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A good while back, Nintendo’s August Indie Showcase featured quite a few showstoppers, but none of them were quite like what Supergiant Games’ Hades was bringing to the table. The first 30 seconds of Hades’ trailer had me pumped, with a clean action animation sequence by Studio Grackle depicting, what I now recognize, the protagonist going up against one of the game’s bosses. 

Introduced as a rogue-like dungeon crawler based on Greek mythology, Hades is the latest entry amongst Supergiant’s previous hit titles, Bastion, Transistor, and Pyre. The Greek mythology enthusiast within me was tickled pink at first glance of the game, yet at the same time, the gamer in me was slightly intimidated by the rogue-like aspect. At the time however, I had no idea what a wild time and absolute treat I was in for.

In the Name of Hades

While the game is sneakily titled Hades, it’s actually centered around his son, Zagreus. Determined to leave his home in the Underworld, he defies his father’s wishes and seeks to escape the House of Hades. Zagreus being much unlike his cold father who isolated himself from the rest of the Olympians, the various gods and goddesses aid him in his journey out of hell, along with the help of a few other prominent Greek heroes and figures.

There’s a lot to love about the way the story unfolds in Hades. I was initially worried about how the narrative would move along in a rogue-like, but Hades blends the two of them together beautifully. For those unfamiliar with the rogue-like genre, it originated from the 1980 game, Rogue. The usual attributes of rogue-like games consist of your progress being reset upon death and procedurally generated levels. 

Both of these phenomena are explained pretty straight-forwardly in the game, as being the son of Hades, Zagreus is brought back to the House of Hades every time he fails an escape attempt, and the Underworld’s architecture is ever-changing so as to prevent anyone from escaping. While it’s not something that you’d normally question in a video game, it adds to the immersion and isn’t rogue-like for the sake of it being so.

The other more significant factor contributing to the narrative was the brilliant dialogue. Normally, you’d expect it to get repetitive for a game of its nature, but I was amazed at not only the variation but how certain events would trigger a new series of dialogue. Something as minor as the weapon you’ve equipped will pique the Olympians’ interest and offhandedly mention it the next time you talk to them.

That’s really only scratching the surface on how well-written the story of Hades is. The characters are fleshed out incredibly so, and at some points, I’d even clench my jaw in frustration every time Hades would talk down upon Zagreus on his failed escape. It really would feel like I had to prove my competence and well, get the hell out of there. Of course, then there’s Zagreus himself, who besides being and sounding very attractive, has just the right amount of humor, snark, and politeness to him, making him a pleasant protagonist to be in the shoes of. 

Being inspired by Greek mythology, just about every character in the game is a retelling from the classics (except maybe the training dummy, Skelly). Those unfamiliar with the myths will be given gradual and tasteful exposition, whether in the form of dialogue, some info from the narrator, or from the handy notebook given by Achilles known as the Codex, which reveals more information the more you talk to people. On the other hand, those well-versed with them will find themselves at home once a character is introduced. I was pretty impressed at the amount of attention given to the story, and it most certainly sets it apart from your run-of-the-mill rogue-likes. 

Just when you think things couldn’t get any better, Hades includes three different romanceable options. It definitely doesn’t hurt that each of them is of varying sexual orientations, making it a very inclusive cast. So, while you may be the prince of the Underworld, not all of them will return your feelings!

As Many Chances as it Takes

Having already touched upon the general feel of rogue-likes as mentioned above, Hades’ gives a satisfying spin on hack-and-slash combat with an isometric approach to environments. While initially, you have to resort to Zagreus’ Stygian Blade, you can unlock a variety of weapons, one of them even being a straight-up rifle with a grenade launcher as its special. Most of the time I’d stick to Coronacht, known as a Heart-Seeking bow, but the game encourages you to try out different weapons by granting you a reward if you attempt an escape while equipping it. 

Healing is not something that you’re capable of, as Zagreus makes clear on your first escape attempt. Instead, you’ll have to fish out some coin at the boatman Charon’s shop, or gradually add fountain chambers from your pending list of renovations to keep your old man Hades at bay. 

