Hades (video game)

Summary

Hades
Hades cover art.jpg
Developer(s)Supergiant Games
Publisher(s)Supergiant Games[a]
Director(s)Greg Kasavin[1]
Designer(s)
Programmer(s)
  • Gavin Simon
  • Andrew Wang
  • Dexter Friedman
  • Alice Lai
  • Nikola Sobajic
Artist(s)
  • Jen Zee
  • Joanne Tran
  • Paige Carter
Writer(s)Greg Kasavin
Composer(s)Darren Korb
Platform(s)
Release
  • Windows, macOS, Switch
  • September 17, 2020
  • PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Series X/S
  • August 13, 2021
Genre(s)Roguelike, action role-playing
Mode(s)Single-player

Hades is a roguelike action dungeon crawler video game developed and published by Supergiant Games. It was released for Microsoft Windows, macOS, and Nintendo Switch on September 17, 2020, which followed an early access release in December 2018. The game released for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S on August 13, 2021.

Players control Zagreus, the son of Hades, as he attempts to escape from the Underworld to reach Mount Olympus, at times aided by gifts bestowed on him from the other Olympians. Each run challenges the player through a random series of rooms populated with enemies and rewards. The game has a hack and slash combat system; the player uses a combination of their main weapon attack, a special attack, dash power, and magic ability to defeat them while avoiding damage to progress as far as possible. While Zagreus will often die, the player can use gained treasure to improve certain attributes or unlock new weapons and abilities to improve chances of escaping on subsequent runs.

Hades was developed following Supergiant's Pyre, a game in which they wanted to explore procedural narrative storytelling, but due to the nature of the main gameplay, found that players did not play through Pyre multiple times to explore this. The roguelike structure of Hades gave them the opportunity to tell these branching stories to the player over the course of multiple runs.

A commercial and critical success, Hades received universal acclaim for its gameplay, art direction, music, narrative and characters and sold over one million copies. It was named 2020's game of the year from several award ceremonies and media publications.

Gameplay

Hades is presented in an isometric view, with the player controlling Zagreus (center) as he fights his way out of the Underworld.

The player takes the role of Zagreus, the prince of the Underworld, who is trying to escape the realm to get away from his dispassionate father, Hades, and reach Mount Olympus. His quest is supported by the other Olympians, who grant him gifts to help fight the beings that protect the exit from the Underworld. He is also helped on his quest by notorious residents of the Underworld, such as Sisyphus, Eurydice, or Patroclus. The game features four "biomes", or locales of the underworld: Tartarus, Asphodel, Elysium, and the Temple of Styx.

The game is presented in an isometric view with the player in control of Zagreus. The player starts a run-through of the game by trying to fight their way through a number of rooms; the rooms are drawn from a pool of pre-determined layouts, but their order and the enemies that appear are randomly determined. The game has a hack and slash combat system.[2] The player has a primary attack and a secondary "special" attack depend on their pre-determined weapon of choice (out of 6), a magic "cast" which can be used from long range, a dash attack that can inflict damage (if it is influenced by the Gods' boons) and a summon attack that can call tremendous power from the Gods. Throughout a run, the Olympians will provide Boons, each of which provides a choice of three persistent boosts and effects for that run that the player can select from; the Boons are themed based on the Olympian, for example with Zeus's boons providing lightning damage effects which Poseidon's providing and push-back wave effects.

The player will move through rooms to gradually climb up the Underworld; after clearing a room, the player will be given the room's rewards, ranging from additional Olympian Boons, weapon upgrades, restorative items, obols to spend at Charon's store, or items that can be used in the meta-game in the Underworld that affect future run-throughs. Subsequently, after clearing a room, the player will be shown the type of reward they may earn if they complete the next room or choice of next rooms. After passing a certain number of room in a biome, the player will have to fight the bosses of the biome to advance to the next (the Furies Sister in Tartarus, the Lernaean Bone Hydra in Asphodel, Theseus and Asterius in Elysium and Hades after Temple of Styx. Should Zagreus' health points drop to zero while he has no lives left, he "dies" and is taken away by the river of Styx, just to go back to the beginning at the House of Hades, effectively removing all Olympian Boons, weapon upgrades, and obols granted from the last run.[3]

Between runs, Zagreus can explore the House of Hades before setting on a new quest. Here, the player can use items recovered from run-throughs to impact the meta-game. The player can unlock and upgrade abilities for Zagreus, order construction of new Underworld features that may appear in future run-throughs, or obtain or upgrade new weapons. They can also have Zagreus interact with the various characters of the Underworld and improve his standing with them, which provide narrative elements to the game and may also provide quests with additional rewards.[3][4][5] The player also has the option to romance some NPCs as the plot progresses.

