‘Hades II’ Proves Lightning Can Strike Twice

It feels foolish to expect a lot from Hades II. Supergiant Games’ first Greek-mythology-inspired roguelike was so delightfully weird it seemed unbeatable. It wasn’t. After several hours spent playing the game, which was released in Early Access last week, I can report that Hades II isn’t as good as its predecessor—it’s better. Yes, you should absolutely play it, provided you’ve already played through and beaten Hades. Need more convincing? Here are just a few (very spoiler-y, you’ve been warned) of its delights.

Ready or Not, Hence I Go

Hades II follows largely the same basic format as its predecessor. You play as Melinoë, the little sister of Hades‘ hero Zagreus. You hack and slash your way through various realms, which are more expansive than in the first game. You pray to the RNG gods and hope that your various boons and Daedalus hammer weapon upgrades give you the luck you need to complete your run. And at the end, at least some of the time, you fight a big scary boss that has two phases and the power to break the fourth wall.

It’s important to underline that these two games, while obviously similar, are not the same. Hades II expands on everything that made the first version a fan-beloved hit. You’re not just a kid trying to escape your dad’s house and find your mother on the surface. You’re a witch facing seemingly insurmountable pressure to save her entire family and (possibly) the world as she knows it. Melinoë’s headmistress, Hecate, has tasked her with killing Chronos, the Titan of Time. Oh, also, the three Fates have been kidnapped, and it’s up to you to figure out where they’re at. You aren’t a surly kid that’s mad at his dad. You’re a woman with several massive scores to settle.

Play How You Wanna Play

Starting with the basics, there are five unlockable weapons that can accompany you on your runs, including a staff, a set of knives, a fun set of torches, a skull-slash-gun, and a hefty, powerful, slow axe. But there are also tools that you can build. Yes, Hades II has farming. And rocks to mine. And Shades to compel. Be still my cozy-game-loving heart.

During your runs, you’ll come across resources called Reagents that will give you the ability to cast powerful incantations at your community cauldron in the home base. Maybe you’ll cast a spell to unlock some more health. Maybe you’ll figure out how to bring an animal familiar with you on your runs. These Reagent-gathering missions serve to make each outing feel fruitful, no matter how early on you die. Your outings can also be affected by the weather. If it’s raining, different vegetation can appear. Melinoë also has access to her own Altar, where she can unlock Tarot-style cards to buff her runs. Channel Omega abilities when you’re fighting to slow time down and decimate your enemies before they even know what’s happening.

Tweaks and tools like these expand on something I loved about this series from the very beginning: There’s a playstyle for every player.

As Above, (Not) So Below

The side character designs and stories are somehow even more appealing than they were in the first Hades. You can uncover the tragic love story between the original himbo Narcissus and his mournful counterpart Echo, or get to know powerful witches like Circe and Medea. You’ll meet different gods and goddesses, like Hestia and Hephaestus, or my personal favorite, Hera (and her Hitch ability). Perhaps you’ll happen upon Arachne, who spins you armored dresses while lamenting the gods that cursed her, or maybe you’ll stumble upon Icarus and his mechanical wings with his treasures that tempt you to figuratively fly too close to the sun. And there aren’t just a few rooms to travel through, because your mission spans the eerie realms of the Underworld as well as on the Surface.

There are definite callbacks to the first Hades—for example, occasionally Chronos will teleport you to Asphodel, and the final fight takes place in the House of Hades. The sassy sailor Schelemus is still there to wallop and test your weapons before you embark each night. Eris, also known as Strife Incarnate, will try to kill you with the Adamant Rail—a weapon that Zagreus used to wield. And Hypnos, God of Sleep, mysteriously slumbers in the corner of the home base known as the Crossroads. Even still, Melinoë is by and large her own character, forced to reckon with the unrelenting pressure of saving her entire family—including those residing on Mount Olympus.

But what’s familiar often has a twist. Take, for instance, the ability to unlock elemental infusions with various boons. If you’ve got many fire-based boons activated, you might be able to massively increase your damage resistance. Or the Mourning Fields of the Underworld, where you can decide between sticking around for more rewards, or racing to beat the boss … a certain three-headed puppy that has a very different attitude these days.

Siren Song

There are new fun game modes to unlock too, like Chaos’ trials, which give you a predetermined loadout and test your skills in different areas. Another fun new addition comes in the form of your Hex, a boon granted by the Moon herself that offers wildly powerful spells once you’ve used enough magic in your fights. And I’d be remiss not to mention Frinos, the giant frog in which you can confide after your nightly trek has been completed. (Yes, Frinos can eventually accompany you into battle.)

I particularly loved the interactions with some of the side characters. Nemesis has the best older sibling vibes, and truly lives up to her name—in one scene, she might offer you a boost to your maximum magic cap, only to race you to the next shop and try to take an item for herself. Eris is sweet as pie while dropping rubbish on the ground—who would have thought that Strife could be embodied as the sisterly equivalent of an internet troll? The boss in Oceanus is actually a girl band composed of sirens—and the battle’s music changes as they’re killed off. When I discovered these sorts of things in the first Hades, they were neat. When I discovered them in its sequel, they were utterly delightful.