If you're struggling with Hades 2's small changes, don't worry—they'll click

Hecate holds one hand aloft
(Image credit: Supergiant)

Plenty of things in Hades 2 are similar to things from the original. Your hangout pals still include a dominatrix-coded rival who gets in your way, a fit sadboy, and a ghost whose nickname starts with D and turns out to be a significant character from myth. Mechanically there's plenty that feels familiar too. You can dash out of danger then dash-attack back in, switch between ranged and melee builds as your weapons and boons align, and avoid standing in the red circle where a boss is about to make a magic explosion happen.

That familiarity tripped me up at first, because there are some subtle but significant differences between how the two play. For starters, new protagonist Melinoë's movement and combat style is much more deliberate than her brother Zag's crackhead zippiness. Once you unlock Greater Reflex in the first Hades he becomes a dedicated multi-dash dude, but Melinoë doesn't have that option—if you dash away from trouble only to land in more, you can't just dash again with your middle finger extended, which is how I imagine Zagreus does it.

Instead, in Hades 2 you can sprint by holding down the spacebar after a dash. It's not a huge boost to your speed at first, but you can improve that with the arcana and boons. Combine the 25% sprint boost from an upgraded arcana card with the Hephaestus boon that gives you an extra 50% speed and you'll be running around like the Flash.

Still, there's a wind-up to Melinoë's animations that takes a while to get used to. Even with Vsync turned off there's a noticeable moment's pause, a green flash of magic that goes off before you commit to dashing and before the invincibility frames kick in. I got hit a lot because I was so used to Zag's instant dashes, but in Hades 2 you have to think faster and pay closer attention to the way enemies telegraph their intent.

Hecate lives up to her role as your teacher in this regard. She spins like a top before setting off her big circular area-of-effect spell, and Amelia Tyler grunts with effort before each launch of those green waves and taunts you before casting the curse that turns you into a sheep. (The secret with that, by the way, is to dash into it rather than away. Its subsequent change of direction gives enough time for your dash to recharge so you can repeat the move several times, after which it fades.) 

(Image credit: Supergiant)

Finally, Hecate's bullet-hades attack is there to teach you why sprinting is so important. She's the first of several bosses who need to be lapped while damage effects circle them clockwise, climaxing with the second phase of the fight against Chronos. The titan of time fights you on a literal clock whose burning hands chase you around its face as they tick down.

Melinoë's cast, activated by pressing Q, is another vital move because it lets you crowd-control. Though its precise effect changes based on your loadout, most of the time it's there to freeze anyone who steps into it, letting you drop the thing as you back away then blatter enemies while they're stuck in it. That's especially important with the Moonstone Axe, whose mega damage is balanced by its powerful slowness—especially the last hit in the combo, which takes so long to land you could get pizza delivered while you wait.

(Image credit: Supergiant)

The weapon that really emphasizes the difference between the two games is the Umbral Flames. This pair of torches felt like the worst weapon of all when I first tried it, firing out dinky little balls of light that do fuck-all damage. And yet, this was the weapon I got my first clears of both the current final bosses with. (He said, trying not to spoil things.) 

The Umbral Flames are the first purely ranged weapon you unlock, with the right-click special attack an orbiting orb that spins around wherever you drop it. Instead of needing to dash in to take your swings, you can concentrate on moving between areas of safe ground, whether behind obstacles or in the spots a boss isn't about to set on fire, timing your attacks in between. It takes longer to chip away their health, but you spend more time getting used to their patterns. Even after Hecate, Hades 2 keeps trying to teach you how to play it if you let it.

(Image credit: Supergiant)

At first I was put off by these differences between the two games, but now it's become so natural that when I fired up the first to compare I found myself trying to sprint and annoyed by its absence. Where Hades was happy for you to flit around like a bat on amphetamines, Hades 2 wants you to move more deliberately, to pay more attention to timing.

Which makes sense, when you think about it. This is a game where your literal objective is to kill time, after all.

Jody Macgregor
Weekend/AU Editor

Jody's first computer was a Commodore 64, so he remembers having to use a code wheel to play Pool of Radiance. A former music journalist who interviewed everyone from Giorgio Moroder to Trent Reznor, Jody also co-hosted Australia's first radio show about videogames, Zed Games. He's written for Rock Paper Shotgun, The Big Issue, GamesRadar, Zam, Glixel, Five Out of Ten Magazine, and Playboy.com, whose cheques with the bunny logo made for fun conversations at the bank. Jody's first article for PC Gamer was about the audio of Alien Isolation, published in 2015, and since then he's written about why Silent Hill belongs on PC, why Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale is the best fantasy shopkeeper tycoon game, and how weird Lost Ark can get. Jody edited PC Gamer Indie from 2017 to 2018, and he eventually lived up to his promise to play every Warhammer videogame.