Dr. Hades and How I Learned to Love the Roguelike

I don’t like roguelikes. I find the genre to be a difficult one for someone like me to fully grasp. I have played my way through some titles like The Binding of Issac and Enter the Gungeon. I, by no means insinuate that these games are bad, I just understand the trepidation of my personal situation, and the reality of my life lacking proper room for these types of games. They are difficult, and they involve time and patience; two things I don’t typically get these days. They challenge my very thought process on how gameplay loops are experienced, where the longevity is the true goal. It’s almost akin to the games of the past that birthed this wonderful industry.

As much as I have shown my own apathy towards the genre, one has caught my eye as of recent. Is it because I love the company behind the game? Absolutely it is. Supergiant Games has become an indie sweetheart to me. When their games are released, I am smitten by their colorful visuals and cascading isometric landscapes. Whether it is their cyberpunk influenced Transistor or the steampunk Bastion, I know that I am going to have a time unlike any other. So when Hades finally escaped from early access and took the internet by storm, I had no choice but to indulge in the very genre that I have since detested. Yet, here I stand as an awakened new man, ready to take on this game beyond the 40 hours I have already pumped into it.

Hades is truly a game unlike any other. I will spare you the full 8-page review, as brevity has never been my strong suit. I will say though, that what I have played has been some of the most rewarding gameplay experiences of my life. It throws me back to the time I decided to indulge in the bleak world of Dark Souls. Didn’t think I could write a whole article about difficult games and not bring that one up? Don’t be silly, of course it will be mentioned as it has become the benchmark in how we rate intricacy as well as the masterclass meme of the modern era.

What amazes me about Hades isn’t just the satisfying gameplay or the gothic setting of Greek mythos; it’s the writing. It’s getting to experience something new every time I do something. The game keeps on delivering different aspects, and makes me wonder how many lines of dialog have been recorded, because there is almost a conversation for anything I do. Even if I progress up to a certain point to be murdered by a creature, someone mentions how it was involved in my demise. I can’t even be mad at that, it’s ingenious, especially when it’s delivered in a sarcastic and indifferent tone.

I am baffled that a game with a learning curb so difficult can also be so welcoming. While Dark Souls threw my feet to the fire, Supergiant Games guided me, using narrative to help push me forward. Hades is filled with little niblets of story and feeds it to me slowly, like movie theater popcorn. I occasionally fight the urge to throw my hand into the bucket of hot buttery air popped corn, but doing so would throw me into a world of regret as I go home and wish that I never ate the salty, stale staple. Instead, I take small steps through Tartarus, hoping I can complete my goal. If I die, which is a guarantee, at least I am left with a consolation prize.

I have played a fair share of roguelikes as I have mentioned before, but I have never invested as much time into them as I have here. I have welcomed the idea that Hades is perhaps the most unique experience to rear its head this year, granted Cyberpunk 2077 releases next month, and who knows how well this statement will hold up. Nevertheless, I also understand that due to my ignorance, other titles could share the same concepts, and because of it I may never fully deliver proper gratitude to those that came before it.

No matter the case, Hades has accomplished something that I never thought could actually happen, it made me appreciate the genre. It made me realize that there is some form of failing that could happen with dignity, and that growing only to overtake your opponents with great ease only takes time and effort. Does this make me want to go back and play other titles that I missed out on? That still remains to be seen. After all, Supergiant Games is the reason why I was attracted to this title. They were the reason why I wanted to explore this newfound, demon-filled world. If someone else were to make this game, I don’t think it would have the same unparalleled flavor. 

I suggest that if you have even just a bit of curiosity in this game, that you try to experience it one way or another. If you find these titles to be difficult as I do, turn on “god mode” to gain a little bit of an advantage as you play. I just hope that you find this title to be as unique as I have found it to be eye-opening to a genre I never fully understood. I must own up to my previous remarks and state how I have now discovered a newfound respect for this genre. It’s unfortunate that it took this long for something in my brain to click.

You can find our official review of Hades here!

By Steve Esposito

Steve Esposito is a dedicated content creator with a focus on his love for technology, video games, and the very industry that oversees it all. He also takes part in organizing the Long Island Retro and Tabletop Gaming Expo as well as a Dungeons and Dragons podcast: Copper Piece. You can find him on twitter @AgitatedStove

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