I love a good roguelike. The feeling of, through sheer randomness, putting together a character build that is so mind-bogglingly broken you wonder how the developers let in the game, to the knowledge that death means having to start over and build something new.
I would be lying if I said the genre doesn’t have its shortcomings though. Stories in roguelikes tend to be bare-bones, with players left to fill in the gaps based on item descriptions and what few character interactions there may be.
That’s why “Hades,” the newest action roguelike from developer Supergiant Games is such a breath of air. It uses the roguelikes trademark cycle of dying and starting over to tell an in-depth story centered around Greek mythology.
The game was released Sept. 22, to near-universal acclaim. The game has been in development since 2017 and has been in early access since 2019. That amount of time really shows in the finished product.
In “Hades” you play as Zagreus, the immortal son of Hades who is desperate to break free from the underworld. On your quest, you are aided by your family, the other gods and goddesses, whose boons grant you a wide variety of abilities that help you hack and slash your way through the underworld.
“Hades” is a game that expects you to die. But it uses that death to tell a story about family and relationships. Dying in “Hades” takes you back to The House of Hades where you can interact with a cast of fully voiced characters. You can even chat with Hades himself, who is always quick to remind you that there is no escape.
The game has a relationship system that works with every character you talk to. With each death you’re able to talk with and give gifts to the poor souls trapped within Hades realm, discovering more of their story and helping them with their problems. Each and every one is distinct and memorable in their own way.
That’s probably what surprised me the most about “Hades,” the level of detail that went into each and every facet of the game, but especially the dialogue. Characters will often comment on other conversations you have had. If you encounter them during a run, they will comment on the different weapons and abilities you’ve picked up.
The developers dug deep into Greek mythology to design their characters. If you’re a mythology fan, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at some of the references made. It’s not often you hear the Minotaur’s actual name or get an explanation for what happened to Dionysus’ horns. Because of that the denizens of the Underworld and the gods of Olympus have never looked so good or sounded so likable.
That level of detail slips into every part of the game, as you journey again and again into the underworld and discover more things to do. Early on in the game, you unlock the ability to redecorate The House of Hades. There’s a fishing mini-game that allows you trade in your catches for rewards. You can pet Cerberus, which is honestly one of the best features.
The combat is fast-paced and fun. Each weapon you unlock provides you with unique abilities and special attacks that help you bash your way through enemies. The environment in each room you enter is interactive. You can smash opponents into walls for extra damage or knock them into traps meant for you.
Clearing a room grants you a reward that will either help you on your current run or can be spent back at the houses to gain more permanent unlocks and power-ups. You are slowly fed more abilities and unlocks for your weapons the farther you go. Just like the rest of the game though, the combat shines the more runs you attempt and the more you experiment.
Honestly, I wasn’t a fan of the bow weapon you can unlock at the very start of the game until I realized how well it worked with an item you can unlock through the relationship system. I dismissed Aphrodite and her de-buffing abilities until her powers came in handy against a particularly annoying boss.
On the downside, the game can feel a bit grindy, especially in the endgame where you’re trying to collect certain items or have certain encounters to complete storylines. Still, there’s so much packed into this game that even after beating it upwards of 20 times I still haven’t found the time to complete the game’s true ending.
“Hades” is a game with a lot to offer, and even more to uncover. With an amazing soundtrack, excellent gameplay, and an extreme amount of replayability I highly recommend it.