Hades II Early Access Squashed My Worries About Its Story In Its First Hours

This could be one awkward family reunion.

screenshot from Hades 2
Supergiant Games
Hades 2

It’s time to head back into the underworld, as Hades II enters Early Access on Steam and the Epic Games Store today. Hades II challenges players to descend into the underworld as goddess of nightmares, Melinoë, reversing the journey her big brother Zagreus took in the original Hades. Like a lot of people, I spent dozens of hours getting deep into Hades’ thrilling combat and clever story, but I had some reservations about whether the sequel could capture the same magic. But just a few hours into its Early Access version, Hades II is already proving that Melinoë’s journey is more than just retracing the original’s steps.

This article contains minor spoilers for the first few hours of Hades II.

The villain of Hades II is Chronos, the Titan of time and father of Hades. At the game’s outset, Melinoë is descending into the underworld specifically to defeat the time god, who’s apparently ousted Hades and the rest of Melinoë’s family. While the specifics of what happened in the gap between Hades and Hades II isn’t clear at the start of the game, one thing is obvious — Melinoë really, really hates Chronos.

Melinoë puts a new spin on the story of Hades.

Supergiant Games

Given this premise, I was surprised when I ran into the game’s big bad end boss within a few hours of starting it. Melinoë is taking a different paths into the depths of the underworld than Zagreus took to escape it in the original game, starting in the dark region of Erebus and moving down into the watery Oceanus, before finally trekking down to regions more familiar to players of the original game. That’s where I first saw him: A shadowy figure called out to Melinoë from the edge of a forest, exchanging some foreshadowing words before disappearing. But a few runs later, the figure revealed himself to be Chronos, the very being Melinoë is heading to the heart of Hades to challenge. How convenient!

Chronos’ power comes from his ability to manipulate time, which is unfortunate for Melinoë, but led to the moment that made me think Hades II’s story could actually live up to the original’s. Realizing who Melinoë is and what she’s out to do, Chronos sends her back in time to a very familiar scene.

After briefly blacking out, Melinoë comes to in Asphodel, the lava-flooded region of the underworld where the original Hades’ second chapter is set. Melinoë’s time there is brief, to say the least. It doesn’t take Melinoë long to break Chronos’ spell — by performing a short challenge that demands she stay within a moving circle while fighting some of the first game’s foes — but it’s an unexpected twist that showed the sequel to be in conversation with the first game in a way I didn’t expect. It’s also not the only time during what’s available for Hades II’s Early Access launch that players interact with elements of the first game, but I won’t spoil the specifics.

An unexpected twist takes players back to familar ground from the original Hades.

Supergiant Games

As great as its combat is, it’s Hades’ ingenious use of the roguelike structure to tell its story that really sets it apart. Since Hades II’s announcement, I’ve worried that it wouldn’t work quite as well the second time around, but it seems developer Supergiant Games isn’t counting on lightning striking twice either. Instead of a rehash of the first game’s narrative arc, the sequel instead using its villain's powers as a clever way to tie the game to its predecessor and elevate its story all at once.

Fans of the original game have been wondering what’s become of Zagreus ever since we got our first glimpse of Hades II. As the sequel reveals early on, he’s disappeared along with his parents, but beyond that, his whereabouts are still up in the air. There’s been speculation among fans that Zagreus could even appear as a boss at some point in the game. Hades II’s time-travel twist could open the door to an even more surprising encounter with Zagreus than anyone was predicting. If Melinoë is able to travel back to the time of the original game and encounter Zagreus there, it would make for one complicated family reunion — and help explain why Zagreus would try to fight his dear little sister, since she wasn’t even around at that point.

Whatever Supergiant Games is really getting with this journey through time, we likely won’t know the full picture for a while. The original Hades spent two years in Early Access, and even if the sequel comes along quicker, its full release is still a long way off. But even without a payoff yet, Hades II seems to be setting up something big that could make the game just as worthy of losing sleep over as the original. Only time will tell.

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