Supergiant Games might be one of my favorite developers of all time—I loved Bastion and Pyre, and Transistor is probably one of my favorite games ever—but I missed Hades when it first released last year on Switch and PC. Though I’d heard how the latest from Supergiant was lauded and laden with awards, I was holding out hope that it would one day get a PlayStation release. I avoided even looking into the game outside of what occasionally came across my Twitter feed. I’d seen the game’s art, but I knew virtually nothing else about Hades beyond what it looked like and that it was apparently pretty award worthy. That patience paid off, and I got to go into Hades on the PS5 completely fresh a couple of weeks ago. And I get it now.
Hades is good. Hades is really, really good. Hades is the kind of game awards were made for. Hades is undeniably a Supergiant game, but at the same time so different from every Supergiant game that came before it. Its art style is stunning, using subtle almost unnoticeable flecks and streaks of bright neon colors to make the environments in the underworld pop. Its story is a thrilling mystery with deep and complex characters. Its combat and (literal) gameplay loop is engaging and fun, stopping short of ever feeling repetitive—despite its very nature of asking players to venture back through the Underworld multiple times.
Zagreus, son of Hades, is attempting to escape the Underworld. Along the way, he is aided by assorted gods, who send him boons and blessings that modify each escape attempt. Zeus might give your attack the ability to emit chain lightning. Athena grants abilities that deflect enemy attacks. Hermes’ boons are all based on modifying your speed in some way. Each chamber throughout the Underworld houses a new reward to aid that run (or perhaps something to spend on more permanent upgrades for future escape attempts). And it’s not just Olympian boons. Keys, darkness, gems, obols, health upgrades; there are a lot of things to collect along the way, much of which is lost should you fall in your attempt to leave the Underworld.
There’s a healthy balance between randomness and providing some player choice. Sometimes you’ll get multiple doors; the ability to choose which chamber you want to enter next, and each will show what reward you’ll gain. Do you want that boon from Ares, or perhaps are you a little short on obols for the boatman Charon this run? Maybe you’re trying to collect gems to fix up the House of Hades? Even when getting boons from the Olympians or picking weapon upgrades with the Hammer of Daedalus, you’re offered from a selection of three choice to best tailor your build. Some runs aren’t anything special, and some can turn into delightfully unexpected combinations of chaos that empower you in ways you didn’t even know possible when you first jumped out of Zag’s bedroom window.
Hades PS5 Review – Story of the Prince
There’s a lot of mystery surrounding his attempts to leave, but each time Zagreus dies, he is sent back to the Pool of Styx in the House of Hades—minus most of his collected boons, weapon upgrades, and obols—where he can talk to various house servants to learn more. The voice acting in Hades is so good, I never skipped any spoken dialog. It’s paced such that characters never drone on for overly long, and it’s a joy to hear every interaction that Zagreus has with various denizens of the Underworld and Olympian gods, paired with beautiful portraits of each character. Honestly, I was just as eager to spend time in the House of Hades as I was to make my way through the Underworld fighting shades and other nasty things that would have me sent back again.
Not only is the voice acting itself phenomenal, but the prompts that create these dynamic and unique interactions are always incredible. I can’t fathom how much recorded dialog must be in this game. I am still hearing unique voice lines based on things like what types of enemies I get killed by, what weapon I use, and what specific aspect (form) of a weapon I choose. There’s dialog based on which gods’ boons you’ve acquired earlier in a run. There’s assorted character side stories that interweave with Zagreus’ escape attempts. It’s a staggering amount of unique dialog that continues to deliver the story to the player whether you complete a run or fail early on. I did get to a point around 30 hours in that I started hearing some generic repeat voice overs on collecting boons from gods, but Hades is structured in such a way that it’s hardly noticeable.
Hades is what I would hold up as a prime example of the perfect integration of roguelite elements. It’s the perfect blend of the formula, using story and the world to introduce various gameplay mechanics. Nothing about Hades feels ancillary or tacked on. Everything feels like it has a reason to exist. That’s a trademark staple of Supergiant Games titles—nothing about the game will ever pull you out of the world or the game experience. It’s all integrated in brilliant and creative ways that serve to deepen every part’s meaning. Mechanics and gameplay systems. Music and story. Modifiers and replayability. Every facet of Hades is embedded flawlessly within, virtually indiscernible as its own separate piece.
