Hades 2 painting of hades family zagreus, persephone, and baby melinoe
Screenshot via Twinfinite

Hades 2 Early Access Review – Time Flies While Fighting Time

Dive into the depths of Tartarus or climb to the height of Olympus!

Hades 2 Early Access on PC

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Hades 2 is finally here, and it improves upon the extremely solid core foundation which made the first game so beloved. After over 40 hours of gameplay and all the bosses defeated, it’s time to go over what the Hades 2 experience is really like as it enters early access. There’s the old, the new, the mostly good, and some of the bad.

First, let’s get the good old stuff out of the way before diving into all the new content. The combat and gameplay follow the same loop as the previous game, where you clear chambers full of enemies, pick your next room, collect rewards, and move on ahead. Most of the Boon mechanics remain the same, and only a few new Gods are added to the game.

In fact, some are completely missing from Early Access right now. Charon’s shop remains the same integral part of the game, and your abilities are the same with attacks, specials, and casts. The same classic Keepsakes, Boons, Duo Boons, Daedalus Hammers, and Chaos curses will be available. Nothing of note was taken out, and Hades 2 simply aims to make the original systems much larger deeper.

So, let’s get into all the new systems. First of all, let’s talk about my personal favourite addition, the material system. The first Hades had a fairly basic stat upgrade system through the Mirror of Night, Darkness, Gemstones, and a few other materials. Hades 2 turns this into a fully fleshed-out system and adds crafting and farming to the mix, where unlocking anything requires you to collect materials and use them for incantations.

Each area has unique plants, minerals, fish, and boss materials. You’ll also have to decide what material you’re aiming to collect in this run, and the sense of progression that comes from checking off a list of craftables or incantations is great. This is made even more satisfying by the accompanying soundtrack (I can’t get the Sirens song out of my head) and the SFX design for the game.

Hades 2 incantation crafting pot system
Screenshot via Twinfinite

That’s not to even speak of the Arcana system, which replaces the Mirror of Night. You can farm Ashes to unlock Arcana cards and farm Psyche to increase your Arcana card equip limit. Arcana cards allow Melinoe to equip some modifiers that buff her, and you have to pick and choose the ones you can keep rather than treating them as simple stat sticks.

The balance between Ashes and Psyche, and the sense of progression you feel from collecting them is very engaging. I went back to a new save without my Arcanas, and it was a completely different experience without these buffs. The Wretched Broker’s currency has been changed from Gems to Bones but now you can exchange these for the aforementioned Ashes, Psyche, Nectar, and eventually, more.

Hades 2 aracana card system
Screenshot via Twinfinite

Combat sees one new change with the Hex system that grants you ultimate abilities in return for spending mana. Melinoe’s cast is also an AoE root that has much more utility than what Zagreus had. The potential of both of these systems is used quite well with around seven types of Hexes with unique upgrade paths and each God being able to modify your Cast. Stacking Boons to make simple abilities like Omega Attacks and Casts is some of the most fun you can have with your builds in Hades 2.

The difficulty of the game has also gone up in proportion to all these new tools at your disposal, and mastering enemies, areas, and bosses can take longer! Hades 2 is by no means an easy game, but it’s incredibly rewarding if you choose to learn and interact with all its systems.

Next up, we have the biggest and most impressive change in Hades 2. Unlike the first game, Hades 2 has two paths for Melinoe to explore. It’s not limited to a single path down to Tartarus to kill the main boss, because there’s a second path to make your way from the Crossroads all the way up to Olympus. While this path is seemingly only half complete during Early Access, we can assume it will be expanded to be as massive as the first Path. Just the addition of this new path makes Hades 2 at least twice as big as the first game, with all new areas, enemies, mini-bosses, guardians, and more!

Speaking of new areas, this is definitely something Hades 2 blows out of the water. Despite having twice as many areas as the first game, Hades 2 gives each area a completely distinct and unique personality, and not just in terms of aesthetics and layout.

