You wake up everyday in an inescapable hell, while you fight your way through endless insurmountable hordes just to break through to the next phase. You either succeed and break free, or fail. Either way, your run ends and you find yourself back at the start to do it all over again. You have no choice.
If the entire gameplay loop for Hades sounds like a depressing slog, don’t worry – it’s not. What starts as a depressing, endless set of efforts that go nowhere turns into some of the most wholesome and uplifting stories that I’ve played in a while. Hades couldn’t have come at a better time when people who have spent months in quarantine needed an outlet.
Hades has been around long enough that you’re probably familiar with the basic plot: Zagreus, the angry son of Hades, discovers the identity of his mother and that sets off a series of endless escape attempts from the underworld. You fight your way through four zones, dying over and over, with the gods of Olympus providing their assistance with the help of various boons that’ll provide boosts and gameplay changes.
The Story Keeps You Going
Hades is yet another take on the roguelite genre that’s been seeing a surge of popularity in indie dev circles. You start your run, enter different rooms of varying quality and difficulty, face off with a random assortment of foes, rinse, and repeat. Unlike other roguelites though, Hades focuses on the story. You’re not being given snippets of the story via a vague drip of information. Every time you die or end your run, you end back in the House of Hades, where most of the cast converges. You talk to, say Achilles, to advance his storyline and discover his secrets, or you can focus on decorating the house, unlocking new skills, or just try to open the locked door to Hades’ room.
Them Voices, Though
And since this is a Supergiant game, we get treated to some of the best writing and voice acting yet. Mainstay Logan Cunningham comes back and provides some of his best work yet, voicing Hades and a plethora of other characters. Avalon Penrose’s voice acting for Megaera gives off huge “please step on my neck, Meg” energy, and Darren Korb’s voice provides protagonist Zagreus a vulnerable but mischievous quality.
I’m not going into spoiler territory, but the story eventually morphs from Zagreus hating and dreading every escape attempt into him embracing the grind. The relationship he’s built with every character is built beautifully, and you end up doing run after run not just because of the tight combat, but because you want to know what happens next to Thanatos.
2020 – and 2021 so far – was an anxiety-inducing year that made us feel like we’ve been doing the motions within an endless loop. It was nice to see a game that let us take out our frustrations and let us break out of our own loop for a few hours.