“Hades” is a 2020 dungeon-crawler roguelike by Supergiant Games in which the player embodies Zagreus, the son of Hades, with a simple goal in mind – escape Hell.
This isometric hack-and-slash title is defined as a roguelike – level design, enemy placement, and powerful upgrades are procedurally generated, resulting in a truly unique gameplay experience every time. On top of that, when the player dies, they are put back to the very beginning of the game, just to attempt to take on the hellish gauntlet once again.
“Hades” diverges off the typical roguelike path – Zagreus can collect currency that permanently upgrades the character, making each run valuable in the grand scheme of beating the game.
With every ride down the River of Styx, Zagreus grows closer to taking down his fiendish father.
The mesmerizing combat has to be attributed to how fast button inputs take place – Zagreus’ moves are incredibly responsive to whatever the player wants to do.
Boons, or powers offered from the gods, drastically change what your moves do – an uppercut can transform into a lightning strike cast down from Zeus, or dashing around can do massive damage if the waves of Poseidon are rolling on your side.
Combining these boons, or synergizing the same blessings from gods, can result in some truly powerfully broken builds – those runs end up becoming the most memorable someone can experience, and there’s much to learn about how these powers interact with each other.
It should be mentioned that there are no other characters playable in the game – instead, Supergiant provides diverse play styles with six different weapons – a sword, spear, bow, gauntlets, shield, and even a machine gun.
Not to mention, there are four different variants for each weapon resulting in seemingly infinite combinations for the player to experiment with.
Most roguelikes, since the genre’s inception, aren’t particularly known for their triumphant stories – this isn’t a criticism, it’s just not typically a priority over gameplay for many of these smaller titles.
This is what pushes “Hades” to be one of the most incredible roguelikes of all time. With each run, a bit more of the narrative is revealed, and this serves as motivational fuel in those times where success seems impossible.
Zagreus, a member of one of Greece’s most chaotic families, leads to some truly charming moments – you’ll banter with Poseidon like a friendly uncle, or Hermes as the goofy cousin you love seeing during family gatherings.
In today’s media, it’s incredibly difficult to create original character designs for gods that have so much imagery centered around them already. Once again, “Hades” shines at finding the perfect balance between recognizable and original.
Zeus is instantly recognizable with his typical toga, but his pearly white mane upon further investigation is composed entirely of clouds – simple details such as these help give the game its style.
The music in “Hades” is so phenomenal that I’d have to write out a whole album review in order to cover most of my points – primal battle music is comprised of heavy metal guitar and some absolutely bopping drums that still give me goosebumps every time I leave the Temple of Styx.
There are even original vocal-based songs performed by Orpheus and Eurydice. A song never hits as hard after completing a game than “In the Blood” and Supergiant’s implementation of music as a means of storytelling has to be commended.
To sum it up – I legitimately cannot think of a better game for $25, or even a game that costs more.
“Hades” may very well be in the running for the best game of 2020, and with updates, and regular speedrun competitions dubbed “The Hermes Cup,” the game is gaining more traction every day.
Supergiant must’ve had the Midas touch developing this one.