The GG series, published weekly, highlights Good Games everyone should play at least once.
Hades (2020, PC, Switch), the action combat game starring Greek gods, is my favourite game of the year so far, and I reckon it should be on everybody's play list. Here's why.
What is it?
A frantic action game steeped in Greek mythology, in which Zagreus, the son of Hades, tries to battle his way out of the Underworld and reach Mount Olympus.
Every time Zagreus dies, he goes back to the House of Hades and has to start his escape all over again. Zagreus can pick a new weapon between runs — a bow, a sword, a bull-rushing shield, etc. — and also gets randomised ‘boons’ from the gods during each escape attempt, which alter your abilities and drastically change your playstyle for every run (more on that below).
The story plays out between runs, in the conversations between Zagreus has with others in the House of Hades, including both his father and Achilles, the Greek champion with a dodgy heel.
What makes it so good?
It’s basically a mash-up of all the brilliant things that developer Supergiant Games (Bastion, Transistor, Pyre) has done in its previous games. That means:
Memorable characters with their own senses of humour.
Flashy combat that gets better the more you learn about it.
Beautiful, colourful environments.
But what really sets it apart, I think, is just how distinct each run feels, thanks to the divine boons, which allow you to craft unique ‘builds’ every time you try to escape.
For example, in one run, you might focus on your ‘dash’ ability so it deals lightning damage that chains between enemies every time you use it, and pair that with a boon that hurts enemies whenever you narrowly dodge an attack. The next run, you might massively boost your damage from a distance and dial up your movement speed, letting you focus on staying as far from foes as possible.
I'll cover this more in a discussion post tomorrow about how to craft a good build, with an open comments session where anyone can post tips.
Where can I buy it?
On Switch, it's £22.49 / $24.99 from the Nintendo eShop.
On PC, it's cheapest on the Epic Games Store, where it's £18.99 / $24.99 (the Steam price is the same in the US, but higher for UK folk).
Extra life… (bonus questions and links to brilliant writing)
The spear. Its special attack is pretty simple — you throw it, and then recall it — but if you recall it and it hits an enemy, it counts as a backstab. You can grab boons that alter damage you deal from behind for some nasty builds.
Favourite run so far?
I had a run over the weekend where I picked up a boon that cut my health to a sliver, but regenerated HP every time I attacked. I also powered up my dash so that it dealt lots of damage: the result was a button-mashing run where I never stopped moving or attacking. Great for groups of enemies, but no so good for big bosses (I died at the third boss, I think).
Links to great writing about Hades:
B: Keza MacDonald’s (@kezamacdonald) review in The Guardian. “Just as each run holds the promise of that perfect boon, that lucky run of enemies perfectly suited to the weapon I’ve chosen, something can always happen to screw things up.”
X: How Hades and Going Under soothe the sting of failure through rich storytelling and sassy satire — from PC Gamer’s Rachel Watts (@rachel_wattts).
Y: Louryn Strampe (@lourynstrampe) for WIRED on how Hades turns tough dungeon crawling into a lavish playground.
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