In the Greek myth of Sisyphus, the wicked king is eternally sentenced to push a boulder up a hill without pause. Every time it gets to the top, it rolls back down, and he has to start over. But what if the arduous ascent was an exhilarating battle against various adversaries as you try to escape from the Underworld with a plethora of divine powers that become more intricate as you progress? And just as Sisyphus grew to understand and accept the punishment that was given to him over the centuries, you will learn and become increasingly more powerful each trip you take out of hades. These new strengths, abilities, and labors help you uncover the complete story beneath the surface of this fantastic trek into this rogue-lite video game developed by Supergiant Games.
Playing as Zagreus, the son of Hades, explore the depths of the Underworld from an isometric perspective as you battle hordes of animated undead. Zag is a skilled warrior who utilizes six weapons with four variants to fit any playstyle, from the Stygian Blade for close combat to the bow for long-range, plus a shield, spear, and more. As you fight, use dashes to dodge enemies and gain a tactical advantage; nothing feels better than dodging the last second and striking from behind. The Cast is Zag's final move, a skill-shot-based projectile that embeds itself in an enemy, disabling you from firing another one until that enemy is killed and the ammunition is retrieved. Risk and reward must be balanced when using this mechanic.
Ultimately, the forces of Hades will eventually win, especially as you start. With each death, Zag is sent back to the beginning keeping little from the overall journey except for certain currencies. This is bolstered by and progress you will make with the other inhabitants of the Halls of Hades, ranging from Hades himself to the most fantastic housekeeper you'll fall in love with. Since you will often be thrown unceremoniously back to the hall, you'll have a lot of time getting to know them all, and it is undoubtedly time well spent. Zag, a rebellious young man, is trying to find his spot between Hades and Mount Olympus. I was captivated by his coming-of-age story, but I was also charmed by his wry remarks about his environment and his banter with the Narrator's disembodied voice.
Outside of its combat, Hades' core revolves around Zag's relationships with the Greek gods and mythic figures. Incorporating a friendship-building simulator-type element into a rogue-lite was the perfect way to use a vast number of characters. Each character is an inventive take on the classical Greek myths and is a delight to be around. For example, Sisyphus is presented as an optimist you encounter on a break while the gods are absent. His boulder, Bouldy, even has a carved smile that changes when interacted with. Investing in Zag's friendships with each character leads to great world-building, backstory revelations, extra sidequests, and even items to help in future escape attempts.
The conversations and side stories in the game are engaging and bring back the same kind of melodrama that the ancient Greeks were famous for. Furthermore, advancing these relationships can give you permanent keepsakes and companions, which can help Zag in his journey. Among the many keepsakes, some are more advantageous than others, such as the Lucky Tooth, which gives you another life if you are killed, and the Olympic keepsakes, which increase your chances of getting better drops. Of course, the Lucky Tooth is the better option in many cases, but when you complete storylines with the gods, having those keepsakes that help you advance chances on certain boons is important as you work towards a platinum trophy.
Supergiant Games have undertaken the challenge of merging story and gameplay in Hades and have achieved something remarkable by making Zagreus' escape more than just a repetitive loop. Ordinarily, deaths in rogue-lites are just seen as a video game' failure state', but in Hades, it is used to develop the in-game world, with characters reacting to your successes and failures. As a result, I no longer saw death as something to dread. Instead, I welcomed it as an opportunity to gain knowledge and reunite with the people I had known in the House of Hades.
It is important to conquer the fear of death since we will all inevitably pass away. After about 25 attempts, I finally managed to escape. Good thing Zag's relatives in Olympus are willing to help his battle against Lord Hades, both for their love for him and to make Hades angry. They give him boons that give him godly power-ups, making every run feel unique. Some of these boons are small but powerful, like vitamins that a person may overlook but will benefit them in the long run.
As you progress through your runs, you can establish your connection with the Gods of Olympus by giving them nectar and ambrosia as a sign of gratitude. This will provide access to their boons collection and increase the likelihood of obtaining rare, epic, and heroic versions of their boons with improved stats.
Those familiar with Ancient Greek mythology know the gods can be fickle. In Hades, Zag is presented with Trials of the Gods, chambers where a player can communicate with one of two deities. If a different deity is chosen, the previous one may take revenge. The reward for surviving is having access to two boons instead of one. For instance, if Ares' Curse of Agony (which causes doom status, with extra damage after a brief period of time, to enemies hit by normal attacks) and Athena's Divine Dash (which upgrades the dash move to deflect attacks) are both unlocked, a rare duo boon will be attainable: Merciful End, which inflicts doom status on any enemy hit by the deflected attack. There are many boons and combinations to earn; even after many runs, new ones can still be found. When playing Hades, players must make tough decisions that either enhance their current build or take a risk for a more rewarding build if they can survive long enough and luck into the boon they're seeking.
The replayability of Hades is remarkable, and I'm continually impressed with the amount of content it offers. As your power level rises, the bosses adjust to you in the style of Street Fighter and bring siblings to support them, grow new heads, or put on new armor. This keeps the fights fresh and fits within the story since the bosses remember their wins and losses against you. Each battle is like a rematch between adversaries as opposed to a repeat.
Once you have escaped a few times, you may be considering how to make your next attempt harder. The Pacts of Punishment are a great way to do this, as they offer a number of modifiers that make Hades more difficult. When you turn one of these on, it rewards you with something new, which makes every playthrough different and more exciting. You are also encouraged to change up your playstyle by being rewarded for using weapons you don't normally use, or by completing objectives from the "Fated List of Minor Prophecies". After around 30 hours of playing Hades, I was still discovering new storylines, challenges, side stories, and an achievement list that hinted at an epilogue that brings together the entire story in a very satisfying way.
Before I wrap up, I must discuss the Platinum Trophy for Hades. This was a well-put-together platinum because as long as you try to see everyone's stories, you will get this platinum with no problem. The trophies that Super Giant Games added mainly were about changing your play style, having to experience all kinds of weapons, boons, and additional challenges that add to the charm and overall game experience. I know that these kinds of gameplay loops aren't for everyone, I mean, this was my first rouge-lite game for a reason. But I got sucked into this platinum completely, and while difficulty was an issue at times, if that's the case, they have a fantastic mechanic built-in giving you additional strength each time you fail a run. It wasn't the easiest but gave me a good path to fully play the game without feeling like you were wasting time chasing things down like collectibles.
Overall I give Hades a 9.5. Definitely, a must-play if you're looking for a great story, exciting gameplay, and a loop that will keep you playing for days!