The 19th of March, 2021 was cause for celebration for many gamers: it brought us the physical release of Supergiant Games’ fourth title, Hades, on Switch.
Originally released on Steam in 2018 through Early Access, many waited with bated breath for a possible physical release to drop, even after it became fully available as a digital download on both Switch and Steam on September 17 last year.
The game enjoyed an immediately positive reception, with many agreeing that Hades deserved to win “game of the year”.
Supergiant being super
The wait was worthwhile, since the physical copy comes with an artbook and a digital code for the soundtrack packed inside the case.
Supergiant Games have continuously struck gold since being established, with their earlier titles Bastion and Transistor getting limited run physical copies, and their third title Pyre being my personal favourite. Each of their games feels entirely new with an original premise, and they’re always equipped with engaging narratives, polished presentation, stunning art and splendid original soundtracks.
Bastion had an insanely lush and detailed world with a hilariously charismatic narrator, Transistor transports you to a vibrant, futuristic city with a truly stunning soundtrack and brilliantly dynamic gameplay, while Pyre has incredibly deep characters and an engaging party-based roleplaying system.
Meanwhile, Hades has got it all, with fantastic voice acting, a really well paced narrative offering something new with each dungeon run — new lines of dialogue are very frequent and are always wonderfully written and delivered — and addictive dungeon crawling mechanics.
It is worth mentioning that it is secretly player-friendly for those of us who suffer from hitting a wall all too often when it comes to the tough roguelike genre (hint: find the ‘God Mode’ in the menu under options).
Of course I’m no stranger in covering titles not at home in Japan, but hopefully we can all understand why this game had to be covered here. It’s simply that brilliant. Or maybe it’s because I’m in agreement with a few others on the game’s many offerings of eye-candy? It may very well be a nice mix of the two.
We’ve got plenty of options thanks to the charisma of the Gods, and Jen Zee’s gorgeous illustrations seen throughout the game. Aphrodite is deserving of her title of the Goddess of Love with such an alluring design and luscious voice; Dionysus is fitting to be the God of wine since he makes us thirsty on sight; and I’d take a one-way ticket to the Underworld just to bump into Thanatos, even if that means certain death.
And since we, at Rice Digital, are known for going about topics in a different way, we’re not just talking about how good Hades is overall — since we all know and have seen enough of the game to convince us. So instead, let’s celebrate its leading man for being another reason to pick this game up right now. He’s not just great fun to play as, but being him makes the journey all the more appealing.
Zagreus’ godly likability
In Hades, we play as Zagreus, traversing the many levels of the Underworld in the hope of freedom: the ability to break away from his father and discover his origins.
Supergiant Games puts a strong emphasis on their characters being the driving force in their stories, with Hades being no different. The amount of new dialogue in each attempted runthrough shows a wealth of characterisation, and the game’s sense of worldbuilding always feels natural; there are no information dumps here in the Underworld.
Zagreus is adorably ignorant about a lot of things, since the Underworld is all he’s ever known. It’s always entertaining to see him corrected by a helpful companion — and to witness his thankful response.
And this is just one example of how Zaegreus is a very likable protagonist. He’s got a quick wit and a funny bone no matter who he is conversing with, whether he’s making snide remarks in response to his father’s condescending comments, or being blatantly sarcastic at an imposing boss.
At the same time he’s also sympathetic, even if he has this stubborn side to him — this is most evident with how persistent he is with his overall objective of escaping the Underworld, no matter how many attempts he has to make until he succeeds.
His backstory reveals how he has felt that the Underworld does not feel welcoming to him due to his inability to provide for his home, and by being a disappointment to his father. But he also has a good head on his shoulders. He’s quick to understand when he’s in the wrong and apologise for his actions or words if it upsets others, and he disregards status and sees everyone on the same level as him — though he is always respectful to the Gods, or those wiser and/or older than him.
Zagreus is not only quick to help others and defend those he loves, but he always remembers to relay information he finds significant to someone else through his countless journeys through the Underworld.
One such example is locating and discussing the situation of Orpheus’ lost muse, where Zagreus acts as a messenger between the two to help rebuild their strained relationship. Speaking with other characters will always highlight the caring and sweet side of Zagreus, such as his consideration to the Underworld’s cleaner, Dusa, the fact he always finds time to catch up with the lonely Sisyphus, and the respect he shows towards to the skeleton punching bag, Skelly. And finally, his affection and loving treatment towards his pet Cerberus will always be appreciated. I’ve lost count of how many times he’s petted him on my save file, and every time was worth it.
Play the game already
While the game thankfully lets us romance a few of its characters (Megaera, Thanatos and Dusa specifically), I can’t help but think if only we could romance ourselves as Hades. Or maybe I’ll wish for a character illustration of Narcissus instead from Jen Zee… (Lilia. Lilia. Lilia! Nope, sorry, we’ve lost her. Go play Hades – Ed.)
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