It’s not often you’ll hear someone say “I cannot wait to get my ass beat.” But when Supergiant Games released Hades 2—the highly-anticipated sequel to the GOTY-winning 2020 roguelike—into early access on May 6, I could not wait to get my ass beat.

Hades 2 takes what makes roguelikes so intoxicating (the procedurally generated levels, the restart after every death, the slow progression towards the end) and elevates it to heretofore unseen heights—flying even higher than the original did, like a video game Icarus. Sure, you’re going to get your ass flattened into the ground by each of its level bosses so many times that you’ll start to wonder if you have a pain kink, but every single time you do, you earn something for your troubles. Like a good dommy mommy, Hades 2 provides some pleasure with that pain. Hades 2 spoilers to follow.

A spoiler warning.

After 20 hours of struggling, of near-misses, of getting demolished by Eris and her Adamant Rail, and by Chronos and his ridiculous scythe, I finally bested the main baddie with barely 35 HP left and no Death Defiances remaining. It was like achieving Nirvana. This is that good shit, the feeling that all video games strive to instill in their players, but only great ones manage to pull off. It made me feel like some sort of Hades expert, infusing me with a kind of deluded confidence that encouraged me to blab about my build to the local barista, or peer over my fiance’s shoulder to wrinkle my nose at his Boon choices.

Beating a game like Hades 2 makes you feel temporarily invincible. Here’s how I did it.

Eris speaks to the player.

Image: Supergiant Games / Kotaku

Striking strife before tackling time

Hades 2 gives you two paths to choose from when you venture out of protagonist Melinoë’s base: deep into the depths of Hell to confront the Titan of Time, Chronos, who has stolen your family (including Hades I protagonist Zagreus), or up to the surface towards Mt. Olympus (which you can only safely access after several runs down below).

Read More: Why I Won’t Be Playing Hades 2 In Early Access

It’s clear that the game is still in Early Access when you venture up top, as the path to the surface currently has two fewer levels and is far less difficult than the one that takes you to Tartarus. But after getting my ass repeatedly whooped by the third level boss down below (my poor baby boy Cerberus), and gathering a lot of important extra upgrades for Melinoë (including the Eternity Arcana card that gave me two Death Defiance every night, and an Incantation that turned any Shades I ran past into allies), I started regularly attempting trips up there. Eventually (and far faster than I got to Cerberus), I reached the last surface boss of Hades 2 Early Access: Eris.

Eris is Strife Incarnate, and is, naturally, incredibly fucking annoying. She has a goddamn gun that sprays bullets in an arc around her or fires a single, painful shot that’s difficult to dodge, and she’s incredibly fast, flitting about the arena so often she’s hard to keep track of. But I found through my struggles with the Sirens (the second boss down below), that my best build to tackle bosses was as follows:

  • The Twin Wands: The spinning projectiles you can conjure up with your Special button are super effective when you can get Boons that inflict Scorch or Daze, and ones where you can add an extra projectile. With the Twin Wands equipped, I simply dash around and continuously press Y so that I can constantly conjure up projectiles and encircle foes all around the map. You can even use them to strike enemies from behind cover.
  • Level Your Cast: I consistently looked for Boons that added damage to my special Casts. You can quickly use Cast to call forth a circle in the arena that will trap baddies, but holding the Cast button will keep the circle there longer *and* cause it to do damage when it expires. My favorite Boon that made this even more powerful was Nova Strike.
  • Luckier Tooth: The best way to ensure you’re going to beat a boss is to have a few extra lives as back-up. The aforementioned Eternity Arcana card can be leveled up to give you more Death Defiance, but you can also apply the Luckier Tooth Keepsake (obtained after giving Nectar to the training ground’s bundle of bones, Schelemeus) for another Death Defiance. I went into every Eris battle with four lives.

Eris moves very quickly around the arena, so it would also behoove you to pick up an Apollo Boon or two to up your speed. Getting behind her when she’s firing the Adamant Rail helps, as well. And though there are two pillars you can hide behind (and use your Twin Wands’ Special to still hit her if she’s on the other side of that pillar), her charged single shot can demolish those pillars in one go, so be careful.

