RELEASE DATE: 2020.
Console (played on): PC.
GENRE(S): ACTION, Adventure, fantasy.
Developer: Supergiant Games.
Publisher: Supergiant Games.
Designer(s): AMIR RAO, GAVIN SIMON, GREG KASAVIN, EDUARDO GORINSTEIN & ALICE LAI.
Programmer(s): Gavin Simon, Andrew Wang, Dexter Friedman, Alice Lai & Nikola Sobajic.
Artist(s): Jen Zee.
Writer: Greg Kasavin.
Composer: Darren Korb
Voice Actor(s): Logan Cunningham, Darren Korb, Marianne Miller, Peter Canavese, and many more!
My Overall Rating:
Sometimes you just don’t want to stay in an abusive environment, a place that you are condemned to call home yet despise it for the bitter and frustrating relationship you have with your parents. Running away thus seems like the only option left, to find a safe haven where you can finally breathe fresh air and pluck raisins as you cruise down grapevines. Unfortunately for the prince of the Underworld, his father Hades won’t make it easy for him to escape his realm and reach his relatives at Mount Olympus. Being my undeniable 2020 game of the year winner, Supergiant Games’ latest hack-and-slash game Hades is a phenomenal tour de force showcasing brilliantly-addictive gameplay and a narratively-ingenious story revolving around Zagreus and his quest to not only escape hell but to also unravel the dark secrets of his father Hades while discovering the complex relationship between the gods in the Greek pantheon.
What is Hades about? The game is centered around Zagreus, the prince of the Underworld, who has grown tired of his father’s dismissive and brutal ways, condemning him to a life without love or passion. Determined now to escape the Underworld and reach Mount Olympus, he fights his way through four different ecosystems (Tartarus, Asphodel, Elysium, and the Temple of Styx) in hopes of reaching the final door out of hell. Throughout his quest, his mentor Achilles provides him with various Infernal Arms (weapons varying from swords to bows), while the Olympians offer him gifts known as boons that shape his combat style and skills according to what he picks (e.g. Poseidon gives water-based effects). Meanwhile, his father sets loose dangerous creatures and beings to halt his progress and return him to his duties in the Underworld. While his motivation seems trivial at first, a family matter and a brewing war are at the heart of this tale. But the most important question is: Can Zagreus escape his father’s grasp?
One element that stood out the most for me with this game is the impeccable characterization of the Greek gods. Their personality shines like the scorching flames of the Underworld and gives them singular godly qualities that you subconsciously expect them to have. Festive, protective, joyous, feisty, honorable, quirky, comical. Each god comes with a complex persona that they fully embrace as they come into contact with Zagreus and sometimes even between each other. Without pointlessly reintroducing themselves, as if they needed such a presentation, they all come with a bundle of history and experience that immediately jump at you, teasing you with information, leaving you craving for more. It is through these interactions that we learn tidbits about themselves, their past, and how they view Zagreus in his quest to escape hell. What makes them a touch more perfect is the contemporary take on these gods and the amount of dark humour that they dish out. It is simply refreshing to hear them speak with sarcasm, irony, or cynicism, while conveying their godly status.
The other element that makes this game stand out is the fantastic gameplay mechanics. It is smooth, aesthetically pleasing, and filled with surprises. Utilizing a basic attack, a special move, a dash, and a Cast (ranged attack), you’re off to destroy strange creatures of all kinds looking to kill you. The incredible variety of combinations accessible throughout each run thanks to the random Greek god boons is what essentially makes this game unputdownable. There is no particular setup that dominates over another as every combination has its perks and leaves the player to adapt according to his playstyle or curiosity. But what happens when you die? Death is integral to the narrative, completely taking away the obvious cathartic rage from the equation, and turning it into a welcome opportunity for narrative and character progress. Death simply returns Zagreus to the House of Hades, forced to confront his father in failure as he emerges from a pool of blood, but also to explore and interact with the other godly entities present in various rooms.
Composer Darren Korb also adds a soothing epic touch through his music that never ceases to boost the rapid-action gameplay while enchanting you into a deranged obsession for destruction as you shred through vile beasts in hopes to come out unscathed. As if you needed any more incentive to play this game as you reach the end, expect a twist that will narratively justify and encourage you to keep on trying multiple attempts to escape the Underworld, hoping to one day deplete Supergiant Games’ dialogue reservoir. With over 50 runs and 10 completion clocked in, I still find myself mesmerized by the endless gameplay possibilities and the innumerable storytelling elements that are still out there to be discovered. While Zagreus’ journey seems like an infinite and vicious cycle of violence at first glance, have no fret, it quickly evolves into a fascinating family drama that displays the complex bond between gods and the absence of communication between them that often encourages conflict.
Hades (2020) is a roguelike dungeon crawler masterpiece following the Son of Hades in his quest to escape the Underworld of Greek mythology.