In 2020, Hades came out with a 1.0 launch, finally coming out of Early Access over on the Epic Games Store. That came with an arrival on Steam and Nintendo Switch. What was a long-awaited and anticipated title was, at long last, in a "final" form, and it delivered. Hades is, undeniably, an all-around incredible game. Moreover, it did something amazing here at Shacknews. For players who favor different aspects of games, from challenge, to music, to art, Hades was one of the few roguelike indies we could mostly agree upon to have caught all of our interests in some way or another.
If you haven’t heard the praise we have for Hades, be sure to check out our official awarding of it in the video below.
And with that, let’s take a deep dive into what makes Hades so good on all fronts. First-off, the broad strokes. This game looks gorgeous, sounds gorgeous, has a compelling story, an easy-to-understand gameplay loop, and a progression which lets you take steps forward no matter how much you succeed or fail. Visuals are a conversation you can hear all about in our Shacknews Best Art Style award, which Hades won as well. Going off of that conversation, Hades characters are gorgeously well done and the animated avatars of them in-game are none-too-shabby either.
Then there is the narrative of the game. Hades is one of the few roguelike games where progression isn’t kept from players behind the condition of success. The narrative moves forward regardless of whether you live or die, and it’s very often influenced by factors of the latter. Killed by a Fury? She’ll tell you all about it later in Hades’ Hall. Did you kill the Fury yourself? She’ll be pissed to see you back at home base. Did you run into a certain pupper pal out there? Then they might not be back home when you get there due to the long trek back. There are so many narrative elements in Hades triggered by every little thing that you do that it hardly ever actually feels like you’re at a standstill scraping for just a little bit extra to make the story continue. And gloriously, even if you are destined to fail, it makes the sting of defeat palpable to people for which that would otherwise be a turnoff on this game.
And then there’s just the absolutely incredibly variety of gameplay that Hades offers - the adaptability in the field and the character build-up that players can do between runs. Boons from gods carry vastly different specialties and effects for your attacks. Weapon upgrades improve your capabilities. Temporary currencies are used to give you precious upgrades and increases of life wherever capable. Likely, everyone will develop their preferred boons, but even when you don’t get what you want, there’s the opportunity to take what you get and make it work well. Fighting each room of varied foes, getting to difficult bosses, and defeating them when you got what you needed to make your gameplan work is just fantastic.
Finally for gameplay, there’s the permanent currency you keep when things don’t work out. Hades is filled with systems and rewards that allow you to increase the potential of your character begin their next attempt at ascension a more fruitful one. You can ease your burden little by little every time back and even unlock some neat secrets that just open up more of the story and invite you deeper into this well-crafted world.
Last, but not least, Hades’ aural elements are the cherry on top of everything else good here. Each of the characters in the game is fully voiced and done quite well and Darren Korb did a great job of both bringing Zagreus to life, but also producing yet another fantastic Supergiant Games soundtrack. Hades’ music is an incredible blend of heavy, moody, oppressive, but also riveting and inspiring at time and happily chill at others as you battle against the denizens of the underworld.
Put it all together and you have a game that nearly everyone could find something they loved when they gave it a chance. If you’re a story person, Hades can cater to you. If you’re looking for a beautiful looking and sounding game, Hades is a gorgeous tapestry on both fronts. If you want a challenge, Hades can become as hard as you want it to be. Everything Hades does reaches out to players that wouldn’t normally spend time on this type of game. They made the grind of a roguelike bearable and did it in a way that every other developer really ought to pay attention to. And all those things and more are what serve to make Hades the Shacknews Indie Game of the Year of 2020.
Check out the other winners from The Shacknews Awards 2020 in our Year of the Games: 2020 article.