Supergiant Games can do no wrong. Every game they make is better than the last, and it feels like all the work they’ve done up to this point jas culminated in Hades, an incredible roguelike that engaged me, challenged me, and filled me with a level of pure joy that I rarely feel from videogames nowadays. It is a master class in game design, and I’m about to heap it with praise for the next few hundred words.
Hades is a game about Zagreus, entry-level Himbo and son of the titular God of the underworld, as he attempts to escape from Tartarus for reasons that become clear as you progress through the game. To do so he’ll need the help of his Aunts and Uncles of the Greek pantheon, a couple of sick weapons, and a banging Darren Korb soundtrack to power him through. It won’t be easy, though: he’ll be dying quite a lot to get out and find what he’s looking for.
What makes Hades such a treat is how it takes every aspect common to Roguelikes and finds a way to give it a fresh coat of paint. The Supergiant team is masterful at creating interlocking systems that all make sense whilst fitting into whatever narrative they’ve created, and never has that been more true than in this game. As a result, it finds a solution for the most common frustration that can come with playing a Roguelike: death.
Death in Hades isn’t really a loss as you come to expect in videogames. Each time you get sent packing back to the Hades’ halls, you’re rewarded with new dialogue, new characters, new story bits, and new gameplay mechanics. Despite dying countless times while playing the game, I never found myself angry, because I knew something new and interesting was waiting for me. I was astounded at the amount of dialogue and character interactions that were available with each new run. It kept my loops fresh even when I was banging my head against a difficult boss.
It also helped that the game simply feels immaculate to play as well. Hades has, in this humble writer’s opinion, the best combat to ever come out of a Roguelike. Controlling Prince Z is effortless and responsive — not once did I ever feel like a death was anything other than my own fault. The feedback from his weapons is also satisfying as hell, especially when you’re able to upgrade them with hammers during a run through Tartarus. Combat is tough, but fair, and thankfully the game comes with a “God Mode” (heh) that allows you to overpower your enemies if you’re just here for the trademark wonderful storytelling that Supergiant Games is known for.
What gives each run variety are the boons you can find as you progress. The Gods want Zag to be free of Hades as well, and so they lend their powers to him. Each boon you pick up allows you a choice of one of three powers from a particular God, allowing you to tailor your playstyle during a run. Athena’s boons focus on reflecting and defending from attacks, for example, while Poseidon’s allow you to knock enemies away from you. I was particularly fond of Zeus’ lightning powers. You can upgrade your boons as a run progresses, making them feel incredibly powerful before you reach the end. I never got tired of experimenting with builds and working with what tools I had available to me each time I dove back into the underworld, especially because even boons come with their own lore and dialogue to experience.
There’s more I could say, but honestly, it would spoil some of the surprise, and I just don’t have much in the way of critique. I can’t think of anything wrong with this game, other than the fact that I can’t date Nyx in real life. Needless to say: I am recommending — hell, begging you to play Hades. It is one of the greatest games of this year, and the best game Supergiant has ever made — until they make their next game, in which case, I’m sure they will top themselves all over again.
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