I was hesitant to play Hades when it first came out in 2020 for PC and Switch. When I hear the word “roguelike,” I usually want to claw my skin off and escape in the opposite direction. For me, the word conjures up images of unending dungeons, stalled progress, and a level of patience I rarely possess. On a next-gen system, however, I couldn’t resist the allure of developer Supergiant Games’ pedigree and signature art style. I’m addicted after numerous attempts to escape the underworld. Hades is a difficult game that will send you to hell over and over again. Death, however, does not have to be a penalty with such a captivating cast of characters and a compelling upgrade system.
As you can expect from the title, Hades is largely influenced by Greek mythology. You take on the role of Zagreus, whose father, Hades, is the lord of the underworld. Zagreus, in a classic act of adolescent rebellion, is determined to escape the world of the dead and find his long-lost relatives on Mount Olympus. Several of these iconic characters will come throughout the game to assist you on your mission, including gods such as Zeus, Hermes, and Aphrodite.
The underworld is divided into four themed dungeons, with different numbers of rooms and encounters depending on the run. Each room has a variety of enemies who will do everything they can to prevent you from progressing. You’ll face a battle against detachable skulls, gorgons, vermin, chariots, and a slew of other enemies, with the difficulty level progressively rising. Every dungeon run is unique, but each part concludes with a massive boss battle that will put all of your abilities to the test.
Many weapons in Hades allow you to customize the action to your own specific hack-and-slash fighting style, whether you favor melee or ranged combat. Whether you use a sword, gauntlet, spear, or bow, you’ll have regular and special attacks, as well as a magical “cast” that fires projectiles at enemies. These weapons are adequate on their own, but only with Boons from visiting Olympians can they reach their full power. These boons may increase the power of your assaults, add area effects, deflect enemy fire, or even allow you to call the gods’ strength for a temporary while. It’s crucial to pick your Boons carefully, as it makes Hades’ fighting feel more strategic than just hacking and slicing.
Even if the gods bless your favorite weapon, you’re still going to die. Quite a bit. Being brought back to the House of Hades after a particularly successful run can be intimidating, if not infuriating, but every death brings up new options. You can buy new skills, engage in revealing dialogues, change your weapons, and even pay for strategic and cosmetic enhancements. You may also keep an eye on your cute pet, Cerberus, the three-headed guard dog who is a nice guy.
Death is only the beginning
At first, getting out of the underworld appears to be a Sisyphean task. Things start to fall into place after Tartarus defeats Megaera at the end of the first phase. You’ll have a greater understanding of how to utilize weapons skillfully, as well as which Boons will best enhance your gameplay style. You’ll have to strike a balance between conserving your health and gathering chthonic keys, gemstones, darkness, and nectar, which are different types of underworld currency that may be used to unlock skills and upgrades. During each run, you’ll move a little further, until Olympus is virtually within reach.
Then you’ll die once more.
You’ll stand up, clean up the blood, and try again.
The fact that I had to repeat the same boss encounters over and again was my biggest aggravation in Hades. Permadeath and losing progress are well-known aspects of roguelike design. But after a dozen battles with Meg and her sisters, the boss fight became a chore. I wish there was a method to pay darkness or another cash to skip bosses you’ve already fought, which would also help to shorten the series of deaths.
Of course, when a game looks as amazing as Hades, dying constantly is a little easier to accept. The art styles of Supergiant’s games are well-known, and this one is not except. Despite its dark themes, Hades is a bright and colorful game with expertly hand-drawn artwork. I’m sure it looks great on any platform, but the PlayStation 5 truly brings it to life. From the visuals to the dialogue and music to the smooth animation that never misses a beat, everything about the presentation is near-perfect.
Hades is one of the rare games where losing all your progress feels like a new beginning. Even if you’re not a big fan of roguelikes (like me), you’ll find it difficult to resist the game’s many enticements. It’s a fantastic interpretation of Greek mythology, as well as a vivid vision of the afterlife. It’s so satisfying when Hades clicks. You’ll get tired of the early bosses, but you’ll never get tired of feeling godlike after pulling off a masterful finisher.
If you missed Hades last year, don’t make the same mistake this time around, especially since it’s now accessible on Xbox and PlayStation.