While playing through Supergiant Games‘ Hades I kept asking myself why this game is like this so damn good?
For sure, It’s just an apartment.from fun game. You play Zagreus, the son of Hades (The Hades, however Not The Hades), an immortal prince of the underworld with mythical weapons who hastily kicks the crap out of demons on his way out of hell. In addition to the carnage, there is also a lot of strategy and a lot of variety. Then I died and everything became clear.
Hades came out months ago (available for Mac, PC and Nintendo Switch) and has been named the Best Game of 2020 by many websites. or at least one of them. So I didn’t an important discovery when I downloaded it for my switch. I was way behind the times and admittedly I’m still with this whole blog. It’s just that games are something I do mostly for fun. rarely for work
When I started playing Hades I didn’t even know what I was getting myself into. Everyone said it was a cool, addicting video game so I bought it and started playing. Then I died and went back to the beginning and realized that this game was basically Groundhog Day in hell. You try to escape hell, you fail, you go back to the beginning and try again. Every time you gain experience – not mechanically, but experience with the threats you face on your way out of the underworld, from environmental threats to the boss characters guarding each level – or with powers, literally blessings of the Olympic Gods and then you try again. And again. And once again. Every time you go a little further, you learn more and, hypothetically, eventually come to the end.
I am not there yet. In fact, I’m pretty early in the game. But early I realized Hades is so good because it’s an incredibly fun, intelligent microcosm for life itself. Think about it. Every day when we wake up we go through the movements, learn something, lose something, gain something, go to sleep, wake up again and repeat the same pattern. Every day we get a little older, a little wiser and finally – hopefully later than before – we “flee”. Zagreus’ search for a sense of himself and his relationship with his title father in Hades
Now the mechanics of Hades are nothing new. It’s part of a genre called Rougelite – itself a permutation of the hardcore roguelike genre – in which instead of a single, linear, pre-made story or series of levels, you step through randomly generated paths and encounters. Start the cycle again if you fail at any point along the way, be it five minutes in or on the final boss. However, Hades is unique in its deepening and examination of the mechanics of the genre.
Unlike most rogue-style games Reset to default (aka dying) is a crucial part of the story. You have to die to move the story forward. Every time Zagreus falls into battle, he awakens from the river Styx in the house of Hades and is ready to flee again and defy his father. Every time he does it there are characters to talk to, new stories have to be followed – death is not the “end” of one run, but the next Step into a new chapter. The game is slowly revealing more history, more weapons, more chances to keep moving and more levels to level up. You have to grow up to move on.
Again, this is not a breakthrough concept. Most great video games tell a story – linear or close the stories we tell about their mechanics. Many great games also require you to level up. But most of these games also have a forward dynamic. Sometimes you go back a little, but repeat the whole game over and over and step up at the same time, takes Hades to the next level. It’s a video game that reflects this strange banality of life in a way that most other games can’t.
What does it teach us now about life? This is a whole different story and a I guess I have to end the story to really find out. In the truest sense of the word, I will definitely want to try.
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