Thoughts On Hades (So Far)

A screen shot of the Hades game.

Image credit: Supergiant Games

Hades is the first roguelike game I’ve ever experienced. I’ve never played a dungeon crawler type game before, nor did I know what a roguelike even was before I started playing Hades. For someone who plays as many videogames as I do (which isn’t a ton but is a decent amount) you’d think I’d have run into one by now, but I only came across Hades when my friend showed me art for it. A few weeks later, he told me I should buy it, and since it was only twenty bucks on the Switch, I figured I’d give it a go.

Let me tell you, this game is awesome. There are many things in this life that I have spent twenty dollars on, and Hades is for sure one of the most worthwhile things (another would probably be a bowl of black garlic tonkatsu ramen, but who’s keeping track?). Technically, Hades was 20% off when I bought it, so the original price was like twenty-five dollars instead of just twenty, but I would’ve gladly paid twenty-five for this amazing game.

If you’ve never played a roguelike before, from what I’ve gathered so far, you basically go through a bunch of different rooms that are arranged in random order, and fight your way through each new chamber, in an attempt to get through all of them without dying. And if you do die, then you lose everything and have to start all the way over.

In Hades case, you play as the son of Hades, Prince of the Underworld, named Zagreus, and you’re attempting to escape the Underworld and make it to the surface. You have to battle through Tartarus, Asphodel, and Elysium, to escape. Of course, your father doesn’t believe you’re up to the task because he built the Underworld specifically so the souls trapped there could never escape, but surely you’ll prove him wrong, right? Right.

I’ve also learned that Hades is what is known as a “roguelite” because when you die you get to keep (most of) the treasures you found while fighting through the everchanging chambers. You can unlock weapons, strengthen your abilities, and get items that make the game a little easier. So the iconic “permanent death” feature that roguelikes usually have is toned down in Hades.

I’ve also discovered permanent death PISSES ME OFF. As I mentioned in my Dark Souls III post (which I haven’t played for a while, admittedly), I am a very sore loser and a big time rage quitter crybaby, so permanent death in a game makes me really upset and want to scream. However, Hades does a beautiful job of making me not completely despise dying. When you die, you get to interact with characters and unlock more of the story each time. Dying is like, an important thing in Hades! I think it’s a great mechanic to make dying almost a fun thing, because I always look forward to talking to the characters and leveling up.

Part of the reason I decided to try out Hades in the first place is because I love the art. It’s so unique, and the character designs of the gods are so cool!

Image credit: Supergiant Games

I mean LOOK AT THIS BITCH. SO COOL. What a freaky, unique, awesome looking being. All the Olympian gods look awesome, too, and the main character, Zagreus, is pretty spicy if you ask me:

Image credit: Supergiant Games

Not only is the character design and animation in this game amazing, but the voice acting is great, too! There are so many voice lines, and tons of interactions you can have with lots of different characters. I honestly can’t get enough of this game, which is probably why I’m on attempt 40 right now.

I’m really hoping to beat this game, but I’m not very good at it, and I doubt I’ll even make it through Asphodel, but I’ll keep trying. Games like this require perseverance. And patience. Lots of patience.

So, even though I haven’t finished this game yet, I’m going to go ahead and recommend it. Usually I try not to review or recommend things unless I’ve completed them, but this game is too good to pass up! I’ve spent probably about twenty five or thirty hours playing it so far, which I feel like is enough time to at least be able to say, “hey, check this cool game out.”

If you’re interested, check out the trailer!

If you’ve played this game before, tell me about your experience with it! What weapon did you use? What keepsake did you equip? How many tries did it take you? Did you like it? Let me know in the comments! And as always, have a great day.

-AMS

22 Comments on “Thoughts On Hades (So Far)”

  1. Jessica – Author and editor. All comments/questions/etc should be directed to jessica@jessicameigs.com. Follow me on social media for more frequent updates!
    Jessica Meigs

    I was literally eyeballing this game on the Switch last night when I was looking for something to play now that Overwatch won’t work for me. (It’s a long story–my ISP appears to be blocking connection to the game servers, which they’ve done before but quit doing, but apparently started doing again back on November 30th, all while proclaiming ignorance.) This review makes me want to go actually buy the game instead of staring at it on my wish list lol.

  2. I’ve had three successful runs right now, two with the spear and one with the shield. Took like… fifteen to twenty tries to get the first success. If you haven’t tried it, I used God Mode for a bit. Every time you die with God Mode on, your defense goes up by 2%, so it’s not an instant win, but it makes the game much more manageable. Eventually I turned it off, but it made the learning curve a bit smoother.

