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If you've not been playing Hades, you're missing out. Supergiant's Greek mythology-inspired roguelike puts players in the fiery shoes of Zagreus: prince of the underworld, son of Hades himself, and a young man who's desperate to fight through the many layers of hell and reach the surface world. Kind of like how we're all trying to get to the end of 2020.
The game has been in development for a couple of years now, playable in early access, and just recently exploded onto Nintendo Switch and PC as a fully-formed Game Of The Year contender. It is very, very good.
When sitting down to review Hades myself, I wondered if maybe I would end up gushing a little too frequently for my own good. Most of the GAMINGbible team have been playing through the game, so I recruited fellow journalist Imogen Mellor to talk through the game with me in an attempt to get a different perspective. What follows is a transcript of our conversation... and twice the amount of Hades gushing that there would have been if I'd written alone. It is what it is, right?
So we've both been playing Hades, the new roguelike/dungeon crawler/horny Greek God sim from Supergiant, and I think it's safe to say we're both very much into it?
Yeah, as someone who hasn't really enjoyed roguelikes/lites in the past, it has really snuck up on me as a game of the year contender.
That's really awesome to hear, especially as someone who loves roguelikes/lites and is constantly trying to get everyone to play games like Dead Cells and Spelunky. What is it about Hades that did it for you where other games in the genre failed?
I've been playing the game a lot on stream and have been asking myself the same question, honestly. I think perhaps one part of it is that the way the perspective works in Hades is really nice. Top down, Zag(reus) is always in the centre, so keeping an eye on how the game functions feels really natural where other roguelikes I find a little more chaotic.
I think it's also worth mentioning that I think the story, the voice acting, the art, and just the characters are so well produced that even if I didn't like the gameplay that much, I would be compelled to see as much of the game as possible. It also helps that I have a small crush on almost every character. How about you, why does Hades live up to the roguelike name?
Haha I mean, definitely having a wee crush on every character has helped drive me through the game, as I feel it has almost everyone else currently playing. Beyond my undying thirst though, I completely agree with what you're saying in regards to story.
The way Hades bakes its narrative into the very core of a roguelike and all the gameplay conventions that come with the genre (dying over and over, going through the same areas, essentially grinding constantly) is so incredibly smart that I'm amazed we haven't really seen it before now. Dead Cells kind of did something similar, but nowhere close to how Hades pulls it off.
You're constantly learning and advancing not just your own skill as a player, but the story itself. The more I think about it, the more enthusiastic I get about how damn cool it is, TBH.
Yeah that's the same for me. I played a bit of Everspace a while back, another roguelike that attempts to fold the story in with the process of dying, but it doesn't stick the landing like Hades does in making sure dying is part of the process.
Other roguelikes kill you, and it feels like a crushing defeat and it's so easy to put the game down at that point. Hades kills you and I get excited to go annoy my cranky dad, pet my dog, and bother Meg. Starting again feels exciting, meeting characters multiple times feels like you learn more - I even get excited to hear what groan Charon [decaying merchant of the underworld] is going to use when you meet him once again.
Absolutely. Every time I die, rather than put the game down in a sulk, I'll run around the House Of Hades to see what's new, because there's always something. Whether it's having another passive aggressive bitch at pappa Hades or saying sorry to Meg for murdering her for the tenth time, it's just such a richly textured world that I enjoy being in - to say nothing of the way in which the game convinces you to constantly try out new weapons and abilities rather than settle in to the same old loadout.
Oh, and without spoiling things for readers - or you if you've not gotten to the end yet, actually, Imogen - the way the game convinces you to beat it over and over and over again is inspired. I've done three runs now, and I have zero intention of slowing down.
Also, the game is reasonably difficult in a rewarding way. It gives you a chance to succeed rather than bashing you down straight away when you get further then you think you would on your second, third try for example. Hades does a great job at dangling rewards in front of you - and if you do well, it gives them to you.
It doesn't mock you when you lose, it tells you to try again with some perks or some new chambers or encounters. I find it really hard to pin how it does that, where other titles exasperate me with a loss. Maybe it's because you're playing a rebellious teen in Hades, who doesn't take anything too seriously - including death.
If you're simply not good at the game, it'll also eventually make Zag just a bit better so that you can get further than you have before.
Well that's kind of the last major thing I really wanted to touch on with you, because Hades is h a r d... but I think it definitely strikes the right balance between beating you down but giving you just enough reason to dust yourself off and head back into the fray.
Like, I was stuck on that asshole Theseus for most of a weekend, but knowing death would always advance my story in some small way kept me going back for more. And of course when you do take him out, it feels all the sweeter being able to toss his smug taunts back in his big dumb face
I suppose what I'd ask you now, then, is what you'd score a game like Hades? And why?
I don't want to be that guy, but I would be happy to give Hades a 10. I think it's genre-defining - a benchmark for so many parts of the roguelike genre. The amount of time Hades spent in early access, tinkering with the game until it was released indicates to me that this is almost the best the concept could ever get, and so I have to say minimum 9, probably 10.
I love that you're being that guy, because I think I'd also give Hades a 10. My first 10 since joining GAMINGbible, in fact! For exactly all the reasons we've been talking about, Hades manages to encapsulate everything I love about the genre while also offering an experience unlike anything I've played before. I think other developers are going to be copying Supergiant's formula for years - and so they bloody well should.
Pros: One of the most original and inventive examples of the genre, beautifully written, music absolutely slaps, you'll struggle to put it down
Cons: Difficulty might put some players off... but there's a mode to make the game a little easier
For fans of: Dead Cells, God Of War, The Binding Of Isaac
Hades was tested on Nintendo Switch and PC. The game is available now on Nintendo Switch and PC. Read a guide to our review scores here.
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