Guest Review by Natan Hall:
I could talk about a lot of things in Hades. The gorgeous art style, with heavily-inked shadows. The frantic combat that remains compelling for dozens of hours. The variation, between weapon types, boons, and upgrades, that keeps the game feeling new through 50+ runs.
Instead, I’ll point out that Hades has done what no other roguelike has managed: It kept me playing.
I’ve played some other great roguelikes. Among them are Dead Cells and, to a lesser extent, Slay the Spire. Both are great, and I recommend them. However, I generally throw a few hours at them, slowly making more and more progress, until I manage a successful run. I beat the final boss, the game congratulates me, and then I’m back at the start (usually with some upgrade or unlockable).
I don’t play much more than that.
It’s the same issue I run into with games like Minecraft. I enjoy my time with it, but I quickly run out of direction. When I feel I’ve achieved the few objectives given, I lose motivation, and move on to another game.
But Hades was different. I didn’t just complete a single run. I beat the game with each weapon. I reached the end credits, which took several successful attempts. I unlocked the final ending, which took twice as long as getting to the credits. And I even platinumed the game.
I think what sets Hades apart from any of the games I lost interest in is its characters, its story. Both continue to develop throughout many attempts to escape the Underworld. Both are so well-crafted that I wanted to see every one of the 20,000 lines of dialogue the developers put into the game.
It’s ingenious, how the story unfolds gradually, demanding you make one more run, and then one more. How the game encourages you to interact with every character every time you come back to the house of Hades. Eventually, it gets to the point that the excellent roguelike combat feels like a mini-game, a brief distraction from talking to everyone.
In the second half of my play time, beating the final boss stopped being such a driving force. The game really became about talking to this one character while I was out, collecting these boons, unlocking the next plot point back home.
Part of this is due to the dialogue system that drip-feeds you interactions with a character per encounter, limiting how quickly you can advance any one individual aspect of the story.
As clever as the system is, it would collapse if the writing wasn’t outstanding.
Hades has characters that I love, characters I hate, and characters that scare me. Through their dialogue, I’ve come to understand who all of them are, what they want, and why they do what they do. This fresh take on Greek mythology builds much more human, and at times sympathetic, characters than those you might be familiar with. But it does it without ever betraying the core of what these myths are.
The characters and their relationships felt more and more real. I was more invested in the different relationships with every interaction. By the time the characters ran out of unique dialogue, I had the same feeling I get from the best RPGs, where these characters felt like friends and family, and I didn’t want to leave them. And the process of getting to know them better made me play upward of a hundred runs through the game, almost without noticing.
If you enjoy fast-paced action with fun mechanics that take a long, long time to grow old, you’ll enjoy Hades. But if you like growing character relationships in a story that tackles subjects like parental neglect/abuse and finding one’s own destiny with surprising depth and nuance, a story that is more hopeful and heartwarming than it has any right to be, you will love this game.
Find Hades on Steam and available on console
After reading The Riftwar Saga by Raymond E. Feist and The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan as a teen, I just KNEW I had to be a writer. I started immediately on my first novel, which was terrible. Sometime later, I started on my next novel, which was less awful, and in late 2017 I started on what would eventually become An Altar on the Village Green, book one in The Chained God.
I’ve spent several years as a freelance fiction editor, working with authors like Sarah Chorn and Michael Wisehart. I’m also known for my reviews, ramblings, and writer Crash Course series on my website.
I live in Indiana with my wife, two cats, and one sassy bearded dragon.