Tips for Playing Hades

In the last eight years, Supergiant Games has managed to make quite the name for themselves. I fell in love with them shortly after Bastion‘s original release in 2011, and have continued to follow their work reviewing Pyre in 2017 and convincing my colleague Heidi to finally play Transistor when it released on Switch last year. Now, we have Hades.

During The Game Awards, Supergiant Games made a surprise announcement that they would be releasing their newest project, Hades, in early access on Epic’s store that very same night. Coincidentally, I just so happened to have spent all of that very same night choosing to play Hades instead of sleep.

Zagreus and his father Hades have recently found themselves at odds. Even though the underworld has been his home his entire life, he’s determined to escape. You take on the role of Zagreus as he tries flees the underworld through countless realms filled with beasts and servants of Hades who will do anything to return you home. If  you are going to succeed in aiding Zagreus in gaining his freedom, you’ll need all the help you can get.*

Get to know the Infernal Arms

In the current version of Hades there are four different weapons available: the Stygian Blade, Eternal Spear, Heart-Seeking Bow, and the Shield of Chaos. Each one of them has a more specific name and history that you’ll unlock in the Codex as you use them more, but we are spoiler free so you’ll have to learn their names yourself.
Most of the Infernal Arms, the Stygian Blade as the exception, have three abilities that can be upgraded during your escape from your father’s domain. Understanding their inherent abilities, move set, and potential upgrades are will let Zagreus make the best upgrade selections, creating a series of powers that feed off each other’s strengths.

We created a handy guide to help:

Weapon NameBase AttackCharge AttackSpecial
Stygian BladeStrikeNoneNova Smash
Eternal SpearStrikeSpin AttackThrow
Heart-Seeking BowFirePower ShotVolley Fire
Shield of ChaosBashDefend/Bull RushThrow

The Stygian Blade is Zagreus’ starting weapon. In place of the charge attack the other Infernal Arms have, Zagreus is able to use the standard attack for a three-hit combo; swing, chop and then a thrust to deal bonus damage for the final strike.

The blade’s special move, Nova Smash, drives the sword into the ground and sends out a destructive shockwave, injuring everything in its path.

As you travel through Tartarus and the world’s beyond, you’ll stumble across a Daedalus Hammer granting Zagreus the ability to upgrade his blade.

Some available upgrades are:

  • Flurry Blade: Increases attack, but removes thrust.
  • Super Nova: Nova smash hits a wider area and does 200% damage.
  • Sudden Sunder: Blink a short distance toward enemies when using Nova Smash.
  • Armor Slayer: Attack deals 300% damage to armored enemies.

After unlocking the Eternal Spear, Zagreus will have a handy mid-range melee weapon that will keep him relatively safe from harm. When attacking with the Eternal Spear, Zagreus will stab at targets keeping them at an arm’s length. Should they get too close, he can utilize the charging spin attack to push enemies back a bit gain some breathing room.

But should Zagreus’ target be too far away to make contact, he can throw the spear across the room, piercing through targets. At will Zagreus can recall it, doing additional damage to anyone it passes through.

 Some of the spears available upgrades are:

  • Untouchable Threat: Attack’s reach is improved 130% damage to distant foes.
  • Trick Toss: Spear is thrown faster and bounces off obstacles.
  • Cruel Skewer: Throw deals critical damage.
  • Impact Blast: Special attacks damages other enemies near the target.

The Heart-Seeking Bow is slower than the other weapons, but effective when Zagreus wants to maintain a far distance. Its normal attack take a brief moment to charge, but when released will fire an arrow clear across the room. If timed properly, it will release a power shot, piercing through targets and dealing critical damage.

Volley fire is a quick attack that releases an arc of arrows into the crowd, damaging all who dare defy.

Some of the bows available upgrades are:

  • Sniper Shot: Attack deals up to 200% the damage to distant enemies.
  • Piercing Shot: Attack deals 100% to armored baddies.
  • Perfect Shot: Power shot deals 250% damage
  • Relentless Barrage: Volley Fire shoots 100% more projectiles.

For anyone who enjoys charging head first into the fray, the Shield of Chaos is the place to be. Its attack is a shield bash that can protect Zagreus from some attacks while simultaneously knocking opponents back and dealing damage. Holding the attack command will raise the shield can protect Zagreus and send him barreling into enemy lines.

The shield’s special sends it flying across the room and into enemies. Unlike the spear, it will ricochet off targets twice before returning to Zagreus.

