You'd think that Hades would just end up being pretty much like every other roguelike game that came before it, releasing to a lot of fanfare and a certain level of critical acclaim, only to be semi-forgotten and replaced by yet another roguelike title that will receive just as much love from critics and audiences alike as the cycle goes on.
Yet, surprisingly enough, nearly a year following its limited-platform launch after spending nearly two years as an Early Access title and Hades continues to rack up the sales winning nearly every award that it's been nominated for. Thus, this begs the question, what is Supergiant Games' Hades and why is the game so popular?
What is Hades?
According to Wikipedia and Supergiant Games itself, Hades is a "roguelike action dungeon crawler".
In reality, though, Hades is a masterfully done hodgepodge mix of different genres from RPGs to dungeon crawlers to action-adventure and roguelikes. This mishmash allows Hades to offer a little bit of everything to everyone without feeling any bit unrefined or unfinished.
As for the actual game itself, players take control of the young and rebellious son of Hades, Zagreus. Apparently, Hades has had enough of being locked inside of his dear old dad's underworld so he decides to go and make a dash for the world above. The only problem is just how far below the underworld is. Not to mention, the path above is littered with randomly generated waves of enemies inside randomly generated rooms that offer nothing but randomly generated upgrades for Zagreus to put to use.
So, yes, there's a lot of randomization going on in Hades, and weirdly enough, it is this random element that creates a feeling of familiarity that somehow makes Hades such a comfort game.
Why Is Hades so Popular?
As we've already mentioned, randomness is one of Hades' biggest strengths. We know it's weird saying that, but let us explain.
In Hades, the more time you spend playing the game, the more you'll learn how much Zagreus can adapt to whatever obstacle the game puts in front of him. Hades gives players a lot of leeway in terms of experimentation. Players can go about learning and mastering skills however they want, as well as choose whichever weapon to use and upgrade so long as they feel that it's what will help Zagreus progress further.
Then, as you move on deeper into the game, Hades offers up a nice variety of randomized enemies. However, you'll eventually learn which enemies you're better off taking out quickly, which ones you can take down with your eyes closed, and which ones are not to be trifled with. Then, as Zagreus goes more powerful the more you learn about which play style you prefer and what randomized blessing from the gods you received fits your preferences best, you also realize that the enemies you once dreaded aren't as powerful as you thought.
Yet, while the core gameplay is very much part of the Hades experience, you may also enjoy it in its entirety without investing too much. At least, skill-wise. Literally.
Hades lets players experience the game via the "God Mode" option that lowers enemy damage by 20%, which grows by another 2 points every time you die until it hits the limit of 80%. It's basically Hades' "easy" mode and if you're not one to care too much about the repetitive cycle of dying over and over again but still want to experience the full story of Hades, it's probably for you.
Without spoiling too much about what goes on in Hades, Zagreus gets a chance to meet all of the underworld's denizens one way or another. Then, the further up Zagreus climbs, the more whoever it is will sing praises of his heroic escape. It reaches a point where Zagreus makes quite the name for himself outside of his dad's domain as he receives alliances and even strikes the fancies of many demigods and gods.
Even if you were nowhere near invested in the numerous Greek mythologies and legends before playing Hades, the game's cast of characters will naturally suck you in by how well the game's story refers to familiar tales of old in a way that's both contemporary and hilarious. It also certainly doesn't hurt that the characters in Hades are fully voice acted, which makes all the small little story details sprinkled throughout the underworld that much more intriguing.
Finally, in addition to the story and the gameplay, Hades is just a beautiful game. You really can't doubt how much effort the developers put into conjuring up each afterlife realm in Hades. Even if, on the off chance, that you get tired of Tartarus, Hades takes Zagreus' adventures to other afterlife realms such as Elysium and Asphodel, among many others.
The game's graphics are just as brimming in life and detail as is the game's story. It's obvious just how much love and attention Supergiant Games put towards crafting the world of Hades. The best part? You can enjoy playing Hades at its most beautiful with a low-spec PC.
As a bonus, the minimalistic music just works. In a game that involves so much repetition and randomness, as well as so much dying, you'd think that the music would get annoying eventually. Yet, it's not unusual to find yourself looking forward to hearing the same stuff on loop while playing Hades.
Is Hades for Everybody?
We wouldn't go as far as to say that Hades is for everyone. However, we will argue that it has something for every gamer. It's a difficult game without necessarily being frustrating and it lets gamers temper down the difficulty, especially for those who prefer to enjoy the story. Speaking of, there are very few games out there with a story that takes Millenium-old tales and puts a modern twist to it that will actually make you wonder why exactly the said stories weren't told like how they are in Hades in the first place.
Is Hades perfect? Probably not. No game is. However, if there ever were a list of games that ever came close to perfection, Hades rightfully deserves a spot.
Hades is a good game not just because it had no business being good. Nor is it a good game for an indie title. Hades is one of the very best games ever made, composed of carefully designed individual puzzle pieces that combine to create an adventure of a lifetime.
It's just a bonus that you can play Hades on a $500 gaming PC.