Words: Catherine Lewis
Oh, Hades. What's not to love? If for whatever reason you're unfamiliar, this flawless roguelike follows the story of Zagreus - the rebellious, spiky haired son of the titular God of the Underworld, and his mission to fight his way out of the depths of hell. And yes, it's just as cool as it sounds.
Let's just get this out of the way first: Hades' gameplay is unbelievably fun. All the inputs are so slick and responsive - no matter what platform you're playing on, it's an absolute treat. But, despite how fantastic it is, this isn't what sets it apart.
Hades was GAMINGbible's game of the year in 2020 - watch our top 10 below...
Anyone who's played a roguelike before will know this feeling well - you're in the midst of your best run yet, having been sitting comfortably at full health the whole time. Then, you get to that difficult part that you haven't quite mastered yet. This is the run, right? Wrong. Back to the start you go. It's a divisive genre, one which definitely treats its players with tough love, but Hades took this play-die-repeat gameplay loop and transformed it into something far less frustrating, without compromising on any of the fun.
One way it does this (and my personal favourite) is with the engaging character interaction available both during your escape attempts, and back at the House of Hades when you inevitably die. While you can encounter and give gifts to all the Olympian gods (and others) out in the ever-shifting dungeons, Zag's home is also packed with lively characters to chat with, complete with constantly evolving dialogue filled with secrets and lore. Dying might mean the end of a run, yes, but it also means it's time to throw shade at Hades, or better yet, pet the three-headed good boy Cerberus.
One thing that's basically a given is that you'll almost certainly have a little crush on at least one (if not all) of the characters. And, lucky you, there are even romance options available, which you definitely don't see very often in the roguelike genre. Can I get a hell yeah, Thanatos fans?
It's also incredibly hard to pinpoint any other game that's as brutal as it is kind. There's no getting around the fact that Hades is difficult, and it doesn't shy away from that, but it never tries to make its players feel bad for struggling, either. After being abruptly sent back home at the end of a run, Zagreus complains for a moment, but quickly brushes himself off to take another stab at it, optimistic as ever that he'll succeed next time.
Skelly, the sentient training dummy, occasionally offers combat tips, in a fun conversational way that doesn't mock the player's ability. Even 'God Mode' (essentially Hades' version of an easy mode) doesn't just give you an instant win button - it grants players 20% damage resistance, which increases by 2% each time you die. The game and its characters are constantly rooting for you to try again and succeed, but still want you to earn your win in a fair way, which feels fantastic, and greatly reduces any discouragement you might feel from meeting an untimely demise.
Everything about Hades is just a joy to experience - be it the stunning art style, charming voice acting, or incredible OST that'll keep you fired up no matter how many hours you've put into the game. We all know it's not going to be "just one more go", but is that going to stop us from saying it every single time we throw ourselves back into Tartarus? Absolutely not.
This piece is part of a series looking at outstanding games within a certain genre, exploring what makes them special compared to their peers. Follow the author on Twitter at @NerdyJourno.
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