As a gamer, I enjoy a large repertoire of game genres. In my vast library of video games, you’ll find first person shooters, MMORPG’s, RPG’s, RTS’, MOBA’s, TCG’s, digital board games, adventure games, platformers, fighting games, survival, crafting, horror, text adventures, digital graphic novels, roguelikes, and more. While that list was pedantic, it was just a small group of the types of games I own. Granted, I enjoy certain types of games more than others, but I’m willing to play just about anything at least once.
Of all the games I own, Roguelike games are one of my least favorite. Roguelike games have you take on the role of a character or characters and move them through procedurally generated levels. During the progression of these levels, different upgrades will be offered in varying ways. During one run, you might have all weapon upgrades. During the next run, perhaps you find nothing but money making items/power ups. Roguelikes can be infuriating because you might delve an hour into a run and get decimated by a boss because your rewards throughout the dungeon have been the least effective or proficient things.
As a precursor, I have always enjoyed learning and reading about different mythologies. My favorite mythology has always been the story of King Arthur, but I also enjoy the Greek, Egyptian, and Norse mythologies. I’ve seen the game, Hades, on Steam and people’s praise of the game for quite some time. I read that it was a Roguelike game and was immediately deterred from wanting to play it. However, I enjoy games that offer some form of progression more so than other games. As an example, I love playing games like The Forest where it might be survival/horror, but you constantly grind out things, explore dungeons, and you progress through the game to build an awesome base or have more weapons. RPG’s like Skyrim or Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning offer character progression through leveling up and getting new skills. Hades is the epitome of progression through grinding, so why not give it a try?
I had a credit on my Steam account from a game I refunded almost a year ago, so I decided to pick up Hades and give it a go. Why did I wait so long to give this game a try?
Hades is a game released on PC, Mac, and Nintendo Switch just a few months ago in 2020. It was developed by Supergiant Games. It’s rated T for Teen due to Blood, Violence, Mild Language, Alcohol References, and Suggestive Themes.
Hades is a Roguelike game that has you take on the role of the one and only son of Hades. Zagreus is the only offspring of the God of the Underworld and wants nothing more than to escape from Hell. He hates his life in Hell and wants to escape and live on the overworld. Zagreus is the son of Hades and Nyx. He used to do admin work for Hades by keeping track of shades that died and wandered the Underworld, but now his isolated and boring life has become too much for him. Taking up mythological weapons, Zagreus begins his journey through Tartarus, Asphodel, Elysium, and eventually the land between Heaven and Hell.
The reason the game is Roguelike lies in what happens when you die. Every time you die while trying to escape, you are reborn in Hades’ Palace. You keep some of the upgrade things you gathered, but anything that you gained to help with your current run disappears and you’re forced to start from scratch again.
The mechanics of the game are played like an older console game reminiscent of the original Nintendo or Sega. It’s more of a top-down view as you control Zagreus and fight off hordes of Underworld minions in a desperate escape attempt. The game is considered Roguelike, because while you have powers and weapons that you can upgrade, every run is different. You move from chamber to chamber, fighting off different enemies with varying degrees of strategy and difficulty. When you complete a chamber by killing everything within, one or more options appear. You have to choose which door you want to enter based on a symbol that signifies what reward lies ahead. There are a myriad of upgrades available based on any number of criteria.
The most proficient rewards are Boons bestowed upon you from the Gods and Goddesses of Olympus. They have learned of your plight, and since you were born with two divine parents, the Gods of Olympus believe you belong among them. They want to help you by providing you with small bits of their powers in the battle against the minions of Hades. Their powers are usually associated with the type of God helping you. The Gods that provide Boons are:
Each God will give you an option of three choices. These choices affect your weapons and skills in different ways. Every weapon comes with some kind of basic attack, a special attack, a dash attack, and a Cast that sticks a magical debuff onto an enemy. The Boons offered by the Gods enhance and power those attacks. They also offer utility Boons that make you have more defense, earn money passively, and a variety of other things.
Some symbols that lead to the next chamber will denote items of currency. These currency items are Darkness Orbs, Gemstones, Charon’s Obols, Nectar, and Chthonic Keys. These items all have different purposes.
