Friday, 21 May 2021

Hades (2018-20) - Horror Video Game Review

I'm lately making a concerted effort to get through the backlog of games I currently have on the go. One such game was the Greek myths inspired Hades, a roguelike created by the superb Supergiant Games (Pyre, Transistor, Bastion). With massive replayability and an engaging amount of dialogue with the many characters you encounter along the way this four level dungeon crawler succeeds in being a video game that is just plain fun to play.

You play as Zagreus, the teenage son of Hades, lord of the Underworld. He is on a determined quest to escape the realm of the dead and search for his mother up on the surface. Hades has other plans however and sets the many denzions of the below under his control against his son. Zagreus has allies in the form of the Gods of Olympus who bestow upon him their many boons that can make both him and his weapons stronger.

So Hades is a roguelike. For those unfamiliar this equates in this particular instance of each floor of the dungeon being made up of a series of random chambers, each chamber has its own random reward, whether that be boons from the Gods, health and weapon power ups, or even gold and gems. Upon death you respawn back at the starting area with all your progress reset, that is except for the gems and soul gems you have collected along the way. Gems can be used to make improvements to your home, and exchanged for various useful items. The soul gems are used to upgrade the abilities for Zagreus, making him more strong.

You are able to dash, have special and normal attacks and can fire a regenerating projectile. These are all different dependant on the many many boons you get for them. So on one run your projectile can be in the form of a crystal that fires out a beam, on another run it may be a homing arrow. There are also six very different weapons to choose from. Starting off with a sword you get access to a bow, a spear, metal fists (a particular favourite), a shield, and a kind of crossbow. Each of these feels suitably different from each other. The first for example favours extreme close up combat, the bow is more long distance but each shot must be charged up before it can be fired. Combat includes combos, wall damage, environmental damage and more, making for a satisfying time. If the gameplay wasn't so tight Hades would not have been half as much fun to play.

Each of the four levels of the Underworld have their own unique enemy types, Tartarus is dungeon themed and sees you mainly against orange demons, culminating in a boss fight against one of three sisters. Asphodel is full of lava which can damage you, but also damage enemies if they get knocked into it. This level features a bunch of skeletons, as well as bomb throwing creatures and sees you fighting a hydra at the end of it. The later two levels, Elysium and Temple of Styx have their own unique parts to them which I won't go into detail with. For my first attempts there was a slow increase of progress. Initially I couldn't progress past the first boss, then it was the second, the hardest stopping point for me was the third boss which is actually two different enemies. It was satisfying to finally be able to defeat those! The more you play you do get progressively stronger, but you also come to know how to best defeat all the various creatures. I have to confess that once I made it to the final level I was ready to move on and play a different game and so I turned on 'God Mode'. This gave me plus 20% resistance to damage, with an incremental increase of 2% each failed attempt. By the time I began to consistently beat the game I was on 30% increased resistance. Sure this equates to playing on easy mode in essence but my personal goal had always been to defeat the third level boss which I did achieve. Could I have possibly finished the game without the assistance of God Mode?  Quite possibly, but I wasn't willing to exchange the time it would have taken to do that when I have so many other games I own waiting to be played (over 2000!).

Being a Supergiant Games creation I knew there would be plenty of dialogue, bright attractive graphics and plenty of great music. The soundtrack is steller, it does the thing of having the one tune over each level but then having it change depending on the situation. Between fighting enemies it will be more quiet and atmospheric, but then the guitars will kick in when the action begins. At times it reminded me of the type of heavy music you would find in the newer Doom games. The amount of dialogue characters have is intense. Being based around doing a loop I expected they would soon run out of things to say, but each character seems to have thousands of lines so that there is zero repetition, and it is all interesting. Ambrosia can be found or brought and this can be used to increase your relationship with all the characters. At its heart this is a game about family, the petulant and arrogant Zagreus feels like a typical teenager, yet he is likeable due to his politeness to everyone he meets, with his ire reserved mainly for his father. Hades was another strong character, the dynamic between these two felt so well crafted.

I really enjoyed my time with Hades, and after beating it ten times (to get the real ending) I left, but with the knowledge there was still a lot more I could have done if so inclined. From alterable parameters that change the items you receive and the attack patterns of bosses, to maxing out all the friendship metres, this may only take between twenty five to forty five minutes to beat once you know what you are doing but there is a lot of game here. Sometimes less really is more.


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