Roguelikes have been a popular genre this past decade. We’ve seen many different takes on the genre, each with their own interpretation, but still never deviating too far from the formula. Supergiant Games, after developing 3 consecutive excellent games, give us their take in the form of Hades. How does it fare in the sea of other Roguelikes?
You play as not Hades, but his son Zagreus, as he attempts to escape his father’s Underworld and make for the surface to join the gods on Mount Olympus. This task is not as easy as it sounds, as the Underworld is designed to be impossible to escape with its ever-changing rooms, but nothing will stop Zagreus from trying again, and again, and again.
Here is where the Roguelike elements kick in. When you ‘die’, you’ll return back to where you belong, right back in Hades’ Palace to try again. But each time you return back to the start, you’ll notice a greater story at play, and this gives you even more motivation to keep going. That’s the brilliance of this game and they way it tells its story. Minor spoilers here, but every time you successfully complete an escape, you’ll reveal more of the overall story.
This way of telling the story is such a clever way of keeping players constantly having another escape run. What else is brilliant is the way the other characters (all very well voice acted by the way) respond to your efforts. When you fail, your father Hades berates you. Other characters will offer encouragement, sympathy, or ridicule. All this helps create a believable world (or Underworld) and creates that immersion that makes this game special.
It’s one of the more dynamic stories I’ve ever played through. The way it fuses gameplay and story together is done so incredibly well and both complement each other perfectly.
While the story itself is intriguing and reason alone to keep playing, the gameplay is yet another reason to keep you hooked. Hades plays out entering room by room, defeating the enemies inside, collecting your reward, and then moving on to the next room. Before you enter each room, mostly of the time you’ll get the choice of rewards to earn next. This can be in the form of more health, Darkness crystals, or Olympus God boons.
What makes each playthrough unique and random are the rewards you choose as you progress and you don’t know your choices until you win your current fight. What abilities you possess and the style of play you go for is completely unpredictable and each run is exciting as a result. Of course as you unlock keepsakes and permanent abilities, you will have more control over each run, but there will always be that element of unpredictability.
The abilities and buffs you gain as you progress come in the form of boons given to you by the Olympic Gods themselves, as they are trying to help you escape. It’s these boons that ultimately decide the kind of fighter you become. By the time you reach the final area and way to the surface, you have to hope you’re in the best shape and form you can be in because you’ll need to be pretty powerful to get over the line. The game has a habit of making you feel powerful, sometimes even overpowered, but when it comes to the big moments, that’s when you can really put your build to the test. You never quite know if you’ll dominate or be dominated.
Yet another factor that completely changes your playstyle are the different weapons you can unlock, and each of these play in very different ways. So when you mix together the different weapons and variety of boons, each run will be unique, fresh, and always exciting.
What amazes me about Hades (among everything else), is the game’s replayability. Whether it be upgrading Zagreus using Darkness Crystals, unlocking new weapons, increasing your weapons Heat level, renovating the palace, completing the Prophecy Lists, there is an incredible amount of content to constantly strive to unlock and achieve.
I’ve had plenty of successful (and failed) escape attempts, completed the story, and I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of completing everything is game has to offer. The developers have really done everything they can to give the player the absolute maximum value from the game, all without the need for DLC or microtransactions.
Hades has it all- extremely fun and thrilling action, unpredictable and unique playthroughs, a cleverly told story, gorgeous visuals, addictive character development, dynamic character conversations, hundreds of hours of fun and value, and even more.
I don’t have a single criticism for this game and nothing but praise. Supergiant Games have done something special and have somehow perfected a genre. I highly recommend Hades to absolutely everyone, it’s an example of perfect game design with seemingly limitless replay value. An obvious GOTY contender for 2020.