Darkness Orbs are your main form of currency to buy upgrades. Before you start any escape attempt, you can look in the Mirror of Night, provided by Zagreus’ mother, Nyx, and purchase powers and upgrades with these Darkness Orbs. The upgrades become increasingly more expensive, so you have to keep attempting to escape over and over in order to gather enough for the stronger upgrades. However, the upgrades will remain throughout rather than disappearing when you die. When you die, any Darkness Orbs you gained stay with you.
Gemstones are used with the House Contractor, a being in Hades’ Palace, to purchase upgrades to the Underworld as well as aesthetic things in the main house of the game. You can buy things to help you along your escape path or new furniture and different color schemes for the different rooms in Hades’ Palace. When you die, any Gemstones you gained stay with you.
Charon’s Obols are coins that only stay with you during a run. When you die, these coins disappear. Throughout an escape attempt, you might come along some fountains or even Charon himself. You can purchase upgrades, healing items, and a myriad of other things using the coins you gained along the way.
Nectar is a sweet drink that you can use to give to other characters you meet. It helps you build relationships with them, open up extra dialogue options, and further delve into the story of the game. Giving Nectar to different characters gives you a Keepsake that provides you with additional powers that can help you on your escape attempts. When you die, any Nectar you gained stays with you.
Chthonic Keys are used to unlock extra upgrades in the Mirror of Night and to trade with characters for other powers and upgrades. When you die, any Keys you gained stay with you.
Other options you might come across are the Centaur Heart, Daedalus Hammer, and Pom of Power.
The Centaur Heart will increase your maximum life by 25 for that run only. Upgrades in the Mirror of Night will help increase your overall health total, but Centaur Hearts help with each individual run.
The Daedalus Hammer will upgrade your current weapon in some way. It might increase your attack, provide lifesteal, or superpower a specific kind of attack. These upgrades disappear when you die.
Poms of Power will allow you to level up and upgrade one of the Boons you’ve received from one of the Gods.
Infernal Arms – Your Weapons of Choice
While this might be partially a spoiler, there are a total of six weapons you can use in the game. You start out with Stygius, the Stygian Blade of the Underworld. It’s a sword that offers simple attacks and basic mechanics. Eventually, you’ll unlock the following weapons:
Varatha, the Eternal Spear
Aegis, the Shield of Chaos
Coronacht, the Heart-Seeking Bow
Malphon, the Twin Fists of Malphon
Exagryph, the Adamant Rail
All of these weapons were once wielded by specific Gods or Goddesses in the mythology. Poseidon used Stygian, Hades used Varatha, Zeus used Aegis, Hera used Coronacht, Demeter used Malphon, and Hestia used Exagryph. It’s an interesting flavor to have the these weapons be in the use of Zagreus now, especially given that the war between the Gods and Titans is over. Each weapon allows for varying degrees of mechanical difficulty and uses. These weapons can be upgraded during each run and a specific way to upgrade them later in the game.
Lore and Storytelling
My favorite aspect of the game is the amount of characters from mythology that you can meet while in the Underworld. Some of the characters you’ll meet (no spoilers) are:
There are others, but to avoid spoilers, I’ll leave them off the list. Each one has their own personality, and while Hades never had a son in the mythology, it allows for some relatively accurate portrayals of possible untold stories in Greek mythology. The story starts out very simple and misleading. You think you just want to escape the Underworld to be rid of the arduous lifestyle of Hell. Instead, you begin to see a flavorful story full of twists and turns, triumphs and tragedies, and misguided moral standards.
While this will be a partial spoiler, the end of the game is not the end of the game. Once the credits roll, you find out that there is so much more you can do; more things to unlock, more lore to find, more storytelling to experience, and more loot to grind out. It’s almost a limitless game with more things to grind out if you’re enjoying the combat and playstyle. I beat the game a while back and have spent the rest of my time to trying to unlock quite a few of the things I had missed. I have weapons to continue upgrading, relationships with some of the characters to develop, and renovations to Hades’ Palace I’d like to complete.
Roguelike dungeon crawler games are pretty far down on my list of favorites, but there’s something about this game that I really enjoy. The voice acting, graphics, gameplay, writing, progression: it all brings a smile to my face. Hades is like nothing I’ve ever played before, and I very much look forward to the hours of fun it’s going to continue to provide me.