Hades is one of the biggest games in recent memory, but it didn’t arrive with such a big reputation.
Obviously, Supergiant had spent the better part of a decade building an audience with the likes of Bastion, Transistor, and Pyre, but none reached the heights of its super sexy, extremely well-written, and perfectly executed greek pantheon dungeon crawler.
I’m not sure this excellence would have been possible if it wasn’t for how the game was delicately curated through years of comprehensive updates and constant communication with fans. Supergiant was delving into a new genre for the first time, with more characters and mechanics than it had ever entertained before. So it needed a helping hand, even if such a thing came in the form of those who helped engineer their success in the first place.
Now, after millions of copies sold across every platform under the sun, a sequel is in the works, and it’s restrained in ways you wouldn’t expect from this industry. Supergiant has decided against extending its production cycle to offer a much larger and finished game at launch, instead returning to the source that served it so well in the past.
I imagine the studio has more capital, more prestige, and more potential than it ever thought possible, Hades putting them on a pedestal it has used to tremendous effect since, but that success seems to have humbled them. As NoClip documented at the time, much of Hades’ reception was overwhelming, even more so in the wake of a pandemic that split the studio apart right before the finish line. All of a sudden it was smashing it on Nintendo Switch and picking up countless award nominations, seldom having a chance to take a breath.
A couple of years have passed since then, with Hades 2 gestating behind the scenes. Spencer Wan, an artist, and designer working on the game and his studio responsible for bringing the reveal trailer to life told me that Supergiant remains a tight-knit and trusting team that operates on an even playing field, knowing when it can rely on talent to get the work done and deliver results that speak for themselves. They have milestones and goals like many others, but this freeform approach takes the edge off, allowing creativity to blossom thanks to a distinct lack of expectations. Early access only benefits this philosophy.
There was a mixed reaction to the sequel both returning to early access and being exclusive to PC, with console versions likely to follow once development comes to a close in 2024 or later. I understand this surprise since many casual fans likely hoped the sequel to a game of this magnitude to go harder than ever, but restraint might be its most valuable asset.
Supergiant has done this before, now knowing what works and doesn’t and how it can tackle incremental development with all this accrued knowledge. This means it can avoid the same mistakes and double down on what works, constructing a larger and more ambitious outing in the process. There’s also a selfish preference for early access in my own mind. I had so much fun following the first game’s development, even if I didn’t dip into each new build like I wanted to, there was a pleasure to be drawn from seeing the passion behind both the team and a growing number of fans falling in love with this thing. To see it come to life and ever so slowly take on its final form was so rewarding, and the community played a big part in that.
Hades 2 will inevitably launch with loaded expectations, and likely won’t have the privilege of building up from a small audience over time, but the fact Supergiant isn’t allowing that fact to cloud its methods is to be applauded. Chances are it will only make the sequel that much stronger with each new character, update, mechanic, and minute iteration that shape it into something special.