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The Things You Don’t Like About Hades 2 Are Good, Actually

It's a matter of time

Supergiant

While Hades 2 is a game where weapons, boons, arcana cards, and a multitude of other elements can tug runs in different directions for every player, it’s likely that many Hades 1 players had roughly the same first experience with the game: They tried to dash, and then they tried to dash again. They discovered, to their chagrin, that they could not immediately dash a second time, but would instead begin sprinting if they kept the button held down. Something, they began to suspect, had gone horribly wrong.

This has led to calls for the return of the original game’s dash, as well as broader observations that Hades 2 doesn’t feel as good to play. Other pervasive complaints are similar: New main character Melinoë starts out too weak compared to original main character Zagreus. The new final boss is too hard compared to Hades himself from the first game. The new boons aren’t as good. Selene, the moon incarnate, is a poor replacement for the ability to call for aid from specific gods. 

In response to all of this, I’d like to echo a sentiment shared by players who – like myself – are probably freaks with close to 50 hours in Hades 2: Give it time. Just like the original Hades, Hades 2 is an onion you peel back over the course of countless runs. It’s not really fair to compare early or mid-game Melinoë to late- (and non-early access) game Zagreus. And again, as in the original, the secret best part of the process is learning to love mechanics and items that you disliked or even hated at first blush.

It’s not really fair to compare early or mid-game Melinoë to late- (and non-early access) game Zagreus.

Let’s use the dash as an example. Though double-dash was not unlocked from the very beginning of the original Hades, being able to dash a whole, whole, whole lot was a cornerstone of the game. Zagreus was a fleet-footed blur. He was so prone to darting every which way that they ought to have called him Zig-Zagreus. There was comfort in this blazing hyperactivity. As long as you remained on the move, you felt almost untouchable. Dash spam was more than just an option; it was Zagreus’ mid-battle identity. He was a berserker, dashing and slashing to relieve years of pent-up rage at his dear old dad, Hades. 

It’s understandable that players have felt distraught upon discovering that Hades 2 is more judicious with its dashes. I remember when I first realized the game had snatched away my comfort zone like a thief in the night. I thought “Oh no, am I gonna be bad at this game? Will I even be able to beat a single boss?” But as I embarked on run after run and dug deeper into Melinoë’s kit, I came to appreciate just how much she has at her disposal to compensate for her inability to fight like several competing car accidents. 

Casts and specials can take on so many interesting forms. Omega abilities – especially once powered up – feel like unleashing a tidal wave on your enemies. All of this emphasizes distance and positioning, as well as a more aware playstyle. In the game’s early goings, you can’t afford to take your eye off the ball or go on autopilot. You have to stay focused. Enemy types are designed to both get you up to speed with Melinoë’s unique capabilities and punish you for plunging in like you’re Zagreus 2.0. Instead of charging in and hammering away until anything you perceive as even vaguely nail-shaped is firmly in the ground, you have to stick and move. If enemies keep swarming you, you’ve got to remember to throw down a circle to glue their feet to the floor for a few seconds. When in doubt, hop on your (figurative) bicycle, reposition, and try again. Don’t get me wrong: This is still very much Hades. You’re still solving a series of ever-shifting puzzles one piece at a time. It’s just a different type of puzzle. 

This, in turn, fits with Melinoë’s character: She was raised almost from birth to complete her task. Poise and focus are pillars of her personality, to the point that she and others in her life worry that maybe she’s a little too locked in to enjoy life’s bounties. In that regard, Hades 2 is about peeling back both mechanical layers and those of Melinoë herself. Slowly but surely, she emerges from her shell and learns how to stop and smell the roses – or weird Chaos alien flowers – every once in a while. 

Supergiant

Melinoë’s playstyle similarly expands over time. At first I struggled to employ her arsenal holistically. I’d focus on attacks one run, specials another, or circles during a third, depending on which weapon I was wielding. Then, dozens of runs down the line, everything clicked. Using specific abilities and placing circles depending on which enemies were in front of me became second nature. Different weapons and boons, meanwhile, allowed for – and, depending on what I encountered during a run, sometimes forced – different playstyles. When I first started playing, I was laser-focused on achieving roughly the same build every run. I got mad when boons didn’t align just so. I felt like the game was wasting my time. Now, dozens of hours in, I love that there are instances where my favorite builds prove impossible, forcing me to improvise. Runs have a lot more actual variety than they did in the first game. You’ve just got to be willing to roll with the punches.  

Similarly, I initially thought the sprint felt a bit clunky, especially once I reached more hectic boss fights, like Scylla and the Sirens. But over time I’ve come to appreciate the ways sprinting opens up the game’s map design – allowing for larger, more multifaceted areas like the Fields of Mourning and the City of Ephyra – and, once sufficiently powered up, lets me literally run circles around bosses like Cerberus (and even Chronos, on a good day). I feel like Sonic The Hedgehog, zipping behind bosses’ big attacks before they even finish firing them off. But even with a wimpy vanilla sprint, there’s a thrill to the moments where you just barely outpace, say, Cerberus’ giant gout of flame. It might be a predictable attack pattern, but the way you evade it – sprinting at top speed as it practically singes the hairs on the back of your neck – feels like something out of an action movie. There’s something to be said for those tiny thrills. They keep runs interesting, even when everything seems to be going according to plan.

Supergiant’s greatest masterstroke in all of this, if you ask me, is having Chronos sporadically teleport you into Asphodel, a location from Hades 1, and forcing you to survive against enemies designed around the first game’s move set. It really drives home just how different Melinoë is from Zagreus, how much she struggles when surrounded on all sides by hazards that her older brother would have just crashed over, under, or through. But it’s also a very clear and clever wake up call. Hades 2 forces you to stay on top of a small, circular space for a sustained period of time – rather than just kill a bunch of enemies – to prevail in this encounter, and maintaining space is what Melinoë does best. So Supergiant is spelling out for you, very explicitly, how Melinoë would navigate a situation that you previously overcame hundreds of times in Zagreus’ shoes. Supergiant is demonstrating her unique strengths in addition to her weaknesses.

I enjoy the process of warming up to some of those things, of believing something might just not be for me, only to be proven wrong a dozen hours later.

After nearly 50 hours, the sprint is far from the only divisive element of Hades 2 I’ve come to appreciate. I actually love that Chronos is a titanic pain in the ass to beat. It makes his snarling snark that much more menacing, and when you finally do take him down, it’s a giant exhale. You feel shaky but triumphant. You, like Melinoë, can barely believe you did it. Comparatively speaking, beating Hades in Hades began to feel trivial after a while. I enjoy Chronos as a more mechanically credible threat. That said, to those with doubts, I would again say: Give Chronos, the Titan of time, time. Hades 2 will eventually provide you with the tools you need to beat him, even if it might feel like it’s taking a little longer than in the original game. Also, there’s always God Mode

Obviously, Hades 2 is in early access, and I have no doubt that Supergiant will tweak some of these things: damage, balance, boon effects, and even sprint responsiveness. But the core of the game – its many overlapping loops – feels very intentionally designed, down to the detail. I enjoy the process of warming up to some of those things, of believing something might just not be for me, only to be proven wrong a dozen hours later. That’s key to the experience, as far as I’m concerned. 

Put another way, when I first unlocked the Moonstone Axe, I thought it was hot garbage. Too slow to wind up and cool down. Too many openings. Just a big, clumsy liability. A couple nights ago, I pulled off a run in which I used it to down the first boss in a single-digit number of hits. I never should have doubted it. I was a fool.  

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