    Freaking love the voices, Dusa is the bestest best.

  3. The music, by Darren Korb, is awesome. I found out about him on a podcast I regularly listen to (OK, it’s put out by some friends of mine), the Super Best Friends Video Game Sleepover http://www.sbfvgs.com. He really deep dives into video game music and soundtracks and is a great listen.

  4. Loved this game and spent many, many hours at it.

    Of the readily accessible keepsakes, I really liked the ones that give you a permanent damage boost for the run each time you clear a room without taking a hit (so you can try to power up a bit in the easier, early rooms), and the one that makes urns sometimes drop health items, giving you a bit of a cushion as your health gets worn down. I think they’re Thanatos’ and Dusa’s.

    I’m certainly not an elite gamer, but some combination of the unlocks, powerups and experience gained let me go from considering myself lucky to even get to Asphodel, to beating the entire run more often than not. So keep at it! Even once you succeed, there’s still plenty of dying and story left to go.

  5. I agree, Hades is so good!

    I found this article to be really helpful in understanding how you can create builds that make the game much more fun and made it possible for me to actually escape: https://brightrockmedia.com/2020/10/11/best-hades-builds/

    I tend to equip the keepsake for the god that I’m trying to start with. For example, if I’m trying to run with the shield and trying to get the Poseidon/Zeus duo boon, then I’ll start with the Poseidon keepsake and hopefully get his dash boon. That’s a huge benefit :)

  6. Should take a look, I think.

    On the SF theme, try FTL (faster than light) which is a true rogue-style turn-based spaceship combat game. The graphics are, err, kind of 8 bit but it doesn’t matter. Feels impossible to begin with, but you get the hang of it pretty quickly. As I’m old, the lack of FPS and the thinking time helps a lot.

  7. Based on all the great reviews, I tried playing on PC using mouse/keyboard (I’m just not a controller guy, never have liked them), and gave up and returned it after a half-hour. The combination of a WASD control scheme on an isometric layout was so utterly awful that I can only imagine it was an afterthought so that the game makers could say they had it.

    There was a very old game named “rogue” which was played on video display terminals in character mode. This was in the day where terminals did not have graphics. Random rectangular rooms were drawn on screen with | and – characters, corridors were strings of #s, monsters were represented by letters of the alphabet, and the player was represented by @. It was turn based – you would take a step in one of the eight directions, and all the monsters would take a step towards you. Combat was conducted by walking into a monster standing next to you. That’s why games like these are called “roguelikes”. A later version named “hack” and then “nethack” is still played (now available in browsers), and Dwarf Fortress also uses this display format.

    If you look at some of the cover art of the book “You” by Austin Grossman, you can see that the little person on the cover has an “@” on its chest. Rogue is why.

  8. @Scott Patten
    Not sure if you’ll see this man, I wrote the article you linked. Saw the link, just wanted to pop in and say I’m really glad it helped you out and thanks for the kind words!

  9. Hades is great! I played a fair bit of it – around 90 runs, I think, and by run 20-30 they were usually taking me an hour+ to play, so it was probably something like 120-130 hours of gameplay, which is more than anything I’ve played since becoming a parent. (Part of it towards the end was just trying to complete plotlines, I’d gotten a little burned out on it, and have since taken a break.) Characters, setting, conceit, and gameplay are all really excellent.

    I’ll echo things two folks have said above:

    @Chris P’s suggestion on God Mode. I never turned it on because the name sounded like too much of a buff, but when I looked into what it did (around run 80) I kicked myself for not having done so, because there was a long stretch where I was just stuck at one particular point. It’s very gradual in how it buffs you, and from what I understand you can turn it off / back on anytime.

    @KrisT’s suggestion to check out SuperGiant’s other games! They’re fantastic. My personal appreciation of them is Pyre > Hades > Bastion > Transistor. (I liked Transistor quite a bit, I just liked all the other ones more.) Pyre may well be my favorite game of the past decade; Hades’ interpersonal relations are good, but IMO not on par with Pyre’s, despite having like 10x as many lines and voice-acting that’s the actual text rather than abstract/fictitious-language.

    Pyre’s gameplay is weird – not like anything else I’ve ever played – but I found it intriguing from the start, eventually grew to really love it, you can change difficulty for it up or down at any point… and the best part is that regardless off whether you win or lose, the game and plot continue – I played through a second time on stupid-hard difficulty just to see what happens if you basically never win, and it’s still really moving, because ultimately the story is as much about the people traveling together as the goal they’re trying to achieve.

