The House of Lord Hades provides abundant shelter for those both new and old to the likes-of-rogue
I’m not personally a big fan of roguelikes, I tend to not have the patience to throw myself at a game over and over again. I prefer games that you play once and are done with, and I’m mentioning this upfront because I think it adds context to the fact that I consider it impressive just how deep Hades has gotten its claws in me. The latest game from developer Supergiant Games, most well known for titles like Bastion, Transistor, and Pyre, Hades is their first foray into the roguelike genre and for the reasons previously stated I was quite hesitant about it. However it turns out that I had nothing to fear, because quite frankly they seriously brought their “A” game. Hades is their best work yet, by a wide margin.
In Hades you take control of Prince Zagreus, son of the lord of the Underworld himself, who has decided that living in said Underworld actually kind of sucks. He wishes to be with the rest of his family on Mount Olympus, as well as search for his now absent mother Persephone in the mortal realm. The only issue with this plan is that the Underworld is specifically designed to make sure nobody ever leaves, Zagreus included. He must make his way from the deepest levels of Tartarus all the way up to the mouth of the River Styx, fighting the shades and monsters that make up the Underworld’s defenses on his way. Along the way he can gain the assistance of his various relatives on Olympus in the form of boons, but if he dies on his journey he will find himself back in the home of his father with any boons he had acquired washed away with his blood.
As with any roguelike Hades is a game built around attempting different runs, and the amount to which each run can feel different is astonishing. Zagreus has multiple weapons he can choose from that all function completely different from one another, such as a sword or a bow at the most basic. My personal favorite weapon is an aegis shield that can be thrown Captain America style, ricocheting between enemies in a super satisfying manner. You’ll also eventually unlock the ability to upgrade these weapons, which can even unlock slight variations for even more new ways to fight. Hades heavily incentivizes players to switch up weapons for their runs in multiple ways. Sometimes when you go to pick a weapon you may notice one giving off a black aura, meaning that if you do your next run with that weapon you will receive extra Nyx Droplets, the currency used to purchase permanent skill upgrades at the mirror in Zagreus’s room.
As you go through the different realms of the Underworld you will encounter an assortment of boons as a reward for clearing each room, giving you a choice between multiple options to build your strategy around. These boons are provided by the various Olympian gods and learning what each god tends to give you is integral to a successful run. For instance Zeus will pretty much always add a lightning aspect to something of your choosing, while Hermes will usually up the speed of your movement or attacks. Many of these boons will add the ability to inflict status effects on enemies, or can even give you the ability to call upon the god in question for a massive special attack. Of course, since this is a roguelike, these boons are temporary and are lost upon death.
Every area in Hades ends with a major boss fight, each with its own special reward for beating it. For example the first area’s boss, the Fury Megaera, will provide you with a globule of Titan Blood upon her defeat, but only if you’ve never previously beaten her with your current weapon. These items are used to upgrade your weapons later on, and are yet another reason to always switch up the weapons you’re using. Speaking of bosses every single one of them is distinct from the last, truly helping each one feel more and more like a milestone. The world around Zagreus is rich and incredibly fleshed out, with every single character being fully voiced and likeable (except Hypnos, who is voiced but not likeable).
Most importantly of all Hades feels like it is a roguelike designed to be somebody’s first experience with the genre. The game manages to be challenging and varied while also not building the skill or luck based brick wall that many of its peers do. If you do find the game to be too difficult for your liking but want to continue experiencing the world and the story, Hades comes equipped with a God Mode that can be toggled on at any time and makes the game considerably easier. If you find yourself on the opposite end of the spectrum and think the game is too easy, starting a new save file gives you the option to turn on a Hell Mode which does quite the opposite. It really does feel like a package that can provide you whatever you’re looking for, no matter who you are.
I mean it when I say that I think Hades is Supergiant’s best game yet. When I’m not playing it I find myself itching to go play it, and despite my usual lack of patience with games like this I have yet to find myself succumbing to anything even remotely resembling frustration. I am not done putting hours into Hades, not by a long shot, and as somebody who is not usually a fan of this genre I really do think that says something. Add to this yet another incredible soundtrack for Supergiant’s catalogue and some of the best character designs these mythological figures have ever seen, and Hades is seriously a game that you should not miss. If you like the genre, this is an absolute must buy, and if you don’t it may still be worth it to give Hades a look.