Hades – Played it – Beat it – Great game

Max Hughes, Columnist

The first game on my list of 15 to beat by the end of the year, a new year’s resolution of sorts, was Hades. Hades combines the elements of so many types of games that I love making it easy to throw 40 hours at it to reach the credits sequence of the game. 

Prior to the 2020 Game Awards I had heard of Hades, but I have a problem with buying games and not finishing them, which is the reason behind my resolution of actually finishing the games I own. After the Game Awards however, with the help of some lighthearted peer pressure and a sale I picked it up. 

Supergiant Games describes their game as “a rogue-like dungeon crawler in which you defy the god of the dead as you hack and slash your way out of the Underworld of Greek myth.” Making it through the Underworld from the bottom up is a lot more fun than it sounds, especially when the gods of Olympus give you superpowers in the form of boons to blast your way to the top. 

The boons in this game give the main character, The Prince of the Underworld Zagreus a massive advantage over the mere mortal souls that try to stop him from reaching the top. The boons are the main source of power in the game and other items in the game are useful for making them more effective, making escaping feel like a steady incline of difficulty and power. 

The most interesting variant in this game is the ways the player can modify the difficulty of escape attempts. A mechanic in the game known as the Pact of Punishment gives those that are looking to increase the challenge of the Underworld a method for doing so. The pact has the ability to give bosses new abilities, increase the number of enemies necessary to slice through on the way to the top and even increase the damage of traps to lethal percentages. Dying to a trap is the most frustrating form of punishment.

Progressively gaining more skill and new abilities of my own from things like the Mirror of Darkness and upgrades to weapons gives the game a draw that some rogue-likes don’t always have for me. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll plunge into the depths of games like The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth or Enter the Gungeon time and time again, but that feeling of progression in a game outside of skill growth keeps me more invested. 

What really draws me into the game is the story of this kid trying to find his mom in spite of his dad’s attempts to keep him and the history of their family in the dark of their history. Fighting the final boss of the game Hades is very rewarding. Each time Zagreus (and I) fought to the surface I learned more and more about the history between the gods of Olympus, his parents and his own birth.

The small storytelling elements given by minor characters throughout the game create an Underworld worthy of exploring. While most conversations take place in The House of Hades, those conversations give a better idea of what life in the Underworld is like for these characters. It is fun to see the relationships grow between Zagreus and the members of the house that see him run out into the Underworld saying this could be the day, only to come back after about twenty minutes due to a pit of lava turning him to ash. The game even has a romance system for people that are into that. You can flirt with members of the house while also telling them one day you plan to leave.

The variety of elements like romance, weapon advancement, difficulty enhancement, collection elements, I mean there’s even fishing. Animal Crossing has nothing on this game. There are so many dialogues that I don’t think I’ve seen someone say the exact same thing twice in all fifty hours I’ve played. Tie all that together with fun nods to Greek Mythology and interesting characters, Hades is the best game I’ve beaten in 2021.