So a few weeks ago I was scrolling through the Nintendo eShop. I picked up a Switch Lite at the start of the year and Animal Crossing was the only game I owned. I hit a massive burnout with it and was dying for something new to play, something that would give me a reason to not regret impulsively buying a Switch because everyone and their mom were playing Animal Crossing. As I scrolled through the shop a little game by the name of Hades caught my eye. Just looking at the preview image and seeing the art style I was intrigued.
I hopped online to do a little digging and learned the game was a tale set in Greek Mythology about Zagreus, Prince Of The Underworld. My boy Zagreus finally had enough of his POS father Hades and decided he would break out of the Underworld and join the rest of the Gods and Goddesses on Mount Olympus. At this point, I yelled at my Switch “Shut up and take my money!” and hit the purchase button because I’m a sucker for Greek Mythology. And let me tell ya’ll… I do not regret that purchase ONE BIT.
To start I’d like to explain the style of game Hades is. Hades is a roguelite game. Those unfamiliar to the genre: a roguelike is a hack and slash style game in which you’ve got exactly one life and you’re trying to complete the game with that single life you’re given. You aren’t going to finish it on your first attempt. Much like life, you’re 100% going to die and you have to accept that fact. BUT unlike real life, death is only temporary and you come back better and stronger each time. Eventually through trial and error, learning enemy patterns, and getting better upgrades, you will reach the finish line.
You begin the game in the House Of Hades. Hades himself is sitting behind a desk mindlessly digging through paperwork as shades of the former living wait in line to gain entry to the underworld. Seated next to Hades is legendary three-headed dog of Greek Mythology, Cerberus. Cerberus is a good boi and you can in fact pet him. I suggest you pet Cerberus, and pet him as much as you can because Kotaku released an article saying only 12% of Hades players have given the good doggo pets and those numbers need to drastically pump up. After having a condescending conversation with my father and giving Cerberus a nice proper pet I walked over to my mother Nyx who had some words of encouragement for me.
In Greek Mythology Nyx is the personification of night. Her role in Hades is to aide Zagreus in his escape through the underworld. She’s responsible for some of your upgrades you’ll gain in the game and she lives up to her role of mom by constantly reminding you to never give up. Next to Nyx was a hallway to lead into Zagreus Room where a giant mirror stood on one end. This mirror is where you’ll spend Darkness, a currency made by Nyx, to boost up Zag. At the start of the game you have 0 darkness to spend but that will quickly change after your first run.
Another hallway awaited me at the end of my room which leads to a training area where my sword awaited me. Also waiting for me in that room was a shifty looking Skeleton by the name of Skelly. His sole purpose is to be a practice dummy for you to learn your weapon skills and he’ll even give you some solid advice on how each weapon works. After beating the living daylights out of him I walked through one final archway where my journey to escape the underworld began.
At the start of each run, you’re greeted by one of the many Greek God’s and Goddess’s in the game that are stoked on the idea that their relative Zagreus wants to join them up on Mount Olympus. They decide to offer up their help in the form of Boons which are power ups themed to each God and Goddess. To give you some examples: Zeus has a boon that will make your basic attacks also hit your enemies with a lightning bolt. Persephone has an ability that can charm the enemy and cause them to fight for you for a short period of time. Once I got my first boon I proceeded to get about 3 rooms deep until I got my face kicked in and died. But with Zagreus being the Prince Of The Underworld, he doesn’t die like any mortal being would. When he “dies” he’s greeted by creepy hands pulling him into a pool of what looks like blood, dragging him through the River Styx as you go back to the underworld.
Now with most roguelite games at this point, you’d simply get prepped, check on your upgrades and start your run again. Your death isn’t acknowledged and you go back at it again as if it never happened. In Hades, death is VERY different. When Zag came too he ended right back up in the lobby of The Hall Of Hades.
This time an individual by the name of Hypnos was waiting for me. In Greek Mythology, Hypnos is the embodiment of sleep. I walked up to him as he was standing there asleep, woke him up, and he introduced himself to me. Hypnos will tell you what creature of the underworld brought your journey to an end. He’ll also give you advice on how to avoid death by simply telling you that you shouldn’t stand still and you should move out of the way to avoid dying. Hypnos is a bit of a smart ass but I love him.
As I worked my way through the hall I noticed someone else new waiting for me. That individual was Achilles, the demi-human hero known for his role in The Trojan War. Achilles trained Zag in combat and he’s very encouraging about him trying to break out of The Underworld. He also plays the role of lore keeper which I’ll explain more about later. As I made my way through the hall Hades was sitting behind his desk still hard at work. I had a very condescending conversation with him in which he told me my attempts to break out were pointless and I should give up. What a great father.