The Olympians are sympathetic, as they help you out by offering boons, essentially most of them being buffs to you and your weapon. Depending on the god or goddess whose boon it is, they will offer varying effects, each one pertaining to their domain or area of expertise. For instance, being the goddess of the hunt, Artemis’ effects might grant you a percentage of critical hits. 

There’s also a number of items you can collect and still retain each time you die, thereby increasing your strength or upgrading your weapon. Depending on your playstyle or the build you’re going for, they can prove vital. On certain escape attempts, I would try to earn more items instead of focusing on getting as far as I could, making it for a good variation on playthroughs, and greatly helping me in the long run as Zagreus grew stronger and stronger.

This leads to what I feel is the best aspect of the gameplay; it’s downright fun. I didn’t find myself getting frustrated each time I’d die and resurrect in a pool of blood at the House of Hades. Instead, I’d be looking forward to seeing if Thanatos was back and I could talk to him, or excited to buy the new upgrade I could finally afford with all the gemstones I’d gathered. Hell, there’s even a portion of the game where you can decorate the House of Hades as well!

There were days where I’d have to force myself to put the game down because of the ungodly (or in this case godly) number of hours I would be putting in over a stretch of time. I’d even be in sync with Zagreus at times and take a stab at which of the Fury Sisters I’d be going up against next.

But wait, your mind must be thinking, “Hmm, it’s a game that sounds a bit too difficult for me. I’ll pass.” There’s a God Mode that can be toggled anytime and allows you to take less damage than you usually would, even increasing the damage resistance each time you die. It’s perfect for those who find the game a bit too challenging, or if you’re someone who wants to just kick back and enjoy the story.

On the flip side, you might be a player who wants to up the ante a bit. For those, there’s Hell Mode, an option that can be chosen when you first create a new save file. You immediately start with the Pacts of Punishment which are, well, exactly what they sound like. And in case, you’re not convinced yet, there’s a fishing mini-game as well.


For the most part, Hades relies on 2D art as can be seen in its exquisite level design and character art. It’s a refreshing change from the usual 3D models and pixel art in Indie games, and it’s a choice that works well in the game’s favour. The game simply oozes with style as characters are lavishly decked out (or not decked out at all in Aphrodite’s case) in armor and accessories to match their attributes. The game’s interpretations of the Olympians and other deities are superb, and their character designs are astonishing to look at. I can recall many a time when I simply took a moment to marvel at the detailed depictions of characters. 

Each area that you clear of the Underworld, has a different theme going on for it that is reminiscent of the way they are depicted in the myths. Tartarus being the depths of the Underworld, it’s more dark and dingy, while its opposite, the paradisiacal Elysium is much more serene. In a similar fashion, the enemies vary as you progress to match the themes, as well as prove to be a lot more challenging to face. Never did I think of butterflies to be a thing that instilled dread within me, but this game definitely changed that.

Of course, accompanying the amazing art of the game is the stellar voice acting. I feel most of the characters’ personalities would not be what they are without their voices. Whether it’s the eternally damned Sisyphus’ gentle baritone or the mystifying voice of the god Chaos, each one of their voices is well suited to their character, and their lines are perfectly delivered. 

Then there’s the soundtrack of the game itself, which if I’m honest, I was enamored with since the trailer. Composed by Darren Korb, who is also the voice of Zagreus and Skelly, the OST is a wonderful medley of metal, Grecian beats, and a tinge of Halloween. I found myself torn during boss battles whether I should bop my head to the beats or dodge the enemy’s attacks. Needless to say, a good chunk of Hades’ original soundtrack has made its way onto my Spotify playlist. 

Hell Yes

I’ll put it out there and say that Hades is nothing short of a masterpiece. It really reminded me of just how good of a medium video games are for story-telling while being devilishly enjoyable. If anything, it’s one of my contenders for game of the year. The game being designed with replay value in mind, Hades is well worth every penny. Once you do decide to take that plunge, I’ll just say that you’re in for a hell of a ride.

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