I’ve Been Thinking About Nothing but Supergiant’s Hades for Weeks23 April 2021
The world is garbage. Let’s talk about video games.
Specifically, one video game that has invaded my life and my brain, consuming every waking moment of conscious thought since it was released on Nintendo Switch in September 2020. I’m talking about Hades, Supergiant Games’ latest release and the new love of my life (until the next Supergiant game comes along).
Hades is a roguelike hack-and-slash RPG where you play as Zagreus, the incredibly hot and inexplicably British son of Hades. As you fight your way through randomised rooms, climbing out of Tartarus and ascending ever further towards the surface, you are guided by Olympian gods and Stygian citizens in your bid towards freedom.
The game spits you into a series of dungeons that you must clear before moving onto the final bosses and—fingers crossed—escape. Helping you along the way are the Gods of Olympus, stupidly attractive and dangerously powerful. They grant Zagreus certain temporary abilities called “boons”, which range from zapping, to pushing, to charming, to making everyone around you hungover. If you want a dramatised example, I’d highly suggest checking out the official animated trailer for Hades on IGN’s YouTube channel, published in August 2020. I currently have it saved under a YouTube playlist entitled, “gimme that serotonin babey”.
Every creative choice in Hades is made with the singular goal of making the player feel as badass as possible. The intense rock soundtrack drives home your martial prowess as you cut down legions of the undead in your fight to escape. The tight, responsive gameplay allows for bold plays, dashing away from lumbering Wretched Louts or collapsing pillars onto Inferno Bombers. Like any good game, Hades does a wonderful job of making the player feel both challenged and capable, rewarding a successful run with snippets of lore, resources for permanent upgrades, and triumphant power chords that make you punch the air and nearly break something.
And the art—oh, gods above and below, the art! Many minutes have I lost, dawdling around, gawking at the lush greenery and ghostly weapons of Tartarus, or flinching from the bubbling lava pits and grasping skeletons of Asphodel. Every time you accept a boon from a god, set aside thirty seconds to bask in the luxurious voice acting, then take another thirty to admire the boldness of making Aphrodite entirely nude. Have you noticed Achilles’ one lock of cut hair? If you have, hit me up so we can scream about it.
Beyond Hades’ stellar combat system is a disarmingly sensitive web of interpersonal relationships. As you play through the story, if you so choose, you can start to untangle that web. Does Eurydice really need to reconcile with Orpheus? Will Achilles and Patroclus ever be on speaking terms again? What is the truth behind Nyx and the Olympians’ involvement in your quest? There are even romantic options for the dating-sim-oriented player, between the murderous Megaera, the enigmatic Thanatos and the love of my life, the wind in my sails: Dusa, the bodiless gorgon-head housemaid.
What ended up charming me most about Hades, however, was Zagreus himself. He’s buff as hell, comes equipped with all the deadly weapons of Ancient Greek mythology, was trained by one of the legendary heroes of old, and leaves fire in his tracks wherever he goes. And he’s always so wonderfully polite about it all! His quiet, fierce dedication to his own liberation never comes at the expense of his morals or basic human (well, godly) decency. There’s something surprisingly inspiring about that. You can’t help but root for the guy and every other person you encounter on your journey. (Except for Theseus—God, I hate that guy. No, I will not elaborate.)
Hades is available on Mac, Windows and the Nintendo Switch. If you like gorgeous art, compelling characters, excellent gameplay, and a story that will keep you coming and dying and coming and dying for more, consider picking it up. If its many awards and accolades won’t tempt you, maybe the fact that you can pet Cerberus will.