It had to happen eventually, didn’t it? Famously- infamously by this point- roguelikes and I do not get along. Every time I encounter one on my backlog journey I enjoy it for about 30 minutes, and then I die and have nothing to show for my time, and I remember how much I hate roguelikes. And that is still the official line- I hate roguelikes.
Supergiant have never made a wrong step in their catastrophically excellent career, and so I took it personally when they said their next project was a roguelike. Because I knew, if anyone could make me add “except Hades” to that sentence, it was going to be them. So having played it…
I hate roguelikes… except Hades.
There, I said it. Goddamn, I said it. It wasn’t enough for Supergiant to make me full-on ugly-cry over a sports game, now they’ve gone and ruined the one constant in my life. I have to append “except Hades” to every roguelike post I ever make from now on. I hope they’re proud of themselves for making a rich, sublime, entertaining, fun game that I enjoy a lot. The bastards.
Now, that’s not to say I don’t get hugely frustrated at playing for an hour only to encounter a new boss fight, get absolutely mullered by it because I don’t know its patterns, and have to play that entire hour of random combat again before I get another chance to practice against those patterns (and lose, again, because the only way to learn how to avoid attacks is to fail to avoid those attacks). It’s not to say that rolling useless boon after useless boon doesn’t make me want to scream. And it’s certainly not to say that those bloody archers deleting 90% of my healthbar immediately before a boss fight doesn’t make me question every choice I’ve ever made.
But damnit, I’m 36 hours in and no matter how frustrated I get, 30 seconds later I’m back in Tartarus taking another swing at it. A significant part of this is simply that combat is hugely fun; zipping around volleying off shots and pulling slick dodges is just a rip-roaring good time and feels great. The moment-to-moment gameplay is exemplary, and I’d say damn-near faultless. Supergiant have honed this craft to a diamond tip and Hades’ combat is the culmination of the best bits of its forebears.
But for me personally, the biggest hurdle to my enjoyment of a roguelike is the sense of (or lack of) progression. Every single run of Hades is useful, somehow; even if you just come home with a few gemstones in your pockets, that’s a small step towards the next permanent unlockable which will in turn aid and assist your future runs. This is what killed FTL for me; having reached the final boss in that game and losing because RNG decided every single one of my attacks was going to miss, I was left with- nothing, absolutely nothing. Not even a new unlocked starting ship. In Hades, every run starts a little stronger than the one before it, and by reframing the expeditions as resource-gathering trips rather than considering each one an escape attempt, I’ve come to almost love the start-die-repeat cycle inherent to the genre.
Fin or Bin:
Listen, at this point, if Supergiant announced their next game will literally set its players on fire, I’d be willing to try it. I trust them implicitly. I understand that escaping the Underworld is in fact only the start of Hades, and I have no idea what constitutes as Finishing it… but I’ll find out.
(Steam, also on pretty much every other platform! With cross-saves!)
(I’ve been streaming Hades on my Twitch channel Mon/Weds/Fri 3:30pm EST and probably will continue to do so for a couple more weeks at least, feel free to follow and join in!)