HADES deserves its reputation.
A game about greek mythology that's also incomparable to other games tackling the same subject.
Created: Jan 8, 2021
By ENBYSS~5 min read
This game has been praised everywhere. It has been in multiple if not all Top 10 lists, called Game Of The Year by multiple reviewers, and touched the hearts of an innumerably large amount of people. All of this really interested me into giving the game a shot.
Now that I have, you can add me onto the pile.
I can’t say it’s my game of the year. There’s competition for that spot, for me personally. But I am willing to say that - looking at it from a general lens - the title is well deserved. Starting the game leads to an introduction that feels incredibly smooth. It’s hard to pinpoint where the introduction starts and ends, and that’s owed to the way HADES tells its story.
Instead of cutscenes, you simply dialogue with people in boxes. This is not a complaint, not even close - it’s simply an alternative method of telling your story. Here, it works incredibly well as it leaves you completely entrenched into the world the game presents. There’s hardly any moments or point within the game where you’re left thinking “Oh, I’m playing a game.”, or left with a bit of a disconnect - it does an incredibly good job at leaving you invested in the world and the characters inhabiting it.
Speaking of, all characters are voice acted. This is a pretty hard thing to manage, especially considering the wide and colourful cast at display here. The performance of every voice actor within this game is stellar, and although I’m not a professional in voice acting - so this won’t mean much, personally it feels perfect to me. Each voice is a stellar fit for every character it belongs to, and everything within the voice lends more depth to their personality as a whole, whether it’s the coldness of Megaera, the imposing power of Hades, or the clumsy goofiness of Hypnos. They’re inseparable, and whenever I think of a character in this game, their voice is as unforgettable as everything else about them.
I won’t talk about the story here, mostly because I don’t feel like doing so since the story is best told through the game. Talking about it here doesn’t do it justice. However, the very short summary of it is - you control Zagreus, son of Hades, who wants to leave the Underworld. Except Hades doesn’t want him to. That’s the basis of the whole plot. The actual plot however, expands way more with every single run of the Underworld that you perform. Speaking of, let’s talk about the gameplay.
The gameplay is extraordinary. You can mix and match so many playstyles and powers, so much so that each run can end up coming away as significantly different. Infact, let’s start listing off the factors here.
- Boons. The Gods of Olympus will occasionally appear through your run and offer you a Boon, a power of god that gives you some upgrade, be it making your dash reflect projectiles, making your punches emit lightning, and more. Each boon can affect your special attack, light attack, dash, Call (effectively summoning that god to assist you), and even have a standalone effect.
- Keepsakes. These are items that you can bring with you in each run. You can only hold onto one at a time, but after an upgrade, you can choose to swap them out on each different level. Each keepsake has a specific effect, and they can be levelled up by holding onto them for enough rooms in order to strengthen their effects. For example, most keepsakes from the Olympians make it so that your next boon comes from them, and boons from them will have a higher chance of being Rare. Another boon may give you a higher health cap, or another (effective) death defiance, so on.
- The Mirror. You can spend a currency known as Shadows which persists after death on the mirror. This mirror can provide some permanent upgrades that take effect on each run. This can vary from giving you an extra dash, increasing rarity chance of boons, allowing you to gain a percentage of your Shadows gain as health, etc. You can unlock more potential upgrades by spending Keys, another permanent ingame currency. Not to mention, each upgrade can be flipped into an alternative upgrade that is similar, but has a significantly different effect to the original one.
- Weapons. Before you even start the game, you can pick and choose from a variety of weapons to use. Each weapon handles completely differently, and gets different upgrades from Hephaestus (Hephaestus’ Hammer provides upgrades varying weapon to weapon). In addition, they have different permanent upgrades that can be unlocked by spending Titan Blood.
- Pact of Punishment. This lets you make your run harder on multiple customizeable factors that you can mix and match. Once you beat the run normally, you can’t get the one-time boss drops again unless you go onto the next difficulty notch, or try with a different weapon.
You can see how many run possibilities exist here. There’s so many variables here, all over the place, that you might never end up running out of possible gameplay styles to go for.
In any case, with an interesting and gripping plot complemented by in-depth, fleshed out characters all within a world that offers a virtually infinite number of possible runs, able to suit as many people as possible, leaves you with a game that may as well be a perfect package. Knowing that Supergiant did all this while being friendly to its developers, including doing precisely the opposite of crunch: Forced vacations, with unlimited days off. It’s almost as if treating your workers with the humanity they deserve, and trying your best to help them wherever possible, leads to them being way more motivated to make a better game.
We can only hope that this treatment spreads to other companies. Even if it’s very unlikely.