameplay - 10/10
    10/10
  • Story - 9.5/10
    9.5/10
  • Presentation - 10/10
    10/10
  • Value - 9.5/10
    9.5/10


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