Opinion Piece

The Best Game of 2020 Was Hades

Dying in a videogame has never felt as good as it does in Hades, the latest game from Supergiant. Falling foul of one of the many minions or bosses that inhabit Hades is a chance to visit with friends, hand out gifts of Ambrosia, maybe buy some stuff to spruce the place up and decide which weapon to take for a spin next. Sure, death and failure are staples of rogue-likes, but few of them manage to weave dying so completely into the experience that it feels seamless.

“Hades spent two years in Early Access before it finally launched proper around a month back. Those two years stand as an example of how Early Access should be done. Developer Supergiant used that time to to create a culmination of all their previous work on Bastion, Pyre and Transistor. They took their excellent combat design, unique visual style and their storytelling chops and decided to try a rogue-like, and the results are spectacular. During those two years, Supergiant constantly updated the game and talked to their players. As a result, Hades is absolutely outstanding. It’s one of the best games of the year. So grab a beer, maybe a snack and park your butt on the chair, because I’m going to tell you why Hades is awesome.”

Hades Review

Hades is Supergiant at their very best, which is saying something considering the company’s previous work includes the likes of Bastion. Supergiant are a talented group, but they changed tactics with Hades by putting it into early access. It proved to be a smart decision as Supergiant’s immense talent combined with the constant flow of feedback let them put together something special. They tinkered, tweaked and twisted until finally Hades in full was released this year to a brilliant reception from gamers.

Hades sense of progression is nothing short of masterful. It strikes a near perfect balance of slowly powering Zagreus up, the random Boons from the Olympian Gods and letting the player build up their own skill. Those three things meet in the glorious moment that you finally crawl out of Hades and defeat the final boss, I remember my first successful run where everything just clicked: I’d built up Zagreus enough, become skilled enough myself and picked exactly the right weapon. Everything just clicked and I could tell, even early on, that this was it. As my shield bounced from target to target the excitement grew. I picked up boons from Zeus and Hades, turning my shield into a whirling blur of death that summoned lightening on every hit and inflicted Doom as it went. And when I smashed my shield off of the final boss for the final time, I felt elation. Total elation. It was such a satisfying moment.

Its gameplay is slick and punchy. From the moment I picked up Hades it felt right. There’s the elusive concept of game-feel that can’t really be put into words, it’s just something you know a game has or doesn’t. Hades has it in every little bit of code. The first time you pick up the controller you know that Hades is going to be special.

But what I didn’t expect was how invested I’d become in the story of Zagreus as he tries to battle his way out of Hades and from under the looming shadow of his father. The cast of Hades is a fascinating, rowdy bunch with captivating personalities that draw you in and make you want to learn every possible detail. Perhaps at times the pacing of the plot is a little off, but even in those moments there’s enough narrative crumbs to lure you into one more run through Hades. Just. One. More.

I got hooked on Hades for its intense, fast, fun combat but I stayed for the story and the characters. This is a game that ingeniously weaves its gameplay and narrative together, not only justifying the repeated runs but making them a fundamental part of how and why the story works. Supergiant have outdone themselves with Hades, crafting something truly special that easily stands as not only one of the best games in the genre, but one of the best games of the year. Is it the game of the year? Well, there’s still a lot of games to come out yet, but undoubtedly Hades is going to be in the conversation. Truly, truly remarkable, and only the second game to get a full five star rating on this site.

Hades Review

Of course, it turned out that escaping Hades is actually really just the beginning. By the time I hit the point where I felt like I’d gone as far as I needed to, I had spent 60+ hours in Hades and I can honestly say that I loved every single minute of those 60+ hours. I was enthralled by the characters, addicted to finding new builds and combinations, and the combat somehow managed to remain absolutely fantastic even after spending so long fighting.

I love Hades. I adore it. Hell, I was addicted to it, spending the time I wasn’t playing it going through different combinations of Boons in my head or wondering which weapon I’d take on my run. I got excited when I unlocked new versions of the weapons I had become so familiar with. I eagerly sucked up every new character moment or piece of dialogue I hadn’t heard yet, which was bloody loads because Hades contains a staggering amount of voice-work.

I don’t think I can actually say anything bad about Hades. It is, at least for me, damn near perfect at what it does. It’s addictive, simple to learn yet complex to master, absurdly slick and extremely well written. I gave it five stars out of five and I stand by that score. Hades is the best game of 2020, and perhaps even one of the best games of all time. I can’t wait to see what Supergiant come up with next

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