Hades is next level!
Hades on Sony and Microsoft’s consoles
I have an addiction to difficult games. They intrigue me and I find the challenge fun, even though I’m pretty terrible at them. Dark Souls is a game I’ve never finished but each time I play I get a little bit further. Roguelike/lite games latched on to this feeling of progression by adding randomised levels, permadeath but also permanent progression.
Dead Cells was probably the standout game of this genre in recent times… until Hades. Nintendo Switch video games don’t often look like this. Indeed, the Switch might have been an unusual choice for the console debut of Hades but it’s one I’m glad was made! So with the imminent release of Hades on Sony and Microsoft’s consoles it’s time to dive into why Hades is so addictive.
Supergiant have always made visual interesting and narratively compelling games, but Hades merges these in a brilliantly unique way. The balance of gameplay and developing story with unlocks and surprises is almost perfect. I should know. According to the stats I’ve made 166 escape attempts in game, which equates to more than I’ve played any other Nintendo Switch video game perhaps any game on and console. And when it comes to Game Pass, I will be doing it all again from the start.
It took me quite a while to ‘beat’ the end game boss the first time, but once I did, I found this was only the beginning. The amount of content to unlock in the game is staggering, at first I was just unlocking weapons, then different ‘aspects’ of those weapons. Every time I think I’ve nearly seen everything Hades reveals more.
You play as Zagreus, son of Hades and Persephone. In their own version of Romeo and Juliet Zagreus parents represent the Underworld and the Gods of Olympus respectively. Young Zag has been unaware of his mother for most of his life, but alongside a growing unrest, discovering his mother’s origins makes him want to leave the Underworld and find her. The only problem is he must battle his way out…
Hades plays out in an isometric view with you controlling Zagreus, each weapon has a standard and special move, with the other face buttons used for your ‘cast’ and dodge. Your cast is a ranged weapon that sticks in a foe. You can upgrade it and gain more casts. It’s a great tool that shouldn’t be forgotten about.
You start with a fairly decentsword, but you will unlock 5 more weapons as you go. This is one of the first hooks that keeps dragging you back for one more play. The weapons vary in their usefulness, with there being one in particular that garners the most hate, but I find all the weapons useful even that one. When you get further in the game you can even start unlocking ‘aspects’ for each weapon. Three more styles that make them behave differently. This means that even when you have a weapon you don’t like you might find that changes with aspects.
Boons of the Gods
During your multiple runs, you will die lots, you will meet a whole host of characters from denizens of the Underworld to helpful Olympians. Each new Olympian you meet will offer you a boon based on their mythology. Zeus offers lightening based boons, which empower your attacks with an electric flavour. The more runs you make the more Olympians you meet meaning each run is defined by how you build your character with boons.
One of the builds I love is always choosing ‘revenge’ boons which deal the enemies damage as they hit you! The amount of Olympians and boons mean that there is near limitless combinations. Alongside unlocking these boons, you will also be unlocking permanent boosts. You can equip the majority of these in the mirror in Zag’s bedroom, but there are also some supports available in the weapons room near Skelly.
One of the currencies you pick up in game is Ambrosia. This has a particular use. When talking to various characters you can gift them Ambrosia and further develop your relationship with them. This will ultimately unlock even more stuff and also progresses the story in a unique and fun way. Some reviewers comparing it to dating simulators, not that I’d know anything about that.
This will require a lot of time and effort, you don’t always meet every Olympian on every run. In lesser games this could become a chore but Hades continues to remain addictive by giving you multiple goals to chase at any one time and combining this with achievements and rewards. You always feel like you have something to do.
I put many hours in to Hades and still haven’t maxed out my relationship with every character, and I’m still getting regular rewards. Even when I put the game down and don’t play for a week or two, I constantly come back to the game with its great game play loop.
More More More
As well as gameplay additions there are unlocks that are more aesthetic, but you can choose to save these until last. However, make sure to read the descriptions as some unlock extras too!
When you are finding the challenge of escaping the Underworld a little too easy the Pacts of Punishment unlock. This locks the usually rewards for beating boss characters behind punishments. Thankfully it is weapon specific! For each weapon you must add at least one more ‘heat’ point than when you last beat the game. Heat is gained by tuning options which make the game harder. These range from obvious - more health for the enemies, to the surprising - boss patterns and styles completely changing. This leads to one very funny moment as one boss appears decking out in chrome!
I’m not sure I have played a game that rewards the player so much for continued play. Yet Hades goes even further. Players struggling on the basic setting can turn on ‘God Mode’ in the pause menu. Rather than the God Modes of old, this simple increases your defence by 5% each time you fail to escape. It’s a great addition and means players of all abilities can get a fair shot at unlocking loads of cool stuff.
Gonna Have to Face It
Hades is a game that keeps pulling back in despite the allure of the latest blockbusters. I may put it down for a week or two while I play the latest hotness, but I always come back, and even after all the hours I’ve put in I’m still finding new content and new rewards.
The design team clearly understand that shortish runs (a run in Hades can take 9-30 minutes to ‘finish’ once you are good!) combined with meaningful rewards and a cleverly developing narrative will bring players back time and time again. It’s definitely the best game of the last few years, and probably all time. Remember the first time you defeat Hades and escape is not the end but the point you have only just started playing.
About the author
Olly Smith is a content writer of board games. He’s on a mission to bring tabletop gaming back to the masses. When he’s not writing, playing, or thinking about board games, you can usually find him listening to a true-crime podcast.