  10. I was going to ask who you ‘ship Zag with, until I saw that you are struggling with Asphodel.

    That damn Hydra has killed me so. many. times, I swear. It makes it extra satisfying when I do manage to kill it.

    Took me about 70 or so runs to get my first completion, and another 20 or so for the second. Weirdly enough, the first was with the fists, and the second with the bow. Apparently I’m best with glass cannon runs?

    I love how much personality they’ve crammed into each of the gods. I find Dionysus hilarious, despite him being a pretty toxic dudebro? Ares is clearly a complete monster, and yet I find myself reacting to Aphrodite with much more suspicion/wariness? Poseidon is a hilarious surfer-dude, except when he tries to kill you. Tisiphone is creepy, but Alecto is the Fury I most fear to meet on a run. I’ve beaten her several times, but she’s still a really tough fight.

    I utterly adore Athena, Hermes and Artemis. Also, Dusa is Best Girl. I will accept no disagreement. ;)

    And then there’s Demeter. Hoo, boy, she is so NOT the warm and fuzzy type.

    I also find Theseus the one character I really love to hate. Beating him down is So Very Satisfying. Even more so than the Hydra, ’cause the Hydra is just a voiceless monster doing its monster-y thing, but Theseus is a delusional blowhard. He’s great.

    Supergiant Games make awesome games, and integrate the entire sound/soundtrack/voice acting into their games brilliantly. If you like Hades, I’d pretty sure you’ll also like their first effort Bastion. There’s also Transistor and Pyre. Transistor I found lovely but the combat didn’t quite grab me as much as Bastion and Hades. Pyre I haven’t tried yet, but the reviews suggest it isn’t a massive hit like B and H.

  11. Oh boy. Roguelikes and roguelites really are a cottage industry these days. I’ve certainly played my share of them. Haven’t bought Hades, but probably will when a deep enough sale happens.

    If you like the art, you might look at Supergiant’s other games. Hades is probably their best-received one so far, but the art in all of them is quite good. Their first game, Bastion, is generally considered their best aside from Hades.

    Also, in the realm of roguelites, you might check out Monster Train and see if it tickles your fancy. It’s a turn-based deck-building roguelite rather than action-based roguelite, so the gameplay is very different, but who knows, it might appeal to you as well.

    Lastly, you might enjoy the YouTube documentaries about Hades done by NoClip, here: https://www.noclip.video/hades

  12. If you want to try the true roguelikes, either NetHack or Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup or Adom are the real deal. 8-bit graphics, if you choose so (I prefer to play them in ASCII mode). And very definitely permadeath, it’s a big part of the roguelike experience.

    The three games above seem primitive; but they are deep and have almost infinite replayability.

  13. I remember this announcement from when it was current:

    (ESTABLISHING SHOT) A weary ADVENTURER, wearing battered armor and 10 glowing rings, clutching a potion bottle, and laden with all manner of weapons, magical devices, and sacks of gold, lies panting on the ground outside of the seedy-looking entrance to a grimy Dungeon. The nearby scenery is uniformly grey and uninteresting.

    Bluff Male Voice: Retrieved the Amulet of Yendor too many times to count?

    Sultry Female Voice: Can’t see anything in the Eye of Larn?

    BMV: Eaten one too many Zombie corpses?

    SFV: Run out of Greater Gods to kill?

    CLOSE-UP: The ADVENTURER’s sweat-streaked face, which is nicked and bruised. He has a black eye.

    The ADVENTURER nods wearily, and, it seems, with some boredom.

    MBV+SFV: Then take the ultimate challenge … The final quest … OMEGA!

    (PAN VERTICALLY TOWARD SKY)

    The Mormon Tabernacle Choir: Ooooooo — mega!

    A shaft of brilliant sunlight pierces the overcast sky, revealing a Mystic Portal in the sky. A rainbow bridge lances from the portal toward the ADVENTURER. As the ADVENTURER hesitantly sets foot on the bridge, he (with the viewer) is swept through the M.P. in a masterpiece of computer animation. There is a flash of light, and a TRANSFORMED ADVENTURER, in newly polished and chromed armor, wielding a flaming sword, strides confidently toward an edifice that makes the Castle of Ultimate Darkness look like a sandcastle. The landscape is vibrantly colored, and we feel that there are new challenges awaiting just over the horizon.

    TMTC: Magnificat! Magnificat! Magnificat!

    BMV: Coming Soon to a site near you!