For example, after the first standard location, you’re thrust into the explosive steampunk pipes underwater in Oceanus. After this, you get to experience the dangerous and vast open plains of the Fields of Mourning. The same goes for the Olympus run, as the first area lets you choose six from among 10-12 gates provided, and the second path has you fight waves and jump from undead pirate ship to undead pirate ship. Each area presents its own unique challenges, and the game makes sure not to get repetitive at any point.

Hades 2 city of ephyra all symbols
Screenshot via Twinfinite

Even in this incomplete state, I’ve managed to sink 40 hours into Hades 2, and the game is only going to get bigger. Often, I’d start a run for a little screenshot and get lost in seeing it all the way through because the game is simply that satisfying. Hades 2 provides you with even more tools to perform amazing comebacks from what appears like a doomed run, and no run feels like a waste, especially early on. The average full run will take roughly 35 minutes for most players, but we’re sure the insane Hades speedrunning community will make my figure seem like a joke.

Now with the praise out of the way, it’s time to get into some of the issues I have with the game right now. My biggest complaint would have to do with the weapons themselves, unfortunately. While I do love several of the weapons like the Sister Blades, Staff, and even the Moonstone Axe after a good while, the Skull weapon is a just fun gimmick for a while and the Umbral Flames are just atrocious and unsatisfying to use.

The Aspects for these weapons redeem them a little bit, but I wish the game had a better selection or moveset available for some of these armaments. Hopefully, this will be something that will be improved later. That’s also why we’ve chosen not to comment too much on the end-game systems (yes, the Heat mechanic is back and meaner than before).

Hades 2 weapon aspects system
Screenshot via Twinfinite

The run itself is the same RNG min-maxing we saw in the first Hades, and the Guardian bosses stay the same throughout your run. I feel like this is a missed opportunity for multiple Guardian bosses for areas, but it’s understandable if that’s asking for too much, especially with the whole material system and two different runs. Maybe it’s just me wanting even more content in the game because it’s so satisfying.

What differentiates the game a lot from the first is the overall tone and urgency of the narrative. We’re thrust into this world with no rhyme or reason, and Melinoe doesn’t know better either, carrying out a duty she has been trained for since birth. Perhaps this idea will be explored further in the story with the full release, and we will see her character grow, which would be something I would love.

Hades 2 melinoe bath scene
Screenshot via Twinfinite

The first Hades game was a lot more lighthearted and made for some great dialogue moments as Zagreus was just trying to escape his father, Hades, who was observing all this with amusement. This time, the fate of the very world is in balance, and all the other characters have a much more serious demeanour about them.

This causes what would otherwise be charismatic characters to somewhat lose that charm in the face of the bleak setting they’ve all been placed in. It’s hard to enjoy the romance options with the world on the brink of destruction and your family kidnapped. However, this is just a minor tonal gripe on my behalf, and the writing and dialogue delivery remains excellent, as always.

Hades 2 has managed to improve upon every single aspect of the original. If you’re a fan of difficult but rewarding rogue-lite exploration, where every run gets you closer to your objective, it’s perfect. Despite our minor gripes, the game manages to be engaging and dynamic with each run providing a unique new experience for you to adapt to and overcome. We can’t wait to see the content Supergiant Games have up their sleeves for later in early access and the eventual full release.

Hades II
Hades 2 has managed to improve upon every single aspect of the original. If you're a fan of difficult but rewarding rogue-lite exploration, where every run gets you closer to your objective, it's perfect. We can't wait to see the content Supergiant Games have up their sleeves for later in early access and the eventual full release.
Pros
  • Improves on every mechanic from the original
  • Twice as much content
  • New material gathering system is engaging
Cons
  • A few weapons are underwhelming
  • Doesn't change up too much in the core gameplay
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review. Reviewed on PC.

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Author
Syed Hamza Bakht
A freelance journalist passionate about games and technology. You'll find me working at publications such as Gfinity and Twinfinite, trying to gather as many game codes as possible! Otherwise, I can be found struggling against my giant backlog of games.