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Experience an Epic Underworld Adventure in ‘Hades II’

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If you were not one of the many people attempting to keep their sanity during quarantine by playing Supergiant’s dungeon crawler game Hades, then allow me to catch you up: it was a really good game. It had witty writing, an amazing voice cast, and excellent mechanics. It had hot people. What more could you ask for? Apparently, you can ask for another Hades because that’s exactly what we’re getting. The long-awaited sequel, aptly named Hades II, has finally dropped in early access.

In Hades II we play as Melinoë, Princess of the underworld, sister to Zagreus, and a powerful witch who is about to give Chronos what he asked for. Set sometime after the events of Hades, Chronos has escaped from his imprisonment in the underworld and captured the head honcho Hades himself. Now, Melinoë must travel through the underworld to free her father, save Olympus, and kill the Titan of time.

Is Hades II worth playing? The answer is an unequivocal yes, but for more details, keep on reading.

[Warning: mild spoilers for Hades II are below!]

Hades II is an excellent game sequel

From the moment Hades II was announced, I boarded the hype train at full speed. I adored Hades so much that it became a personality trait in 2020. I clocked somewhere around 130 hours played to try and get every single hidden scene and scrap of dialogue I could, and I don’t even think I found everything. It was me, my Switch, and Zagreus dying for the 700th time against the world. Needless to say, my expectations were high for a sequel. Excellent news is that my expectations have been met.

In many ways, this game functions the same as the first. If you played the first Hades game, you know the drill: you are going to die so many times, and you’re going to love it. As a rogue-like dungeon-crawler franchise, the Hades games’ pivotal gimmick is how many times you complete the same level in different ways. Much like the first game, Hades II makes sure that each of your many, many attempts to clear the dungeon is a unique experience.

Each run will give you different character interactions, boons, and gameplay. It is truly staggering how many dialogue variations Supergiant Games has recorded, especially for an unfinished project. In fact, it’s kind of ridiculous that this is an unfinished project. Just about everything that made Hades a good game is back and expanded upon, and Hades was already an incredibly expansive game. You can’t be too mad when you die and have to start all over because there’s so much to explore.

Almost all the characters you know and love from the original are back with new, shiny character designs, but we also have quite a few completely unfamiliar characters. Joining our cast of gods are Hecate, Selene, Nemesis, and more. Each of these gods has new abilities for you to experiment with, with plenty of combinations of boons, but Hades II wasn’t content to stop there. Many gifts have been adjusted to Melinoë’s fighting style, so some of our old friend’s boons have also been given a makeover. Even though they are the same mechanics, this alone leads to a different feeling game. If you had your favorite godly assists figured out for Hades’ son, you might change your mind for his daughter.

Melinoe and Hecate in Hades II
Hecate and Melinoë in Hades II (Supergiant Games)

There are also plenty of new NPCs to befriend from the famous Odysseus to my favorite, Dora the Listless Shade. As is typical of the franchise, all of them have their own unique charm and lore.

Most importantly: You can invite most of these characters to take a bath with you. Supergiant knows its fanbase well. As part of the bonding mechanic, you can now gift characters bath salts and trigger relationship-building cutscenes. Of course, you need to make sure you get close to the NPCs before you invite them to a hot spring, but if you put in the work you have options. I thought the first game was wild for giving us the option of putting Zagreus in a poly bisexual throuple, but Melinoë has about six possible partners, maybe more. Let the ship wars begin.

I rescind my earlier statement. The most important aspect of the new characters is all the new animals you can pet. Fans of the best boy, Cerberus, rejoice. Since Melinoë is a witch, you now have the option of unlocking familiars. So far, we have the potential of befriending Frinos the Frog and Toula the Cat. I love them both dearly. These animal friends can assist Melinoë in battle and accompany her on her quest.

Everything has been remixed and expanded. You can still pick between a select set of weapons, but instead of unlocking them, now you must craft them. Instead of having the ‘call’ ability when you take enough damage, you have ‘Hex,’ which charges when you use magic. Even the dash button is different; Melinoë flows where Zagreus sprints. It all feels natural because all change stems from a different main character with contrasting abilities and a unique narrative arc.

Melinoë vs. Zagreus

Melinoë’s witchiness and overall character are a big component in setting this game apart from the original. Hades II is an interesting inversion of its predecessor. Instead of helping Zagreus make a series of desperate attempts to escape the underworld, and cause his father a fair amount of property damage, you’re helping Melinoë venture into the underworld to save their father. The map is inverted, with you ending where you started in the first game.

If you manage to hold back your frustration at dying so many times, your anger will come out in full force when you see that Chronos has ruined all your work decorating the halls in the first game, and now it’s all boring and yellow. Also, he won’t let you pause during his boss fight. I understand why Melinoë’s catchphrase is “Death to Chronos,” I need that guy decimated. I worked hard on picking out that wallpaper.

This change reflects the differences in our protagonist’s internal journey. As with all good games, the gameplay is there to serve the narrative, rather than the other way around. While our protagonists have wonderfully complementary character designs and matching melodious British accents, the serious Melinoë is very different from Zagreus’s “I hate you dad, I named your Hydra ‘Lernie’ to spite you” energy. Melinoë is diplomatic, organized, and hard-working. She has a very idyllic view of her family, as opposed to Zagreus’s cynicism. She’s trying to break in, not out. It makes for a very interesting companion piece to the already messy family drama of Hades lore.

Additionally, she plays differently. She’s much easier to hurt than Zagreus, but she has a truly ridiculous range of abilities. As mentioned before, her witchiness means you can get familiars, but her powers also give you a range of new play styles. You now have access to a giant cauldron where you learn alchemy and incantations. You have plenty of new weapons, all of which have ranged options. Gone are the days of Zagreus’ brawling, now you need a lot more strategy. If fighting as Zagreus is playing checkers, fighting as Melinoë is playing chess.

Hades II Melinoe
Melinoë in Hades II (Supergiant Games)

And of course, our central villain is different. Hades was about beating up your dad. Hades II is about beating up your grandpa. Chronos is a much more difficult villain to beat than death-dad. He cycles between so many different attacks it’s ludicrous. He’s got a time-cutting slash and a Scythe Cyclone. Chronos uses his weapon as a boomerang, he teleports, it’s infuriating. I need Grandpa dead. Chronos makes for a deeply invigorating and frustrating boss fight. It’s the cherry on top of an already great game.

Things to change in Hades II before the full release

Hades II is basically perfect, and it’s not even finished yet. For the most part, other than finishing the incomplete aspects, there’s not much more I want from this game. Some of the characters still have stand-in art for example, although even that seems to be a joke. Narcissus not yet having an official portrait is a wonderful irony.

The only thing I would cut is the effect they’ve added that slows a player down if you complete the game too fast for the story. I don’t believe in punishing players for being too good at the game. Part of the appeal of the original is that you could finish the main storyline in days or months and still have oodles of content either way. I hope they cut that out for the final game and let people choose their own pace. I am thrilled to see what more they could add to an already incredible game. If any game is worth checking out this year it’s Hades II.

Where to play Hades II from Supergiant Games

You can find Hades II early access on Steam or the Epic Games Store. There’s no official date for the final release, but judging by the release schedule for Hades, we can probably expect at least a year before we get the finished product.

Have you played Hades or the early access for Hades II yet? What did you think? Let us know on social media @mycosmiccircus or in The Cosmic Circus Discord!

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