    SFV: Challenge Omega — The Final Quest!

    As the ADVENTURER passes through the entrance to the AWESOME CASTLE, a giant portcullis slams shut behind him with the force of a Death Star bulkhead, and we hear a muffled scream, soon cut off.

    Satanic Male Voice: If you dare!

    I second the vote that you give Nethack a look, and maybe also Angband.

  14. Hades is so, so good. It was, you may or may not know, the source of great ire and controversy when it originally was announced as an Epic Game Store exclusive when it first appeared. This was when Epic was doing whatever it took to leverage Fortnite into a competitor for Steam. Despite being a huge fan of Bastion and Transistor, I was in no rush. When it arrived for Switch (now being out of Early Access and in actual release) I jumped at it.

    The story-telling in Hades is as much a reward as any buff. Reuniting separated lovers and family members, freeing imprisoned legendary characters, professing your love and piecing together the meta-narrative of the game are all fantastic drip-feed rewards for continued play. I have done 80 runs and still haven’t finished one…which means I SHOULD really be frustrated with the game (or bored, as I often get with many similar rogue-like/rogue-lite games…looking at you, Hollow Knight), but in fact I’m still solidly invested. The game keeps introducing new elements to keep things fresh: keepsakes, new quests that unlock organically, new characters who unlock new modes (Hello, Than!), fishing and more. The writing, voice-acting and music are some of the best in gaming, honestly, which is a Super Giant trait.

    Honestly, it’s tied with the best game of the year for me with Ghost of Tsushima on the PS4. It’s been a good year for games, really.

  15. Thanks for the recommendation! I may check it out- I play Roguelike games off and on (I date back to the character graphics age) and they can be a lot of fun. I totally agree with you on the permadeath thing- I used to regularly create shell scripts to get around the “delete savefile at death” bug (inverting the old programmer joke).

  16. Hades is the first rougelike that I really enjoyed. It helps that even when you die and utterly fail you can still advance the story. As several have already mentioned try the other games Supergiant has made, they are one of the few developers where I will buy their games no questions asked (Moon Studios is another favorite).

    Don’t skimp on doling out the nectar (and ambrosia when you start clearing Elysium). If you want to see the true ending you’ll play this game and clear it many, many times. At this point I can reliably clear the game and have done so well over 20 times and I still have quests to finish and still keep getting new dialogue and story.

  17. I played way too much Nethack in the 80s. Best things about it:
    – The ASCII graphics were better.
    – You have a little dog. (Or cat or whatever.) It’s tame and will attack things, but if you don’t feed it it gets less tame and will eventually become hostile.
    – While food is sometimes a thing you find, usually you have to just kill monsters and eat them.
    – When you die, you’re dead. Start over if you want. But there’s a chance you’ll leave a corpse behind. With your stuff. And your dog will hang around. And (especially in a shared environment with coworkers on a minicomputer) the next time you get down to that level, you’ll encounter a pile of stuff. And a ghost. And a dog who you have not tamed, but who will be happy to eat food if you toss it to them. (Oh, and most of the stuff will be cursed, of course.)

  18. Third-ing God mode – I stabilized around 60% damage resistance and found that that let me get up to ~10 heat without too much frustration, which is nice (heat is the difficulty scaling that you unlock after your first win). I recommend the magnetic cutter fists, once you can unlock multiple weapon aspects – I find it much easier than the basic aspect.

  19. “I’ve also discovered permanent death PISSES ME OFF.”

    Ha ha ha! You haven’t lived … er, died, until you’ve played NetHack, the mother of all Rogue-like games, which at least one commenter has mentioned upthread. So, so many ways to die instantly and stupidly (“touching the dead cockatrice is a fatal mistake …” etc.) Back in the day there was a usenet group dedicated to telling stories about stupid ways of dying in NetHack.

    NetHack is still around and still maintained! The current version is 3.6.6 and I think it came out this year! Some of us are quite sentimental about it and still enjoy playing it now and then.

  20. On the subject of Roguelikes, I’m somewhat annoyed that I can’t find an Android port of Angband, which is a classic open source roguelike, and has been on most Linux distributions for 30+ years. Apparently, this is because it’s name is a trade mark violation so whenever anyone puts a version of it on the Play Store it gets taken down pretty quickly. Which would be OK — it is an unauthorised game set in Tolkien’s Middle Earth, after all — except for the thing where it has been popular under that name unchallenged for over 30 years, and that kind of thing is supposed to give you protection from trade mark claims, isn’t it?

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