RWP Hades

Hades is a gorgeous, well voice acted, super fun isometric 2D game from the studio that is very good at making gorgeous super fun isometric 2D games (Bastion, Transistor, etc).

The game puts you in the shoes of Zagreus, the rebellious son of Hades, trying to escape the Underworld. Each escape attempt is unique thanks to the game being a roguelike, as the maps are procedurally generated and shifted around. They are populated with enemies and gods offering their support in the form of ability enhancers.

What truly elevates Hades is its storytelling. Many roguelikes go pretty light on the narrative (Slay the Spire), telling it through weird hints at the end of a run or item descriptions/objects (Binding of Isaac). The narrative takes a prominent role in Hades. Your failure isn’t your death, it’s just that you failed to escape Hell and you have to start all over again. It integrates this narrative into every aspect. The characters are not just well-voiced: they are pretty well characterized! Their personalities unfold through repeated interactions and reflect the mythos well. It does a terrific job at making failure not feel all that much like a failure, which is a common criticism of roguelikes and the loss averse playstyle they suggest. It reminds me a lot of Inscryption in that way, each failure brings the opportunity to delve deeper into the lore and deepen interactions with the Greek pantheon.

The art style is stunning. I’m rather partial to Bastion myself, but it always amazes me how Supergiant can just keep getting better with every release. The soundtrack complements it perfectly as well, with haunting and high-energy tracks that really do make it feel like the Underworld.

My gripes with the game sort of pertain a bit to the gameplay. There’s a huge volume of choices, and some of the ones that adapt playstyles are fun, but others like ‘extra lives’ are in this weird spot where they’re both very very good, and also not very fun. I think a big part of the roguelike joy is the stress and tension you have – when your death is your death, you play the game a lot differently than ‘eh I have some lives saved up.’ I could eat through initial lives like nothing but then I’d always be like “time to lock in” when we’re down to the last one. When we talked about it in class, it was discussed as “what if you just didn’t click on it” – but you know, suppose there was a button in every game that just said “win the game right now.” It was there and present, but you didn’t have to click on it, you could just play the game. You’re playing the game to have fun after all. I genuinely think that it may be hard to not press that button. You wouldn’t press it when you’re succeeding, but when the going gets tough, even knowing there’s an “easy way out” can warp your mindset entirely.


I do love this game though.

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