Hades Review (PS5)
Hades finally makes its debut on the PlayStation and Xbox, something that’s been much requested ever since it was first released for the Switch back in 2020. Hades for the PlayStation and Xbox will bring in some upgrades that take advantage of the hardware, which will see gameplay run better among other nice-to-haves like DualSense support.
To be quite frank, there’s nothing more to be said about the game that hasn’t already been said. Our review of the Nintendo Switch release calls it amazing and addictive, and multiple outlets have actually named Hades as their Game of the Year, signifying the importance and effect that this game has on the genre and the industry as a whole.
Hades is a roguelike game that puts the player in the shoes of Zagreus, the son of Hades, as he attempts to make his way out of the underworld. Rooms across multiple locations are randomly generated, and to proceed to the next you’ll need to vanquish foes that stand in your way. You’ll start off with limited health and power, but will get stronger through permanent upgrades that allow you to go further and finally escape the clutches of your father.
Over the course of many runs, Zagreus will learn about the Olympians who aid him in his quest, the colorful personalities of the underworld denizens, as well as other secrets that would give further meaning to his endeavors.
I’ll start off by saying 2 things (just 2) that I didn’t like about this PlayStation and Xbox release of Hades. First, I had to say goodbye to my Switch save file, which had around a hundred hours worth of game time. There’s no cross-save functionality here, so if you’re a returning player, get ready to do everything again.
Second, a big part of its charm is lost due to the game not being playable on the go. I understand that there are roundabout ways (remote play, etc), but the Switch portability really is something else.
It is very, very hard to find fault in this game, and I opted to let you know about these 2 things right off the bat because these are literally my only complaints.
Everything else about Hades is pure bliss.
Hades gets so many things right that immediately makes it resonate with a lot of players, even with those who hate the roguelike / roguelite classification in general.
The action in Hades is fast and snappy. You get a hack and slash combat system that is easy to pick up and enjoy, with 2 attack buttons, a dash button, and a cast button that makes up most of your control scheme. Attacks are punchy and juicy thanks to the fantastic visual effects that make everything pop on screen.
Over the course of your runs, you’ll get boons from the Gods that modify attack properties depending on who it’s from. Poseidon brings crashing waves to your arsenal, allowing you to push back enemies with your every swing. Dionysus, the God of Wine, gives the Hangover effect to your attacks, dealing damage over time to enemies.
There are multiple weapons to use and keepsakes to unlock in the game, all of which have additional layers to unravel. Keepsakes grant you an advantage headed into combat, while weapon aspects change up the style of play dramatically, adding even more dynamic elements into play without overshadowing other mechanics.
The magic in Hades’ combat system lies in its ability to let the player choose which boons to take, resulting in countless combinations, one more effective than the other. It’s a delicate balancing act to optimize your build, but not punishing if you choose the “wrong” boon. In fact, there’s really no wrong choice in the game, only ones that synergize with your build better.
All of this is accented by an utterly sublime audio experience. Voice acting performance in the game is top-notch, highlighted by Darren Korb’s work on Zagreus. The rest of the cast is no slouch either, with performances by the likes of Logan Cunningham as the booming voice of Hades and Avalon Penrose as Megaera, among others.
The Hades soundtrack is also a notable high point in the game, composed by Darren Korb (yes, him again!). From the guitar riffs in “Out of Tartarus” to the electrifying “God of the Dead” boss battle track, each is such a pleasure to listen to and really brings the battles in the game to life.
In between all the mix of metal and rock, you get gems like Good Riddance that really show off the variety and personality of the game.
While storytelling isn’t particularly a strong suit for similar games in the genre, Hades flips the script and employs a drip-feed of information to the player every time a run starts and ends. Each time you interact with the personalities in-game, you’re treated to a short conversation that carries out through multiple instances, strengthening the desire to push further in the game to find out more.
Deeper conversations are unlocked as you present Nectar and Ambrosia to the denizens of the underworld, and you’ll find even more upgrades as you go along. There’s even a fishing and “house renovation” mechanic sprinkled in for good measure.
4K is the way
Of course, the most obvious advantage of this release compared to the Switch version lies in its performance, thanks to the more powerful hardware from the PlayStation and Xbox.
Initially released on the PC, we already know what it is like to see Hades perform flawlessly. The Switch version is a great port, but there are some frame drops here and there during very busy sequences that ruin an almost perfect 60fps experience.
Thanks to the more powerful hardware, the PlayStation 4 / Xbox One version runs at 1080p 60fps, while the PlayStation 5 / Xbox Series version will take you to 4K 60fps. The performance here is practically flawless, and hardly a noticeable frame drop as far as my eyes could tell.
Perhaps the best part is experiencing Hades in 4K, bringing to life these hand-drawn characters and environments in stunning detail that really makes you appreciate the work Supergiant has put into the game.
The PlayStation 5 version stands out ever so slightly, thanks in part to the DualSense controller. Hades employs some implementation of haptic feedback but is too subtle for it to actually make an impact on your gameplay experience. It’s a nice touch, but I would have appreciated a bit more of it.
What we liked:
- Near unlimited boon combinations assures a fresh run almost every time.
- Impeccable voice acting and soundtrack make for a sublime aural experience.
- Progression and pacing done right and done well.
- Visual quality and creative direction is superb.
What we didn’t like:
- No cross-save functionality, meaning you’ll have to repeat your progress if you’ve played before.
- Loses the charm of portable play from the Switch.
- DualSense implementation is too subtle to make an impact.
Verdict: Buy It!
Hades is a triumph from Supergiant Games, and despite losing the charm of portable play from the Switch, seeing it all play out in glorious 4K is more than worth the trade-off. Hades is the culmination of the lessons learned from the Supergiant’s previous releases, resulting in a masterful effort that will appeal even to players who aren’t fans of the genre.
Replay value is immense, easily justifying the measly $25 price tag for such as masterpiece. There’s a lot to unlock and uncover, and your runs will almost always remain fresh due to the boon system and the eventual heat gauge challenges.
Supergiant has set the bar very high for the genre, and it’ll be quite hard to see a similar game top this one anytime soon. With all parts of the game coming together in such a cohesive package, Hades is such a pleasure to experience.
Overall, we can’t recommend the game enough, and despite spending a hundred hours on a previous release, we’d be more than glad to take the journey with Zagreus again. And again. And again.
*Hades was reviewed on a PlayStation 5 via a review code provided by the publisher.