Melinoe being shot at by a witch.
Supergiant Games

The worst thing Hades 2 could do is ruin Hades. 

The original Hades, a critically acclaimed action game by Supergiant Games, is one of the best games of all time, and it would be a shame for the highly replayable roguelike to be surpassed by a sequel that is just Hades, but more. Thankfully, it doesn’t look like Hades 2 will fall into that trap.

I’ve been playing the technical test of Hades 2 over the past few days. I’ve battled through the first area of the game, unlocked the two weapons available, and sipped the various different systems available to players. I’ve managed to beat the first boss three times, but from the moment I took control of Melinoë, princess of the Underworld and the protagonist of Hades 2, I knew the game wasn’t content to just build on the past.

Note: We’ll be discussing some elements of Hades 2 that you’ll find in the first area of the game, including new characters and systems. 

Different, not better

The main character dashing in Hades 2.
Supergiant Games

As a self-proclaimed Hades veteran, I was shocked at first by Hades 2. I’ve put well over 100 hours into the original, and that number isn’t just a cop-out. I have 80 hours on Steam, but I also played early access on the Epic Games Store, completed the main quest on my Switch, and even dabbled in a few runs when the game was available on Game Pass. About a week before writing this, I beat it once again on a PS5, and even after so much time in the game, I still search for excuses to squeeze another run in.

Hades 2 forced me to think differently, and that started with the dash. Controlling Zagreus in Hades, I was accustomed to carving up the battlefield with a series of aggressive diagonal dashes. Melinoë doesn’t slash; she flows. The fully 3D character model allows you to drift in and out of a dash, looping around opponents rather than circling them through straight lines. It’s not inherently better — it’s just different.

Dashing alone isn’t all that separates Melinoë. Zagreus is a berserker, but Melinoë is a tactician. Your cast is no longer a powerful ranged ability that lodges into foes. It’s now an area-of-effect (AoE) ability that can ensnare enemies at chokepoints. Your special ability, at least with the two weapons available in the technical test, is a ranged attack, rather than the empowered AoE available with most of Zagreus’ weapons.

An Omega attack in Hades 2.
Supergiant Games

In addition, Melinoë has access to new Omega abilities, which charge up by holding down the attack, cast, or special button. These powerful moves are kept in check by a limited pool of magic, which you can replenish either through fountains found during your run, or with various boons available from the gods you’ll encounter.

Playing through the technical test got me thinking about The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom last year. As much as I enjoyed that game, it felt like Breath of the Wild, but more. Bigger scope, more things, but the core of the game was the same. There’s more in Hades 2, but it’s already beginning to carve out its own identity that can stand alongside the original.

The remix

Arcana cards in Hades 2.
Supergiant Games

A lot of elements of the original are remixed here. For instance, the mirror where you’d purchase permanent upgrades in Hades has been replaced with a tarot card system. Unlocking a card opens up adjacent options, and each card has a cost, limiting how many you can have enabled in your initial runs. There are only nine cards in the technical test, but promise of more, and you can upgrade how many you can have equipped. I’m interested to see how this system scales up with the full release.

Similarly, you can concoct upgrades for your runs in the hub area of the game, the Crossroads, which echoes of the House Contractor in Hades. You can add fountains to your runs that restore health, for example, as well as an upgrade that alerts you of nearby resources whenever you clear a room.

Incantations available in Hades 2.
Supergiant Games

The most signficant remixing has to be the boons, though. You’ll encounter familiar faces like Zeus, Poseidon, and Aphrodite — along with a new cast of gods — but their boons are different. Demeter, for example, can conjure a cloud that inflicts the Frost status on enemies as you sprint, rather than shooting out a cloud each time you dash.

Going beyond

Although Hades 2 feels like its own unique game already, there are still new systems here. Something you’ll immediately notice is that the game has a much more complex currency system. In addition to chamber rewards, you can craft tools allowing you to dig, mine, and pick resources throughout each run. You’re only able to equip one tool at a time — alongside your weapon — limiting what resources you can collect each run.

I’m not sure how all of these resources intersect yet. One of the abilities you can unlock early on allows you to track resources for recipes at your caldron in the Crossroads, but I’m not sure how complex or varied these recipes will become. In addition, you can gift Nectar to non-playable characters (NPC) to rank up your relationship like you did in the original game, but giving them a gift pulls up a large inventory menu. It looks like you’ll have more gifting options, perhaps by giving particular gifts to certain NPCs.

The garden in Hades 2.
Supergiant Games

In addition to collecting resources, you can grow them. Some early upgrades allow you to plant seeds you find on your runs, which will grow in the Crossroads while you’re away. It doesn’t look like a complex management sim like Cult of the Lamb, but there’s still promise of some sort of metagame to engage with between runs.

During your runs, there are a few new chambers. If you stumble upon the Silken Fineries, you can craft temporary armor. This soaks up some damage, and while you have the armor, you’ll get a buff. For example, the Azure Dress gives you 40 extra health and allows you to restore 5 magic every second.

Armor upgrades available in Hades 2.
Supergiant Games

You can also pick up a Hex. This is similar to your Call in the original game, but it works a little differently. Instead of charging by taking damage, you’ll charge up your Hex each time you use magic. After using the required amount within a room, you’ll be able to use your Hex.

As you might suspect, there are also new gods with their own slate of boons, as well as specific status effects for each of them. I’ll leave you to discover those on your own, though.

Hades 2 is the first sequel that developer Supergiant Games has ever created, and it’s already off to a great start. It manages to enhance the original without invalidating it, all while establishing its own identity. I’m looking forward to many more runs when the game launches into early access soon.

You can sign up for the technical test now, and Supergiant says it will continually add more players to the test over time. The studio says the game will launch into early access after the technical test, which it hopes takes “longer than a week, but less than a month.” Still, the developers have made it clear they will take as much time as they need with the technical test.

Editors’ Recommendations

Source link