 Some of of the shield’s upgrades are:

  • Defensive Aura: Zagreus takes 200% less damage.
  • Dread Flight: Shield toss can hit twice as many targets before returning.
  • Sudden Rush: Bull Rush charges faster.
  • Pulverizing blow: Bash attack does 150% damage but no longer knocks enemies away.

There are sure to be more at least two more weapons available in the armory as more content becomes available. Right now, there are only two vacant weapon spots but there are enough toys to play with already, and we haven’t even touched upon boons yet.


Familiarize yourself with Olympian Boons

The gods of Olympus have taken an interest in young Zagreus and are determined to lend him their aid. After clearing a room the Greek gods of Olympus might leave you a glowing orb containing their blessing and some impressive powers, each one with their own distinct offerings.

  • Aphrodite‘s blessings center around the Weak status. Whether attaching the affect to a special, charge, or base attack, the Weak effect will reduce the attack of afflicted enemies by half.
  • Athena, the goddess of wisdom and war, will offer Zagreus tools that deflect enemy attacks back at them.
  • Ares, Athena’s more violent counter part offers more aggressive favors. His blessing will inflict additional damage after attacking giving Zagreus the destructive power a demigod deserves.
  • Artemis the huntress will Zagreus’ weapons bonus critical damage against a variety of enemies, making even the simplest attacks fatal.
  • Poseidon‘s command over the seas grants Zagreus additional knockback power, the best tool for crowd control.
  • Zeus may be last alphabetically, but he’s not lacking in power. Zeus’ blessing fires chain lighting across the map following attacks or dashing about.

Understanding the synergies between weapon abilities and boons is an essential key to victory. Power shots from the Heart-Seeking Bow boosted by Artemis’ critical hit blessing is unstoppable, especially if you can add chain lightning to an evasive dash. Thusfar, my personal favorite has been Ares’ cursed damage added to the Shield of Chaos. A quick toss of the shield will continue to do damage, even after it’s returned.


Get in the habit of gifting

Clearing a room might offer Zagreus a gift to bestow upon someone back at the palace. It’s in your best interest to bestow these gifts upon the occupants, even if they don’t like you. Each character lounging around in the palace will have a Keepsake to offer that grants passive bonuses so long as it’s equipped. Hypnos gifts Zagreus with the Cthonic Coin Purse, ensuring he can keep up to two hundred coins even after death. Cerberus gives Zagreus an Old Spiked Collar that increases his maximum health by a valuable twenty five points.

It’s easy to remember to bestow gifts upon the gods and heroes in the underworld when you’re casually strolling about the palace, but when the adrenaline starts pumping, only bloodshed and survival matters. When a boon appears, Zagreus is able to offer a gift to the providing god to also receive a Keepsake from them.

It’s a simple tip, but it’s an easy one to lose track of when the action revs up. Some of the Keepsakes granted by gods who gift boons guarantee the next boon Zagreus comes across will be their own. It’s a good way to try and craft your power-ups instead of being entirely at the mercy of the Hades‘ randomness.


Determine your goal for the run

More likely than not, you won’t complete a full run until after a fair amount of grinding and unlocking a few new abilities. With that in mind, set a goal for Zagreus’ escape attempt before blindly running off into the labyrinthine hell.

Consider focusing on unlocking a new skill. In this case, any time the path diverges, choose the one offering a Skeleton Key to accelerate the growth of Zagreus’ permanent abilities. As you flee from Tartarus, you’ll encounter a few opportunities to grab some extra coin you can trade with Charon for some extra goodies, perhaps even another Skeleton Key.

After unlocking skills back in his room, Zagreus can upgrade skills by consuming collected Darkness. If that’s what your goal is take that into consideration when choosing your weapon for the run. Before each run a random Infernal Arm in the armory will offer an extra 10% Darkness to Zagreus throughout the next run. It’s a great way to boost skills like Greater Reflex and increase the number of times you can dash.

Or if you just want to plow through the denizens of Tartarus, chase after the paths that reward you with max health bonuses, godly boons, or a Daedalus Hammer. If you’re going to be able to beat a Fury or a Hydra, you’ll need the heavy firepower.

No matter how you approach Hades, you’re up for a challenge.Hopefully these tips will give you a fighting chance.


Did we miss something? Let us know how you’ve survived Hades!

*As Hades is an early access title, Way Too Many Games will be updating this article as new builds are released.