Hades 2 Early Access review: A divine delight

Supergiant Games is cooking a perfect sequel
Supergiant Games

There are many different views on what a good sequel to an iconic game should look like – some people will want to see innovation and something different, others simply will want to get more of the same experience that made them fall in love with the original, shunning any changes. It’s the difficult job of game developers to find a balance between those approaches and their own vision for what a sequel should be like. In its history, Supergiant Games never had to grapple with that dilemma, since it never made a sequel to any of its titles – until now. That makes it all the more impressive how well the studio nailed this balancing act in Hades 2, the sequel to its “godlike roguelike” from 2020.

Like I’ve described in my Hades 2 Technical Test impressions, it feels intimately familiar from the start, yet gives you an interesting set of fresh tools to accomplish your goals. Its innovations and evolutions are small, carefully wrought in order to leave the fantastic foundations untouched, but the longer the game goes on, the more new elements and surprises await.

I won’t spoil too many details of the story that’s available in the Early Access version of the game, but it will be necessary to mention and show a few things here and there, so please be aware of that before you read on.

Hades 2 Crossroads
Melinoë is tasked with slaying Chronos – a mission that heaps a lot of pressure on her. / Supergiant Games

Instead of breaking out of the Underworld as Zagreus, we’re playing as his sister Melinoë in this game – and the goal is to break into the Underworld, because a lot has happened since Hades 1’s end. Chronos, the Titan of Time and father of the Olympians, has returned and usurped the House of Hades as ruler of the Underworld, waging a destructive war against the gods.

Melinoë was born shortly before this all transpired and taken to safety by Hecate, Goddess of Magic and the Crossroads, who trained her ever since to bring Chronos down and rescue her family. Once more players will have an assortment of arms and keepsakes at their disposal to start an attempt at slaying the target, battling through several different environments and boss characters with the assistance of the gods, who bestow their boons on Melinoë.

Many familiar faces are back, of course, though new divine (and other) supporters have emerged to lend their aid to Melinoë, such as the Moon Goddess Selene and Zeus’ irritable wife Hera.

Melinoë’s upbringing by Hecate has given her access to some abilities Zagreus does not have – for example, she can enhance her Attack, Special, and Cast to Ω-versions by infusing them with Magick, which is a third resource you need to manage on your run in addition to HP and Gold.

Hades 2 screenshot showing a battle with Scylla and the sirens.
A plethora of new tools is at your disposal to master the challenges of Hades 2. / Supergiant Games

Her Cast is one of the biggest mechanical additions to the game, allowing Melinoë to create a magic circle on the ground which locks any enemies inside or adjacent to it in place for a while, dealing damage to them afterwards. This is a great new tool for players and, naturally, can be upgraded and changed with various divine boons to unlock amazing synergies with the rest of the kit.

Sprint and Armor mechanics spice things up additionally, though the latter could still use some more flavor – at the moment, it’s basically just another layer of HP. Sprint is a cool addition, but its controls still feel a little bit stiff: To activate their Sprint, players must hold down the button for their Dash, resulting in Melinoë dashing in whichever direction she’s facing before the Sprint is kicking in – a dangerous and somewhat clumsy way of doing things that doesn’t always feel great.

Overall, Melinoë feels a bit more versatile than Zagreus did, but she doesn’t outshine him by any means – she lacks the god-mode her brother had access to, for example. Both protagonists feel unique in the mechanical and thematic regard.

All the new weapons in the game so far lend themselves to unique playstyles, though not all of them feel equally strong at the moment – a ranged weapon throwing fireballs in particular feels somewhat underwhelming currently compared to the rest of the line-up, which includes a staff, twin blades, a war ax, and a grenade-launcher skull. All of them have different Aspects that can be unlocked and upgraded as well, which can massively alter your way of using them, essentially making them completely different weapons.

Hades 2 screenshot of Chronos.
Unlike Hades, Chronos is a moustache-twirling villain without any redeeming qualities about him. / Supergiant Games

Revaal, the skull weapon, usually has three shells you can throw, which explode on impact. The Aspect of Medea makes it so that instead of throwing the shells, they’re loaded into Melinoë and explode after some delay or when she impacts an enemy, dealing damage around her. Instead of using the weapon as a grenade launcher, you’re suddenly loading up your character with bombs and using the armament's Special (which is working like the charged attack of Zagreus’ shield) to kamikaze into your foes.

Melinoë also has access to a deck of Arcana Cards, which imbue growing strength on her as you unlock them – stuff like more HP and Magick, regeneration, higher crit chance and so on. Investing a resource called Psyche, Melinoë can enhance her capacity for Arcana use, which allows her to activate more of her unlocked cards. Naturally, these can be upgraded later on.

Since the House of Hades is occupied by an unwanted guest, your new hub area lies elsewhere: at the Crossroads of the Underworld and the surface. As was the case with the original, you can slowly upgrade this base to add more functionality and speak with the NPCs here to learn more about them, the world, and what’s happened between Hades 1 and the sequel.

