Greek mythology is one of those subjects that never fails to fascinate people. After all, who doesn’t love a good myth full of gods, monsters, and larger-than-life heroes? Not to mention, Greek myths inspire tons of media as well, from Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series to Disney’s Hercules to Netflix’s Blood of Zeus. It’s always interesting to see how creators give new life to old mythology, and Supergiant Games’ Hades is by far one of the most creative uses I’ve seen yet.
Hades is a rogue-like dungeon crawler that takes place in the Underworld. It follows the story of Zagreus, a son of the god Hades, who is tired of life in the realm of the dead and attempts his escape through the ever-changing chambers of Tartarus, Asphodel, Elysium, and other areas of the Underworld. You’ll battle your way through endless minions of Hades sent to block your path to freedom with help from a variety of weapons, items, and a little divine interference from the gods of Olympus.
Along the way, you’ll receive encouragement and aid from a wide range of characters, such as Achilles, Nyx, and Thanatos, who will also give you a bit of information on Zagreus and the story. As you fight creatures, meet new characters, and reach new levels of the Underworld, your Codex will fill with information that will aid you on your journey.
The game is combat heavy. Each chamber has multiple enemies (minus a few that may have fountains to replenish health or Charon’s little shop to buy power-ups) that you have to fight through. They’re usually a healthy mix of heavy-hitting foes and ranged combatants, and as you move further along, many enemies have armor you have to chip away at before any real damage can be inflicted. There’s also plenty of speedy villains, so timing attacks and using your casting ability (a ranged attack that’s always available) becomes important.
It’s also important to note that the layout of the dungeons changes every run. You’ll never know what to expect in terms of chamber rewards, villains, boons, or power-ups. It makes the game challenging and exciting to play; you’ll never have the same run twice, and it gives you the opportunity to try out all of the different weapons, upgrades, and Olympian abilities the game has to offer.
This constantly changing landscape is good for another reason: you get rewards for using all of the boons of specific gods and for using all of the upgrades available for specific weapons. Along with the combat and main quest, there are a few side quests to complete. Most of them involve helping certain characters (such as Achilles or Orpheus), while others involve learning to master instruments. There’s a nice variety in side quests that allow you to learn more about the people you meet and help you in the main quest by giving you gemstones and darkness to buff your abilities and provide extra health restoration in certain chambers.
Hades is especially strong in story. It crafts a beautiful narrative using mythology with a special twist that gives it great depth and really attaches you to the characters and Zagreus’ plight. I really appreciate the care that went into the personality and story of each character to make them fleshed-out and interesting. The surface level story is simply that Zagreus wants to escape from his father, Hades, but as he learns more about his family and the people around him, the story goes deeper and reveals higher stakes for Zagreus and his truly good natured personality and willingness to help.
One of my biggest reasons for wanting to beat the game was to finish the story; I wanted to know what awaited Zagreus on the surface world. I wanted to see what would happen with Achilles and the love he was separated from and if Orpheus would be reunited with his muse. It’s a great feat to create such a fantastic, engrossing story that never lets up, and I have nothing but the highest praise for Supergiant’s team for crafting such an amazing job.
Along with the incredible story, Hades looks beautiful. The designs of the dungeons are unique to each region of the Underworld, and they have a lot of detail, from the designs of the vases strewn about to the designs on the walls and floors. The character designs are absolutely stellar, from the enemies to the gods (I’m particularly fond of Ares’ and Hermes’ designs in terms of the Olympians!) to the side characters. There’s also an amazing soundtrack that accompanies the game. It’s a mix of metal and ancient Greecian sound that fits perfectly with the game and is just fun to listen to. So fun, in fact, that I downloaded the soundtrack pretty much immediately and have been listening to it nonstop since.
The perfect mix of story, game play, and music makes Hades a must play game. It’s challenging and engaging; once you pick it up, it’s hard to put back down. You’ll have a fantastic time fighting through dungeons and unraveling a truly terrific tale. Even dying and being sent back to the Underworld does nothing to ruin the fun of the game. It just gives you an opportunity to try out new weapons, talk with some of the interesting shades of the House of Hades, and take another crack at escaping. Get your hands on this god tier title as soon as possible and take an odyssey of epic proportions.