Hades is a rogue-like in which you control Zagreus, son of Hades, as he attempts to escape the Underworld. As someone who loves Greek mythology, I was thoroughly impressed with all the references and story in the game. In fact, Hades was the first video game to ever win a Hugo Award, the annual awards for science fiction and fantasy, first awarded in 1953. I’ve been playing Hades on and off for a while now, and I’ve certainly been making slow progress as I pause to look up myths and figure out references. I won’t say what the epilogue is so that we avoid the spoiler, but I recently finished the epilogue and maxed everyone’s affinity, which makes it a good time to blog about the game.
I won’t spoil any major story beats in this post; I will be showing a couple screenshots with some funny dialogue, and I’ll be mentioning the boss of the third area. This doesn’t reveal any twists or anything like that, but I don’t want someone to be disappointed they read it.
The trailer linked at the top gives a great overview of what the game is like. I was going to embed a clip of my own gameplay, but I figured using the official trailer would summarize nicely and not give away anything that wasn’t intended to be known right off the bat. Hades features fast-paced action with a ton of different character builds that will be different each escape attempt. You have some permanent upgrades to your character as well as abilities that you gain during a run but reset when you die. You also have affinity, relationships with the various other characters that can you improve through particular actions in the game.
The dialogue and lore in the game is just fantastic. In this screenshot, Dionysus mentions how he doesn’t like Theseus. “There’s this nice lass helped him out one time, and he just dumped her rotten, I don’t like that, man!” In one Greek myth, Ariadne helps Theseus defeat the minotaur and then fled with him on his ship. He leaves her behind on an island, where Dionysus later finds her before marrying her. This isn’t explicitly called out in the game, likely because it wouldn’t really further the plot, but this type of detail and reference make it even cooler for people who know the mythology.
In another part of the game, Zeus says “Ah, most splendid of an offering, young man. And while we’ve yet to even meet in person, I already feel as though the two of us are close, why, closer than you must be even with your father! Oh, hahaha! Perhaps we ought to go telling everybody I’m your real father, am I right?” In some myths of Zagreus, he is indeed the son of Zeus. The game really works in these contradicting myths in fun ways.
The other bit about contradictions that I loved was this message from Dionysus. “That chap comes up with the most smashing songs, so I was thinking, maybe we could spin him a tall tale, something like how maybe you and I, like, we’re connected or something?” In Orphism, the set of ancient beliefs based on the poet Orpheus, Dionysus is Zagreus reincarnated. It’s really cool to me how this game creates a cohesive, internally-consistent lore while still acknowledging the real-world myths that conflict with each other.
As a side note, they really downplay how all the gods are basically related to each other a hundred different ways! But I suppose that takes some of the awkwardness out of it.
There’s still a lot I could do in the game. Hades has a “heat” system in which higher heat values introduce changes to make it more difficult. I haven’t pushed past 2 or 3 heat, and I don’t have all the hidden aspects or even all the normal aspects. There are still a few prophecies (achievements) to fulfill. However, my main goal was to finish the story, earn the epilogue, and max my affinity with all the characters. I’ll likely play it a little in the future, but I met my goal. Now I’m itching to reread Homer or maybe look for another Greek mythology game. Is the God of War series fun?