Bennett Burns ‘21 / Emertainment Monthly Video Games Editor
Greek gods, family drama, and just a dash of romance – the newest title by Supergiant Games has a little bit of everything. You play as Zagreus, son of Hades, prince of hell, and prince of wise-cracking as he tries to escape the Underworld and the overbearing clutches of his dad. You fight your way through the Underworld, meeting all kinds of enemies and even allies along the way to the surface.
A major strong point of Hades is the characters. Each god or goddess has a distinct personality, all very supportive of your never-ending journey to the surface. As you trudge through Tartarus, you may encounter Zeus, or maybe Artemis, or a number of the other big twelve who all want to help you on your way to the top. They deliver seemingly endless quips or silly advice, fully voiced, every one adding to the dungeon-crawl journey. To top it all off, Zagreus is the most loveable of them all. He’s funny, he’s snarky, but most of all he’s a sweetheart who truly wants the best for everyone. It’s easy to root for him not only because of his undying determination but because of how in between the romps through the Underworld, his only goal is to hang out with his friends.
The romance is an added bonus. You have three candidates – Thanatos, the god of death, Megaera, the very first boss fight and one of the three furies, and finally the House of Hades’ maid, Dusa. (Medusa. Very clever.) The many, many interactions you can have make up a good chunk of dialogue, and it never disappoints, even after a dungeon-crawl gone sour.
The setting is another strong point. For Greek mythology lovers, each new place is recognizable by name, but also has a nice spin that makes the old classics feel fresh. If you have a picture in your head of the Fields of Asphodel, get ready to redefine it. It’s only one of many areas to fight through to escape to the surface, and the escape is never dull. Combat runs smoothly with a number of weapons, each of which has a tie-in to the popular Greek myths. Every escape attempt is different, with randomized rooms for each level and different “boons” – godly help to temporarily ramp up your armory from whichever gods have decided to show up. Aside from your stops into the House of Hades to boost your stats and talk to Hypnos, trekking through the Underworld makes up all of the game, but it doesn’t get old.
All of this makes Hades a great game worthy of spending hours and hours playing, but it’s definitely not the only game out right now with the same level of playability. The difference with Hades is how the repetitive formula is used to the game’s advantage. There’s never a sense of frustration with losing. The formula is clear – try to escape, die, try again, but there’s consistent growth in every failed attempt. You may pray to the gods for a save point that will never come, but soon enough Megaera’s boss fight will feel just like another chamber in Tartarus and you won’t even need it. If you die, you get to talk to Achilles again, and isn’t that a prize in itself?
In short – despite the constant grind, you’re fighting no one but yourself (and your shitty dad). The frustration of dying is shadowed by the reward of more of Zagreus’s story, making Hades an endlessly playable masterpiece. And a final tip – if you see that Daedalus Hammer icon, take it. More often than not it’s a pretty solid upgrade, and unlike one of Aphrodite’s sweet godly boons, it won’t come at a price.