Important note: This article was written by Bruno Santos
Hades is a phenomenal roguelike, full of slicing, dicing and a lot of dying…It’s an infernal amount of fun.
Made by Supergiant Games, creators of renowned Bastion, Transistor, and on a lesser note Pyre. Hades is an innovating entry in the roguelike genre, with a very heavy focus on narrative and that includes the dying all the time as a plot advance mechanic like no other.
Our story begins with Zagreus (the main character) trying to escape his hellish home, quite literally in fact as he is the son of Hades, Greek god of the dead. Along his journey, he is both assisted and annoyed (also killed) by a giant cast of characters from the not so holy Olympian gods to mythological creatures pulled out of the greek epics. The story slowly unfolds as we both progress through the various layers of hell and each time we die, bringing more dialogs and even new characters to interact with. All of them are fully voiced and with many many many different dialogue lines, which bring a great amount of life to the adventure. Even better, depending on our progress, weapons and even boons and perks we have the characters will comment on that, joking and criticizing our choices. For a game based on Greek mythology, it has all the greatness of an epic but none of the tragedy.
It’s impossible not to praise the detail of each character (all of them portrayed in some way in greek mythos and some in actual history), details reflected in their demeanor and look: Artemis, goddess of the hunt is a loner and socially awkward while Dionysus, the god of wine is exuberant and always relaxed. Not only our allies but even our enemies react to our choices and circumstances, including bosses making fun of our sorry state if we get to them in low health (and they’ve got too many jokes about that one, we heard a lot of them…).
This genre, however, is mostly about the gameplay loop, which in Hades is not only smooth as velvet as it has nigh endless variability.
We have 6 weapons, 4 forms for each, and 8 different gods that all assist us in some ways (this in relation to combat). Beyond this, there are artifacts that upgrade the weapons (e.g. shooting 3 projectiles instead of one but with shorter range) and the boons granted by the gods. In more than 50 tries, all the runs had different builds. The rise in power along the run is palpable, but good strategy and adaptation make just as much difference as luck in the power-ups we get.
This alone already gives you an idea of how they went above and beyond in making the gameplay loop satisfying, but depending on your progress new enemies and new bosses show up making it even more versatile. In our infernal home we can upgrade our character, the home itself, and the various hellish stages we cross on the way out. You can customize the house to your liking (including somethings that provide more insight into the stories secrets) and the characters themselves will offer you tasks when special conditions are met.
Animations are very much in line with the other games in Supergiant’s roster, with a lot of colour and particles all fitting of a hellish landscape. The actor’s work is commendable, both in tone and in content each character feels unique to the point you know who they are by the style of talking and the punchlines (some of them quite literal). The soundtrack is amazing, adapting itself to the action and each zone having its own unique themes.
Controls are fully customizable and there’s an excellent option for accessibility in difficulty. The proverbial God Mode allows those with either disabilities that hinder their progress or that want a smaller challenge, to at any time during the game turn it on, giving the main character a damage resistance buff that gives more resistance the more you die. This allows the player to control fully his experience and adjust accordingly. One great quality of life is the menu that allows us at any time to verify everything we have in that run and exactly what it is affecting and how. After the first successful escape, the game opens up even more options, namely to increase the difficulty and get more rewards out of it, increasing longevity while providing an adjustable challenge.
From the bottomless pits of hell to the surface, Hades is a true greek epic, combining an excellent narrative and soundtrack with an insanely variable gameplay loop. It is an all senses of the word, Godlike.