Let’s be honest here. Hades is a fantastic game and there’s no reason to give it anything but a recommendation. Five Stars. 10/10. To claim otherwise that Supergiant’s entry into the rogue-lite genre isn’t a masterpiece would be a complete lie, and I’m an honest man.
Overview of Hades
It’s not difficult to describe Hades on the surface – It’s a 2.5D rogue-lite game that takes place in the beautiful world of the Greek Underworld. You play as Zagreus, the edgy and cool son of Hades who just wants to leave his hometown and explore the world, but Hades oddly refuses to let you leave Tartarus and communicate with your Olympian relatives.
So naturally, you run away. Dashing through the rooms of Tartarus, fighting monsters left and right as you make your ascent to Earth. You meet colorful characters from Greek mythology, like Sisyphus and his super cool eternal punishment despite him being super kind, or eternal sad boy Orpheus who just wants to vibe in the afterlife.
Not to mention the Olympian gods, who send you their blessings to help you advance through each run, each one with their own personalities and boons to offer unique builds for every run through the layers of Hell.
One of the most unique features that Hades offers is that it’s a rogue-lite with an actual story. And like, a good one too.
Most roguelikes have a story ranging from “mom locked me in a basement and is going to kill me, by the way here are the four horsemen of the apocalypse and my dead unborn brother” to [frustrated shouting at your monitor when you’re 12 minutes into Monsoon difficulty], with gameplay superseding the story-line of the game.
The more you progress, and die, and repeat, the more the game opens up for you. New characters begin to wander the halls of Hades’ home, as well as new weapons with unique upgrade paths for each one. Each character has their own story and personality that unlocks the more you spend time to interact with them, or gift them items to strengthen that bond.
Supergiant isn’t new to the realms of excellent storytelling as well as engaging gameplay – with the hit games Bastion and Transistor under their belts, they are no strangers to fantastic storytelling. Paired with the unique genre of Roguelite games, the gameplay loop of progressing as far as you can before dying also allows the story to unfold at the pace of the player. Hades only offers one clear goal: Escape Hell, and you beat the game.
Of course, most players aren’t going to be able to pick up the game and complete it in their first attempt. Once they have shaken off their mortal coil, players see new characters and options in the world to unlock and play with, as the story unfolds with each incremental victory.
Summing Up Hades
Eventually, the game culminates in it’s “final ending” (Although I think there is a third ending after you escape a certain number of times), which is not only completely satisfying, even still adds further content to explore within the game.
Generally, I don’t play a game all the way to completion for a review. In this case, our Hades review was epic. I’ve logged close to 55 hours of the game, and I still pick it up for a few runs every couple days.
I don’t think there is any other way to sum up how I really feel about this game, and I wholeheartedly recommend it.
This GRIS review looks at the first game developed by Spanish team Nomada Studio; the result of a meeting at a party between some triple-A designers, and an artist who expressed a desire to make games. Devolver Digital are the publishers of GRIS, and looking at their back catalog, Nomada Studio are in good company.
Looking at the numbers, GRIS has sold well over a million units since being released in December 2018. In that time, it has consistently remained in the top 10 most popular indie games on Steam. These numbers would suggest the game is a bona fide hit. Or is it?
Years ago, I took the lady to a posh cinema for Valentine’s day. There, flunkies would whisper in your ear when delivering a glass of chilled wine and some Vol-au-vents as you reclined in an enormous chair. The only trouble with this was the completely inappropriate choice of Valentine movie on offer for this romantic date; it was either 12 Years a Slave or The Wolf of Wall Street; both of which being potential deal spoilers. Playing GRIS is a little like that date…
GRIS means grey in Spanish and whilst the game starts off all binary colors of black and white, the choices GRIS makes in being a game are anything but grey and ordinary. There is no death, no dialogue, no killing, no enemies to fight and color bleeds into the game gradually. At its heart GRIS is a platformer and a fairly simple one at that.
Playing the game feels like designers want you to experience something here – not be perplexed by it. To that end, puzzles are simple, levels are short, and the game can be completed in one sitting.
The art in the game is genuinely wondrous; color oozes into the game gradually as you progress. It is a beautiful game to see in this respect. The movement of your character is fluid, graceful and interacts with the environment seamlessly.
The camera zooms in and out at various points to show you goals, destinations and moments when you have to tackle larger sections. The viewport zooms back in for tunneled sections and works so well that there is no disappointment in being delivered to either camera point.
GRIS is played with a controller, or keyboard if you are on PC, but you will find there are no instructions. On the PC facing no help at the start I gave the WASD keys a shot and discovered I could move left and right. To begin with all you can do is walk in this 2D platformer, you cannot even jump.
Objective Of The Game
The object is to work your way out of the game by collecting orbs of light scattered around the world to build bridges in the sky and so gradually climb out of the game world and back to where you began. It does a good job of presenting a sufficient puzzle for you. It is a little too simple at times, but this helps GRIS to avoid the plague of many platformers – that of tiresome repetition attempting to complete that one jump sequence again…and again.
You are gradually introduced to new movement skills: jumping, becoming a stone block, floating and singing.
As you move through the levels the ways these skills can be used varies and develops in different environments.
The designers never want you to have to look far or get stuck or bored and the way platforming gradually changes through the game keeps you well involved.
You will get about four hours of gameplay out of GRIS, but there is no real replay value in it. Once complete, the main menu opens levels to replay but you cannot do so with all of your acquired skills… you are reset for each level. A bit pointless there then.
Elsewhere you can access some artwork and it is so nice that you might well take a screenshot for your wallpaper (which I have done for the purpose of this GRIS review, incidentally). You also get access to the game music. Whilst it sounds like a bridge ripped from a terribly clichéd and achingly worthy Coldplay song and something I winced at to begin with, it does suit the subject matter of the game well.
GRIS Review – Is It Worth Buying?
The problem with GRIS is the subject matter.
The game is about grief, depression or mental collapse, and your character metaphorically shatters, falls down into a dark pit and has to work through problems to rebuild herself. Although done well and evocatively, it may not be an especially happy prospect to indulge in.
I can admire the beauty and it was nice to have a gentle game so very different to what I might normally play, but we all come to games for a variety of reasons, to frighten ourselves, for the excitement of combat, for the speed of play, or the high of successful collaboration in today’s plethora of co-op games. What I doubt most of us pick up a game for, is to experience grief or mental breakdown…it just isn’t enjoyable in that sense.
For some it will probably hit like swinging brick and be their GOTY. For others, like me, it will be a good game albeit with some faults. Certainly though, there is enough great stuff going on here in a coherent, smooth and well-constructed gaming experience that will have gamers very much looking forward to what Nomada Studio do next.
Should you play it? Well the movies on offer didn’t spoil my Valentine’s date and the flaws of GRIS will not spoil the overall pleasure of the gameplay on offer here, you just probably won’t return to it. So yes, go ahead, it will be different to most things you play and that’s probably a good thing.
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