If a game has anything to do with classical antiquity, I’m in.
And when it has a beautiful art style, genius mechanics, and a brilliant approach to the sometimes vague nature of Greek mythology? Then I’m triple in, which is why I finally bought Hades by Supergiant Games.
75+ hours of play later, I’ve finally stepped away long enough to talk about it with you all! You’d better believe, though, that I’m going right back to it when we’re done here.
Hades is a game about escaping the Underworld (and about terrible parenting, to be honest).
You play as Zagreus, son of Hades, and fed up with Hades being The Worst Dad Ever™, you’re trying to escape the perils of the Underworld and net a fresh start with your extended family on Mount Olympus. And since the Olympians are aware that Hades is a dismissive, neglectful father at the best of times, they’re offering you their aid to do it, always looking forward to your success.
This is where Hades truly shines. Many rogue-like games struggle with solid narrative, letting it fill a minor role in order to highlight the game’s mechanics. Hades, however, has managed to include its plot almost seamlessly. More than that, it’s a deeply satisfying plot, addressing the complexities of family. Since we’re talking about gods, naturally, these are pretty hefty complexities, yet they manage to feel incredibly relatable to us mere mortals.
Truthfully, that balance is one of my favorite features of the entire game. You never forget these are outrageously powerful gods with frequently competing interests. After all, it’s their mighty powers assisting you in your escape. But at the very same time, these gods are arguing over family. They’re challenging poor parenting, they’re looking for support, they’re trying to make sense of truly mythical estrangements. It’s altogether remarkably human in a way that I adore, and the execution is flawless.
The mechanics in Hades are a thing of beauty as well.
It’s hard to cover every wonderful facet of how this game works. If you boil it down to two broad categories, though, it’s a little more possible.
The first category worth exploring is the game’s versatility. So much changes between each and every run, but it never feels like you’re at the mercy of some cruel randomization. With six different weapons to choose from, a heap of gods offering dozens of unique powers, and various helpful boosts you can find along the way, every single run is its own beast. Even players who’ve been at it for hours and hours can find new strategies for making out of the Underworld in one piece.
And if that’s still not enough variety for you, each weapon has three additional hidden aspects to alter playstyle, while a postgame feature allows you to up the difficulty by choosing restrictions for yourself or buffs for enemies.
Hades’ adjustable difficulty is the other amazing category of mechanics. As mentioned, the ability to increase difficulty and change up how runs work prevents the game from ever growing stale. If you really want a workout, you can also play in Hell Mode, which adds a permanent extra layer of ouch.
However, there’s also a feature called God Mode that makes matters easier. Every time you die during a run, God Mode grants you a permanent stat boost that will work to your advantage in future runs. The structure of the game already rewards you even for a failed run, but God Mode is the cherry on top for players who want a little extra ease built into their experience. I haven’t used it personally, since I like a bit of a challenge, but I think its inclusion is super valuable and makes the game a little more accessible.
On top of all that good, good stuff, this game is a sensory treat.
The music? Sublime. The voice acting? Superb. The portraits, the level design, the tiny visual details that pull it all together? Stunning. It’s almost impossible to put into words how incredible this game is with regards to design. Experiencing it really is the only way to truly grasp how stellar it is, even if you’re watching someone else play rather than holding a controller yourself.
I can tell you this much, though: Supergiant Games did not hold back. Every detail feels like a labor of love. And why wouldn’t it? This is the studio behind Transistor, another favorite visual masterpiece of mine. Clearly, this team knows how to pour their heart and soul into a game, and that passion is evident in every nook and cranny. There’s nothing that feels unpolished or neglected, and the art style is beautifully cohesive. Plus, that soundtrack rocks, pun fully intended. I would have never thought the Underworld needed some sweet guitar riffs before playing this game, but now it’s hard to imagine anything else!
And with God Mode, you don’t even have to be a good player to experience it all. In fact, you could probably play badly on purpose and still eventually make it through the main story, still see all the wonderful surprises that lie in store. And if you’re anything like me, regardless of skill level, you’ll probably get so swept up in what you’re experiencing that you die in the middle of a run, completely distracted.
Yes, this has happened more than once, but to tell the truth? I’m not even mad about it, because I’m too busy falling in love with everything I’m seeing.
Hades is available on a variety of systems, and most recently through Xbox’s Game Pass, so odds are good you can find it on your preferred console!
I’ve played on the Switch, but it’s also available for Playstation 4 and 5, Xbox One and other Xbox consoles, PC, and Mac. And if that’s not enough to convince you to try it, how about the fact that it’s $25 USD? Or that it’s taken home over 50 different game of the year awards since its 2018 release?
I think I’m recommending this game more than any other game I’ve played before. Though I was initially wary due to the hype, it turns out every single minute is well worth it and then some.
And for the last of you hold-outs? Yes, you can pet the dog. Cerberus is the bestest boy in the whole Underworld.
Go get yourself a copy of Hades. You won’t regret it. ❤️