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Hades 2 is a magical, massive Early Access worth getting into now

Supergiant Games had a titan of a task ahead of itself in making a sequel to Hades. 2020’s rogue-lite adventure was arguably their largest game yet, and with Hades 2Supergiant would be doing something they’d never done before: make a sequel.

After a promising Technical Test, I got some hands-on time with the Early Access build that’s out now. Not only is it bigger and better than I could’ve expected, but it’s the rare Early Access I’d actually encourage people to get in on the ground floor of, whether you’re already a Hades fan or not. Even at this early stage, it’s one of the best things I’ve played this year.

Death to Chronos

Let’s start from the top. In Hades 2, you play Melinoë, the Princess of the Underworld. If the attire, garb, and attitude weren’t dead giveaways, she’s brother to Hades 1 protagonist Zagreus, and daughter to Hades and Persephone. Her grandfather, the Titan Chronos, has returned and wrought revenge upon the House of Hades. Taken under the care of Hecate, Melinoë has been training, and your story starts with her setting out on the path of revenge; to dive back to where this all started, save your family, and kill time itself.

Screenshot by Destructoid

Her path is fraught with peril. You will hack and slash, defeating enemies and boss Guardians alike but you will, inevitably, die. Death’s not the end, though. Each setback sees Melinoë return to shadow and reappear at the Crossroads, where she can recuperate, chat with her companions and comrades, then improve her equipment and abilities for the next run.

This rogue-lite loop has become a standard fair framework these days, but again, Supergiant shows its talent for weaving themes and stories throughout the experience. Some runs might last half-an-hour, others die out in ten minutes, but each one feels like a step forward. You can collect reagents and resources to unlock more weapons or concoct new Incantations at your bubbling cauldron. (Hades 2 leans into its witchy vibes, and does so quite well.) Speaking to the Olympians who provide you aid through their boons can advance the plot, as can finding new locales with regions you might not have seen in prior runs.

Artemis, Goddess of the Hunt, in Hades 2
Screenshot by Destructoid

Weaving a tale

Hades already laid the blueprint. What’s impressed me with Hades 2 is the ways in which Supergiant expands and builds upon its foundations. There’s still plenty of time spent talking to unusually attractive gods and legends, and many of them are new faces that didn’t appear in the previous game. You can still pass out Nectar to win them over and acquire valuable Keepsakes to influence your run’s rewards and stats.

Yet side areas of the Crossroads, like the Hot Springs, which can be built through the cauldron and used to have a nice soak with your pals, add additional opportunities for both character development and a surprising degree of character vulnerability. Some of the heaviest moments in the first Hades were when characters opened up about their circumstances or past. Hades 2 smartly adds even more opportunities for that, while also developing a steady, compelling roster of gods for your home base.

The themes of Hades 2 are also a bit different this time around. For Zagreus, his escape runs were attempts to cope with a broken home and familial trauma. In Melinoë’s case, though, she’s had to find a family at the Crossroads. An early flashback scene shows how she was raised by this assembled band of fighters, learning to fight from a young age. Themes of inheriting a legacy, coping with loss, and fighting an uncertain future – the unstoppable ravages of time – ahead. While this is a tale of revenge, it’s also about how one copes with the inevitable progress of time, and the changes time brings.

Eris, Strife Incarnate, Hades 2
Screenshot by Destructoid

I promise, though, it’s not all heavy. Many characters have made me laugh and smile. The Olympian gods are their usual selves, enhanced by the addition of newer faces like Hephaestus, Apollo, and Hestia. Dora, the little shade that hangs out in Melinoë’s tent, is already a favorite character, aptly filling the role Dusa played in Hades. It’s surprising that, even on story alone, Hades 2 feels massive.

On the air tonight

The scope extends to the rest of Hades 2, as well. The first Hades launched into Early Access with just Tartarus and Asphodel. Hades 2, meanwhile, doesn’t just have a full “run” locked in, but a second one to unlock. Without going too far into details, Melinoë both gets to dive down, and venture into new territory for the denizens of the underworld, all in pursuit of the power to stop Chronos.

Once you start fighting through those areas, it might feel daunting to see how much there is to do in Hades 2 already. Five weapons are in the game right now, alongside many of the features you might expect if you had played the 1.0 launch of Hades. Aspects, helpers, plenty of boss fights, and more waiting to be found. I learned about a gameplay feature the other day from another one of our writers who’s been playing, and I’ve put tons of time in.

Screenshot by Destructoid

The weapons themselves, as I outlined in my Technical Test write-up, are pretty solid. I’m still figuring my way around some of them, but the Sister Blades and Argent Skull are already favorites. Each one also interacts with Melinoë’s unique magic system, letting her charge up for Omega casts to add effects and power at a cost. It’s made each run with each weapon feel unique, even before aspects start to get introduced.

Elemental options add a little extra reason to try new boons, offering benefits through Infusions. A reward may offer you a hefty chunk of health if you acquire at least four Water-aspect boons, for example, and different gods offer different variety of elements. There are a lot of reasons to break out of your comfort zone, and as someone who got very comfortable with specific builds and playstyles in Hades 1I’ve enjoyed the newfound challenge in Hades 2.

The witching hour

There are some places where the Early Access nature of Hades 2 is still obvious. Certain characters don’t have their portraits implemented yet, or only exist as a concept art sketch. (This was changing as recently as days before the EA launch though, so I wouldn’t be surprised if that gets taken care of fairly fast.)

In a few cases, I felt like I was getting a story scene well after, and in one case before, I’d flagged it. And a few times, I had some odd funkiness with how Melinoë would hitch on some terrain, or how a hitbox appeared to me.

Screenshot by Destructoid

Despite all that, I can wholeheartedly recommend picking up Hades 2, and doing so now, rather than waiting for a 1.0. A lot of people, myself included, waited for the “full launch” of Hades to play it. I was concerned about getting invested in a story that wasn’t finished, and wanting to get the full experience.

Hades 2 already feels like a hearty experience, even in the moments where I can tell it’s not complete yet. Already, this is a stellar follow-up to Supergiant’s tale of gods and families, and if the road only goes up from here, this feels like another hit in the making. That’s without even getting into Darren Korb’s work on the Hades 2 soundtrack, which is phenomenal; the use of familiar motifs and ideas from the first game, while incorporating eerie, spritely, ethereal concepts like synths and wailing saxophones works so well, building up the witchy vibes even further.

Every looped night, every sleek new combination and build I put together, every narrow victory over a tough boss, even every tree slammed into a waiter for a terrain kill, feels fantastic. And sure, you could wait it out just to get the whole package. But what’s here now in the Early Access of Hades 2 is one of the best games I’ve played so far this year, and so far, it seems like it will only get better as the months go on. Killing Time has rarely been quite as enjoyable as it is Hades 2.

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