Are You Game? Hades Redefines In-Game Deaths

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Zagreus abandons the home of his father, Hades, to begin his escape from the Underworld. (Nintendo)

 

Bored and desperate this holiday season, I searched for comfort in the form of mindless entertainment when I wanted something more: an adventure, a story, and some fun! What better game than Hades to not only cure my boredom but also make me addicted to playing it!

   Inspired by Greek mythology, the game focuses on Zagreus, the son of Hades, as he attempts to escape the Underworld despite his father’s incessant repetition of the phrase “There Is No Escape.” The player only gets one chance to escape the Underworld—there are no checkpoints; when you die, you start over. From the beginning. However, Supergiant designed deaths to represent moments of progress rather than failure.

   The game’s structure is unique and extremely addictive, as each escape attempt grants the player new opportunities for progress. Zagreus even receives help from his Olympian family in the form of boons, and other various items that strengthen his health, firepower or currency. While these items are temporary and change within each attempt, other items are permanently collected through each escape attempt. These allow the player to make progress even if they fail, which makes death less of an annoyance. 

  The player might even look forward to dying in a way—but not without trying first of course. 

   The characters’ designs are absolutely stunning. Each famous (or infamous) figure from Greek mythology has its own detailed and colorful portrait. Not only do these characters interact and develop with the player, but they also all have their own voice acting. This additional layer of immersion helps to form a truly unforgettable experience. 

   Strategy and luck are essential for the player to understand and use to their advantage in each escape attempt. The player progresses by moving through a series of chambers crawling with dangerous enemies that must be eliminated in order to pass. Some of them only have one exit, while others have two or three. Each of the exits contains different prizes that the player can use on their journey—boons, money, etc. These choices force the player to think strategically on which item will benefit them best, and in some cases, consider if the risk is worth it. 

   The best part of Hades is the action itself. The controls and game mechanics are easy to learn but hard to master; there’s definitely a learning curve, but it’s not as dramatic as in games such as Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, Super Smash Brothers, etc. 

  This game is great for teens such as me, who feel they aren’t quite ready for more challenging games of the adult world, yet still, yearn for a challenge. Mastering your weapon’s skills and abilities comes with experience, and experiencing progress through countless deaths entices the player to keep on pushing through until the end.

   Supergiant Games created such a unique atmosphere for every setting, character, and feature of the game—death represents progress in the form of knowledge, materials, character development, and story development. This game was nominated at The Game Awards 2020 for Game of the Year, Best Game Direction, Best Narrative, Best Art Direction, Best Score and Music, Best Performance (Logan Cunningham as Hades), and Best Indie.

   If you liked this game, then I suggest you check out Octopath Traveler or Celeste—both beautiful action-adventure games that are very unique and fun. Octopath Traveler details the story of eight travelers who develop and battle in its strategic-heavy, yet satisfying turn-based combat. Celeste, a puzzle-platformer, is designed to connect with the player on a more personal level with its emotional storyline. Both games are well worth your time and attention.

  My only complaint with Hades is relatively minor, and it lies with the design of the character Persephone. Her portrayal makes her look old; I imagined her to be a bit more vibrant and young-looking, but her design is nonetheless beautifully done, just like all the other characters in the game. Now that I’m done nitpicking, Hades is an enjoyable, addicting, and unforgettable experience.

  There truly is no escape from this game’s beauty and action-packed story.