I played roguelike games before, but never in the action or platforming flavour. I recognized the Rogue Legacy and Dead Cells of the world as quality games, but I let them pass me by for other games. SuperGiant Games’ Hades would have been one of those passing games as well, if not for an aggressive sale on the Epic Games Store. For less than $10, it would have been silly of me not to partake. And after playing so much of it for the past four weeks or so, it may very well be my game of the year.
Hades’ greatest feat was its story and how it weaved the narrative tightly with the roguelike loop. I’ve seen the credits roll, I’ve sunk over 30 hours into the game, and I still want to see what else this game has to offer from a narrative perspective. There are just so many lines of dialogue for all the characters in the game; the sheer amount of it is the most impressive part of the game. Yes, they’re usually only handful of lines per run, but each one adds context and flavor on top of the ever growing Zagreus.
Zagreus, son of Hades, was driven to find out what happened to his mother. He lives in the Underworld and through his adoptive mother, Nyx, he was put in touch with his relatives on Olympus who want to see their own join them. The Olympians help Zagreus by sending him random Boons (power-ups). Zagreus needed all the help he could muster because these random assortment of levels designed to keep shades (souls) from escaping the depths of the Underworld are full of tormented shades who have been employed by the realm’s master to serve as guards.
Every run takes Zagreus through Tartarus, Asphodel, and Elysium. Each area has its share of style, enemies, and bosses. And despite running through the same set of areas, and enemies, I still find enjoyment through each and every run. An average run takes about 30 to 40 minutes and I have no problem going through two per day. At the height of my Hades time, I was pulling off two or three runs per session. Hades has that addictive “one more” run quality that can turn 8pm to 11:30pm in a blink of an eye.
Greek mythology is well worn territory and yet Hades managed to carve out its own unique take on it. Each and every character appears to be quite likable despite their sordid histories. Much of it was their charm and relatively pleasant demeanors. As the game progressed, I started to see different sides to the Olympians and other characters. The trademark Olympian pettiness began to bubble to the surface; not a single one of them was above it.
Supergiant Games’ knows action games. Their first title, Bastion, felt very good to play and Hades tops that easily. They don’t explain how/why Zagreus can dash through physical objects, but it felt good to easily move about without much impedance. It felt like was controlling a ninja at times; an unstoppable elemental force that can swipe through enemies with ease.
I never got tired of it, and even now, over 40 runs later, I still find the time to do a least a run per day. I’m continually being rewarded with drips of story, and so far that’s enough to sustain me. Systems like the fine grain challenge system in the latter stages gave me the power to choose my poison. I’m glad it’s not just the same types of enemies with more hit points. Supergiant Games thought of everything and I am simply in awe of their thoughtfulness. It’s easily their best work to date.