I’ve never really developed an interest in rogue-like games. But there was the Supergiant Games collection, including games I have been hearing fantastic things about for several years. I’d worked my way through Bastion, Transistor, & Pyre, good games all. And then there was Hades.
As a fan of games like Hollow Knight and Celeste, I feel like I should be slightly surprised that I never really got into the rogue-like genre. One of its defining features is the challenge and expectation of failure. My kind of game.
Anyway, Hades throws you very directly into the action, yet still manages to give you time to pick up some ideas about who you are, what you’re doing, and how to hit things with a sword. I’d be surprised if you got too far though, before you’re unceremoniously dumped back in the House of Hades. Being dead isn’t much of a problem for Zagreus, and you’re getting to meet your friends and family soon enough. And yes, you can pet the dog (but only one of his heads).
This start doesn’t throw everything at you at once, but it does show you that there’s lots to this game. You’ll see a hint of the strength Zagreus (Zag to his friends) can gain, some clues to the 6 different weapons you can end up using, and an empty cabinet just waiting for some more customisation. And that’s just the stuff you keep between runs.
Soon enough, your next escape begins. And what game about escaping the Greek underworld would be complete without featuring some of the gods of the Greek pantheon. You’ll encounter Athena, Zeus, Artemis, and more, who will provide boons to power you up. Each god has an effect they specialise in, and I do like the various different effects and combinations you can create.
Just mechanically, the game is highly repeatable, with material rewards for acquiring as many of the different boons as possible, as well as other specific achievements. But on top of that, the story expects you to die, again and again. It takes account of that, weaves it into the tale it tells. Zagreus could beat the final boss on the very first run (good luck with that, but no doubt it’s already been done), but you wouldn’t have begun to scratch the surface of the stories the game contains.
This is a Supergiant game, so of course it looks and sounds wonderful. I’ve already got some favourites, it’ll be my work listening soon. At the time of writing, I’ve still not completed a run successfully. Visually, you can look at this game and think That’s a Supergiant game, and that’s no bad thing. Like all of their games, it looks like a Supergiant game, and still unique to itself.
I’ve become something of a fan of this studio in the last month or so, and I can see Hades being a game that I keep around for a good long while yet, chasing down every little bit of content it has to offer me.
People who like rogue-likes will like this, though those who favour more turn-based style of Slay the Spire, this is real-time, and somewhat faster. Especially in later runs, lots of effects get piled on the screen, making it harder to see Zagreus. For those who just find it too difficult, or who just want story, there’s a God Mode. This significantly boosts Zagreus’s defence, with additional boosts on every death.