I passed Nyx who gave me some more words of encouragement, ran into my room to get some upgrades, picked up my sword and went right back at attempting to break out of the underworld. This attempt went much better and I even managed to make it to the final room where a boss by the name of Megara awaited me. She’s one of the three Fury Sisters sent by Hades to stop me from busting out. After a short conversation with her she proceeded to beat the ever living crap out of me and send me right back to the Hall of Hades.
This time around Cerberus was missing and Hades was still hard at work but always having a spare moment to insult me and my futile attempts at escape. I also noticed someone new waiting for me. A house contractor that would allow me to purchase upgrades to the hall that unlocked new areas. I had earned some Gems from clearing one of the rooms on my last run that allowed me to unlock a lounge in the hall. I had another conversation with Nyx told me that Hades had no idea she was helping me and that he was also hiding a secret about my past that I would find out more about as my journey progressed. I bid her farewell, spent some points on upgrades and went back at it again.
This is pretty much what the cycle of Hades is like. You get stronger, you go back out, you die, and you try again. But unlike other roguelites, this game has a very deep story. And this story only unfolds the deeper you get into the underworld and the more you die. I died so many times but I was never discouraged as more of the story would unfold when I ended up back in The Hall Of Hades. When I finally beat Megara she was waiting for me at the bar and we had a very heated conversation as to how much she disliked me. At one point Achilles gifted me a journal that would give me lore on all the characters, weapons, and enemies I would fight. The more I spoke to the characters, used the weapons, and killed the monsters, the more the journal would fill out and give me lore.
Eventually, I started to earn a substance called Nectar which I could gift to the various characters and build up relationships with them. All of those characters would gift me trinkets that gave me little bonuses to help with my journey. Skelly’s gift is one of the best as he gives you a trinket that is an extra life. I also started to earn keys which I could end up using to unlock new weapons for my playthroughs and new talents at the upgrade mirror. Every time I died I had more stuff waiting for me back at the Hall Of Hades that encouraged me to keep going.
It took me 26 attempts to reach the final area and main boss of the game. I wasn’t able to beat them until my 28th. Once I beat that final boss I figured this was it. I was about to get the big ending to the story that wrapped things up. I figured at this point if I played through it again it would just be to try out new weapons, get a better run time, and unlock a few things I had missed. But let me tell you I was wrong. Instead I got an ending that left me with more questions then answers and I realized I’d need to clear it again if wanted to learn what was really going on. I’m on my 35th play through and have managed to clear it a second time and I can tell I still have a few more to go before I get the bigger picture.
I honestly have nothing but great things to say about Hades. Outside of the amazing story, the gameplay is perfect. While challenging, you feel like you’re getting better and better each time. You understand the patterns of each monster and boss, you get a better feel for the weapon techniques, and you start to think about which combinations of boons from the Gods and Goddesses suit your play style. If for whatever reason the game is too hard for you, there’s a “God Mode” you can activate to help you get through it to enjoy the story. I haven’t used this yet, but that’s because I’m really welcomed the challenge the game offers.
When it comes to replayability you’ll never get bored. The layout of the dungeons changes with each playthrough. You have four levels to go through: Tartarus, Asphodel, Elysium, and the Temple Of Styx. Each boss will acknowledge you and your multiple attempts. When you die to one, they’ll make sure to remind you. Once you’ve beaten them, their attitude towards you will change. Each room you go through offers various rewards: Nectar to boost your relationships with the other characters. Gems that can be spent on renovating The Hall Of Hades, Keys that help unlock other weapons as well as player skills, Darkness to boost your skills up, and Titan Blood to upgrade your weapons and unlock new forms for them. You can even earn coin to spend with Charon, the boatman of the River Styx, who offers you extra boons and upgrades to assist you in your playthroughs.
Visually Hades is stunning. The aesthetic is this beautiful cel-shading art style that brings so much life and color to the underworld. The interpretations of each God and Goddess are stunning. Athena is this strong Black Goddess in elegant warrior armor with an Owl perched on her finger. Persephone is this bubbly flirty woman with long pink hair that covers her naughty bits. Dionysus is this bro who sits on a throne with vines of grapes wrapped around his neck and weaved into his hair while he sits and sips on his cup of wine. These are just a few of my favorites. Each God and Goddess is represented in such a wild artistic style that I can honestly say is my favorite interpretation of them to date.
Hades is a game that wasn’t even on my radar this year. I’m focused on big releases like Cyberpunk 2077, World Of Warcraft: Shadowlands, and Spider-Man: Miles Morales to name a few. But indie studio Supergiant managed to bring out a title that I would say could compete with those big hitters and is even a contender for Game Of The Year. And it’s not surprising as they’re responsible for Bastion, Transistor, and Pyre, all of which have been well received indie hits. If you’ve got a Switch or a PC I highly recommend you check this game out. At $25 it offers so much and can go toe to toe with the bigger releases priced at $60. If you’re a fan of Greek Mythology, or just looking for something new and fresh, Hades is for you. I know for a fact I’ll be coming back to this game over and over again.