It took me three or four tries to beat Eris, but once I did, I felt like I was ready to go after Chronos. I was very wrong.

My Hades 2 victory screen showing off my build.

Image: Supergiant Games / Kotaku

Killing time

Chronos is a very different beast. Not only does reaching him require you to get past two more levels than Eris’ boss battle does, but he has some devastating AOE attacks that are tough to read in your first few attempts. The first time I got to him, he killed me in his first phase. The second time, he killed me with one AOE attack in his second phase. The third time, I got halfway through his health bar in the second phase before his dashing strike got me. It was the fourth time that was the charm.

On your quest down to Tartarus, I’d suggest equipping Arachne’s keepsake out the gate—this gives you some armor, and if you are lucky enough to encounter Arachne herself while traveling through Erebus (and you haven’t taken much damage on your way to her), you can get even more armor. During the run in which I finally bested Chronos, I was able to have Arachne’s armor on through both Erebus and Oceanus, and took no HP damage because of it.

After besting the Sirens in Oceanus, I equipped Luckier Tooth and kept it on for both the Mourning Fields and Tarturus. This meant I had four lives heading into the Chronos battle.

If and when you encounter Selene the moon goddess, if she offers you the Boon that allows you to self-heal, take it. You can use this ability three times per level, as the fountains at the end of each level will restore your uses. I ran into her in Erebus, and didn’t even need to use the healing function until the Mourning Fields.

Since my build focused heavily on Fire Boons, I also grabbed the self-healing one that allows you to restore 30% of your HP over 30 seconds after taking damage (if you have at least 3 Fire Boons equipped). The more Fire Boons you have, the more healing you’ll do. I’d suggest always going for the double Boons when you can—the levels that show two different logos for the Greek gods. Sure, you’ll have to deal with the ire of whoever you don’t pick, but once you get through the encounter, you’ll get another Boon. This is how I ended up having five different Fire Boons, which greatly increased my self-healing!

The Twin Wands build in action.

Image: Supergiant Games

If you’re focused on a Cast-heavy build, you must grab a Boon that helps restore your Magick, otherwise, you’ll quickly run out in an encounter.

I’d also suggest equipping the Arcana card The Boatman, which has you start off every night with extra gold in your pocket, and paying for the Charon discount at the Well of Charon (the shop in-between levels) if it’s available. Having both of these equipped meant that, during my successful run, I was able to buy almost everything Charon had on offer, which often included an extra Boon.

Lastly, if you get the option to visit the vendor in Tartarus, and that vendor has the Boon that strikes Chronos for 20% of his HP at the start of the encounter, grab it without hesitation.

A huge component of a successful Hades 2 run is luck—I beat Chronos because I had so many good Boons and other goodies stacked on top of each other. My methods for fighting him were nowhere near as polished or as sensible as they were when I fought Eris—I was mostly just cringing and panicking, dashing away from him when he’d slice across the map and swing his scythe in a huge arc (though if you can get behind him during this attack, you can wail on him a bit). During his first phase, he killed me once.

When I got him to his second phase, I was fast enough that I could easily avoid his painful AOE attacks, but that didn’t stop me from getting repeatedly whacked by him and the NPCs he conjured up. I had three lives left, and he made very swift work of them. Thanks to my restorative Magick bar, I continuously used my special Cast to rain damage down upon him, and my long-press Special maneuver to constantly inflict Scorch.

He had a sliver of HP left when he struck me hard with his scythe swipe, dropping me to 35 HP (and no Death Defiance). I held my breath, ran up to him, long-pressed Cast, long-pressed Special, and boom, he was toast. As you can see from the above image, my Cast and Special did an astronomical amount of damage—I rarely even used the Twin Wands’ main attack.

Now, my build might not be for everyone. Maybe you prefer the ax as it offers some shield from Hades 2’s baddies, or the exploding skull for the distance it affords. Maybe you think using three Death Defiance is cheating. Maybe you hate Scorch. But this is the build that helped me bring death to Chronos, and I stand by it.

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