Part of that integration is empowering players to take on the challenges however they want to. There are myriad options to try to tailor Hades to exactly how you want to play, or to let you chase your own specific goals. Even before starting a run, there are a ton of options and “permanent” upgrades that persist to choose from. There’s the Mirror of Night that offers a variety of enhancements. There are six weapons—the Infernal Arms—to choose from, each with four additional “aspects,” or forms that can have wildly different abilities and ways to play. There’s the cabinet full of keepsakes which can provide modifiers like increasing the likelihood of getting a certain god’s boon, or giving you a last chance with additional health should you fall. I cannot stress enough how every single run feels unique.
And then within each run, the assorted chamber rewards can entirely change the game. Weapons that I wasn’t previously fond of became some of my favorites via the right combination of boons and upgrades. Unique and rare Duo Boons let two gods’ abilities work together for even more interesting effects. Daedalus’ Hammer will give you the choice of anything from increasing damage to entirely changing how a weapon’s attacks work. And there are quite a few other systems at play that I won’t go into detail about here. Suffice to say, death or failure never felt unfair to me, even with the randomization of rewards, because I had enough freedom to choose how I play. Each time I was sent back to the Pool of Styx was a learning experience, and also came with other opportunities to grow or chase specific things within the House of Hades.
Hades PS5 Review – Discovering the Underworld
Hades always feels like its delivering something new to the player. Whether it’s player discovery via emergent systems, or carefully doled out gameplay elements and mechanics that keep things feeling fresh, the pacing is handled perfectly. Little surprises crop up throughout, elements that I don’t want to spoil. They kept—and still keep—me eager to discover new things; to find what bits of narrative or gameplay might be unearthed next. Win or lose, Hades never lets up, encouraging new runs (much to the detriment of my ability to get to bed anytime before 1 am for the last two weeks). You can save and quit at the beginning of any chamber—avoiding an issue people had with Returnal—if you need to step away at any time, though for the sake of knowing what boons and abilities I was working with (and as an excuse to keep playing), I tended to only stop between runs, if indeed I was ever forced to stop playing at all.
And there are many ways that Hades encourages you to deviate away from what you are most comfortable with. Chasing down tasks on the Fated List allowed me to utilize certain modifiers and boons I may not have otherwise gravitated towards. While I could certainly stay in my comfort zone and go with what I know feels powerful, Hades always felt like it was empowering me to discover new ways that other abilities and modifiers might be useful. There are a lot of great risk/reward elements throughout, or areas that offer two different but meaningful choices that allow the player to really think about how they’ll get through a run. But again, many of these systems are doled out at a comfortable pace that allows for testing the waters, rather than kind of dumping everything on the player at once. It keeps the new discoveries as a satisfying drip feed, rather than an overwhelming burden.
The PlayStation versions of Hades aren’t any different from last year’s Switch and PC versions. The PS5 version doesn’t have any special PS5-specific features besides the ability to run the game in absolutely beautiful 4K, which brings Hades‘ unique and vibrant visuals to life. However, don’t expect any DualSense integration, at least at launch. There’s no word on if Supergiant might work on adding it later.
I haven’t felt this drawn to a game in a long time. Hades is fully deserving of every award that it has earned, and PlayStation players finally get to experience this perfected Supergiant Games masterpiece on PS4 and PS5. It’s an utterly brilliant melding of narrative, art, music, gameplay, world, and characters, with unique details throughout each element that come together to create a game unlike any other. Hades bears the mark of being a Supergiant game, while never feeling like it retreads any of the developer’s past work. Rather it builds on everything they’ve learned. It’s a triumph of player choice and discovery, consistently engaging, and always begging for just one more escape attempt.
Hades review code provided by developer. Reviewed on PS5. For more information, please read our Review Policy.