Hades 2 screenshot showing the Crossroads.
The Crossroads, your new hub area, can be expanded over time. / Supergiant Games

Centerstage in your new base is Hecate’s cauldron, where you can use various incantations to unlock new features for the base and your runs. These incantations require you to have the right ingredients, which you can find and harvest during your dungeon attempts – provided you have the right tools. In addition to a weapon, you can take one of four tools with you: A pickax will allow you to mine stone and ore, a spade to harvest seeds for the garden at the Crossroads, and the Tablet of Peace enables you to rescue stranded shades and obtain more Psyche. There’s the trusty fishing rod from the first game as well.

For even more witchy flavor you can unlock animal familiars later on, which accompany you on your runs and imbue unique benefits on you – your pet frog Frinos, for example, provides more HP, while a feline friend you can pick up adds a weaker version of Death Defiance to your kit.

That’s a lot of fresh systems, but they’re all embedded in the foundational frame of Hades 1, so there’s never a feeling of being overwhelmed, because at the end of the day the main thing is to go out there, kick some butt, and experience more of the story. 

Speaking of which: It’s mighty intriguing. We basically have no clue how Chronos did what he did and what his endgame plans are. We don’t know what became of Melinoë’s family and if we can get them back from the Titan’s clutch. We don’t really know Melinoë herself and her relationships with everyone. Once again Supergiant Games chose some of the VIPs alongside some surprise characters from the vast world of Greek mythology for the cast and came up with connections and story threads that will be very interesting to watch – as with Hades 1, you’ll need to progress your relationship with characters by gifting them Nectar. However, there are some other ways to gain affection this time around as well. I hear taking a bath in the hot springs together is relaxing...

With on-point dialog (though a decidedly more one-dimensional villain so far), gorgeous visuals, and a soundtrack that just worms its way into your brain immediately, the presentation of Hades 2 is on par with its predecessor – though keep in mind that many art assets are not finished in Early Access. Some characters and items only have placeholder art, others have rough concept art representing them. That’s about the most “Early Access” it gets, though, in addition to content limitations. On the technical level, the game can’t really be called “Early Access” in any way.

Hades 2 screenshot of Hades and Cerberus in the Underworld.
Hades has become a prisoner in his own realm. Can we free him? / Supergiant Games

Finally, let’s talk about the content: Perhaps the biggest complaint with Hades 1 was a lack of variety in bosses, with only four of them in the game. Well, you’ll once again find four bosses when breaking into the Underworld with some mini-bosses along the way to spice things up sometimes. But it’s called Hades 2, right? So Supergiant went ahead and put in double the content – on top of the Underworld route, you can unlock a second path on the surface with completely new enemies, bosses, and environments that will eventually lead you to Olympus itself.

At Early Access launch, players can make the complete Underworld run (though what comes after, story-wise, is still under lock and key) and half of the surface run, which currently ends once you’ve beaten the second boss. With different approaches to stage design in some areas – such as the more open Fields of Mourning and the dead city of Ephyra, which gives you more control over the boons you want to receive – you can put a checkmark behind that variety issue.

Having played a good 30 hours, I haven’t unlocked all possible upgrades and relationships yet, though I think I’ve finally seen all the new features the Early Access version has in store – and with the surface still being unfinished, much of the story still being kept a secret, and ever more difficult run modifiers awaiting, there’s plenty left to do.

I don’t know what your definition of a perfect sequel is, but according to mine Supergiant Games is currently cooking one with Hades 2.

Score: Recommended

Version tested: PC (Steam Deck OLED)

A short reminder that we don’t score Early Access reviews – if a game has a sound combination of mechanics, content, presentation, and technical competence at Early Access release, it’ll be “recommended” based on this version. Should those elements not be given at this time, it’ll be “not recommended” instead. A full re-evaluation with a score will take place with the 1.0 launch.

Marco Wutz


Marco Wutz is a writer from Parkstetten, Germany. He has a degree in Ancient History and a particular love for real-time and turn-based strategy games like StarCraft, Age of Empires, Total War, Age of Wonders, Crusader Kings, and Civilization as well as a soft spot for Genshin Impact and Honkai: Star Rail. He began covering StarCraft 2 as a writer in 2011 for the largest German community around the game and hosted a live tournament on a stage at gamescom 2014 before he went on to work for Bonjwa, one of the country's biggest Twitch channels. He branched out to write in English in 2015 by joining tl.net, the global center of the StarCraft scene run by Team Liquid, which was nominated as the Best Coverage Website of the Year at the Esports Industry Awards in 2017. He worked as a translator on The Crusader Stands Watch, a biography in memory of Dennis "INTERNETHULK" Hawelka, and provided live coverage of many StarCraft 2 events on the social channels of tl.net as well as DreamHack, the world's largest gaming festival. From there, he transitioned into writing about the games industry in general after his graduation, joining GLHF, a content agency specializing in video games coverage for media partners across the globe, in 2021. He has also written for NGL.ONE, kicker, ComputerBild, USA Today's ForTheWin, The Sun, Men's Journal, and Parade. Email: marco.wutz@glhf.gg