Hades II already feels pretty complete

hades ii

When Supergiant Games said Hades II launched with more than the last game had at launch, they weren’t kidding. In the 20 hours I’ve put into the game, I feel like I’ve barely begun to scratch the surface. New systems are still being revealed, new characters appearing for the first time. There’s so much to do and there’s still more to come. It may still be in active development, but it already feels pretty complete in a lot of ways.

Which is surprising. I’m used to games in early access being very clearly early. Most of my experiences with games under that label, no matter how refined those first public builds are, always felt unfinished. Which is the appeal of early access: watching the game take shape. Obviously Hades II still has plenty of work ahead of it, but it feels like a fully-fledged game in most areas. It’s something you can easily put a ton of time into and seldom feel where it isn’t quite across the finish line yet. Placeholder assets and unfinished character portraits are the obvious examples, but in terms of something you can play and “finish,” it’s way further along than I expected.

In Hades II you play as Melinoe, daughter of Hades who was whisked away while still a newborn to escape the sudden return of Chronos, who’s decided to wage all out war against the gods, imprisoning the entirety of the underworld in the process. In the intervening years since that event, Melinoe has been trained to become a titan killer, raised in secret away from the eyes of Chronos and Olympus until the time is right to strike.

Hades II is very much more of the same. If you’ve played the last game, you know what to expect. The core hasn’t fundamentally changed. It’s extremely iterative. Getting back in the swing of things was a cinch even after not having played Hades in years. What little has changed feels more like a remixing of existing mechanics and design rather than a complete overhaul.

Melinoe plays similarly to Zagreus on the whole, but she has a few aspects that affect the overall feel. For starters, she has a pool of magic to draw upon to cast spells or reserve for permanent buffs (for that run). Instead of just mashing the attack buttons, you can now hold them to charge a spell. The spells differ depending on the weapon wielded. Her staff allows her to cast either a beam of energy both in front and behind her or a charged blast that she can aim, while the twin daggers let her teleport behind a foe for a backstab or throw a spread of knives. This also affects her cast. For Zagreus, it was just a projectile you could throw. For Melinoe, it creates a circle beneath her that immobilizes anything caught in its grasp and then detonates if charged with a bit of magic.

The addition of magic adds some new layers to combat. It’s fully restored upon entering a new room, but the limited pool you start with means you have to be considerate of how you use it. Spells deal huge damage, but are also costly. I struggled to make good use of them during my first few runs because I would either run out of magic quickly or forget to use it at all.

It feels like I have to play with more intent. As Zagreus, I was mostly able to get through almost anything by simply staying on the move. I was constantly mashing the dash button to avoid attacks and use dash strikes to start my offense or chip away at foes instead. I could zoom about the screen taking down whatever stood before me in an instant. As Melinoe, I can still clear rooms quickly, but I can’t just zig-zag around the screen as easily. I have to play a little more mindful and try to control space instead or try to lead enemies along to set them up for a spell. I can’t just dodge endlessly since Melinoe’s dash is different – it starts with a quick flash of movement and continues into a proper sprint until you let go of the dash button – so I have to be more conscious about how I’m moving about the stage.

Hades II

If Hades II really was just Hades again in totality, while it still would be a good game, the ways in which it does differ are what make Hades II exciting. Melinoe shouldn’t play exactly like Zagreus. The little adjustments I have to make to reorient myself around how Melinoe plays is precisely the sort of change that makes the game fun.

The biggest addition to Hades II by far is that there are two routes now: descending to Tartarus to kill the Titan Chronos, and ascending to Olympus to aid the gods in their fight on the surface. Of the two, only the former is “done” insofar as you can kill Chronos and complete a run. The other route only has a couple of zones right now and the story is nowhere near complete, but you can finish the game in that you can beat the final boss (or one of them?). But even with only one full path, there’s a lot to do.

So much that I’m content to just wait for the finished game to drop. I could easily keep playing a run or two every other other day and not risk running up against the limits of the current early access build, slowly poking away until the 1.0 release. But I also know how I play roguelikes. I like to have a clear goal so I can stop and move onto the next once I’ve had my fill. With Hades II planning to be in early access at least through the end of the year, I’d rather not burnout before the game is properly finished.

Callum Rakestraw is the Reviews Editor at Entertainium. You can follow him on Cohost @crakestraw.

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