As the game progress, the players can manually customize and increase the difficulty of the gameplay by using the Pact of Punishment, which allow the player to add extra challenges or modify some aspects of the game. For example, the Pact can increase the attack power, health or the number of enemies on the run; it can even drastically change part of the gameplay by changing the boss fights, like allowing Theseus to use a machine-gun-mounted chariot or adding an extra phase in Hades' boss fight. By keeping increasing the difficulty, the player can continue to receive rare rewards after the runs, unlock some special decorative items back at the House, and open some more dialogues from the NPCs.

Plot

Zagreus, the son of Hades, seeks to escape his father's realm in the Underworld. He is aided by his adoptive mother Nyx, who gives him a special mirror that empowers him with various abilities via collected Darkness; the Gods of Olympus to whom he has reached out, who provide him with Boons that give him special powers, and his mentor Achilles, who provides him with the Infernal Arms and the Codex, weapons that possess powerful and hidden aspects of their past, present, and future wielders. Zagreus is also helped by Charon, who sells various supported items and also employs the skeleton dummy Skelly to help, the departed residents of the Underworld: Sisyphus, Eurydice and Patroclus, who give Zagreus gifts along the way up, and Thanatos, who goes against Hades to occasionally assist Zagreus. Hades hinders Zagreus' progress by unleashing the Underworld's various residents on him, including the Fury Megaera, Zagreus' ex-lover (and later on her sisters Alecto and Tisiphone) in Tartarus; a Lernean Bone Hydra (nicknamed Lernie by Zagreus) in Asphodel; the legendary Theseus alongside his new partner Asterius in Elysium, and finally Hades himself on the surface.

It is eventually revealed that Zagreus wishes to escape the Underworld to find Persephone, his birth mother whom he never knew, having always been told he was the child of Nyx. Hades refuses to even allow her name to be spoken in his House and it is said that unimaginable punishment should befall anyone who disobeys his order. Nyx, on the other hand, decides to help Zagreus find the truth about his real mother for himself by putting him in contact with his relatives on Olympus. After finally defeating Hades for the first time, Zagreus finds Persephone in Greece, in a cottage protected by Nyx's power. After a tearful reunion, Zagreus discovers that since he is bound to the Underworld like his father, he cannot survive long on the surface. Despite this, he promises to keep escaping to spend time with Persephone and learn the truth of her absence.

Over the course of these visits, Persephone explains that she had a loving marriage to Hades (which the latter states was a result of Zeus having "given" her to Hades as a gift for taking charge of the Underworld, something which Hades thought was incredibly disrespectful and never forgave Zeus for) until Zagreus was stillborn due to the Fates having decreed that Hades would never sire an heir. Persephone ran away in grief with the help from Nyx but refused to return to her birthplace on Olympus which she disliked due to the constant bickering and posturing of the Gods. However, Zagreus was eventually brought back to life via Nyx's powers in an extremely lengthy process after she made a deal with her daughters, the Fates. Persephone refuses to return to the Underworld because she fears retribution from the Olympians towards Hades and the Underworld should they discover the truth about her disappearance, especially her mother Demeter, who has covered the mortal world in an endless winter in grief for her daughter. Zagreus eventually convinces her to return by reminding her of the bonds of family and they finally sail down from Greece towards the House of Hades on the River Styx ferried by Charon. Persephone resumes her duties as Queen of the Underworld and Hades, now with a renewed respect for his son, allows Zagreus to continue his escape attempts under the guise of finding security vulnerabilities in the Underworld as the House' Security Specialist.

Over multiples runs to the surface, Zagreus gets closer to the people in the House of Hades and actively changes the House to be a better place. He sets Sisyphus free from his torment, frees and reunites the musician Orpheus and Euridice, reunites Achilles and Patrolus and also enables Nyx to reconcile with her parent, the Primordial Chaos. He gets closer with Megaera, Thanatos and Dusa, the maid of the House, and confesses to them (after which, Dusa turns him down and chooses to be friend with him instead). He also befriends and does favors for the Olympian Gods. Zagreus and Hades also mend their relationship and agree to be cordial to each other, per Persephone's request. Each of the people whom Zagreus befriends with gifts him their keepsakes that can help him on his quest of escaping the Underworld as a remind of their cherished bonds and a thank for Zagreus' deeds.

In an epilogue, Persephone comes up with the idea of reconciling with the Olympians by inviting them all to a feast in the House of Hades after Zagreus strengthened his relationship with them enough. There they claim that Hades and Persephone eloped and had Zagreus, but avoided telling them about Persephone's resentment of Olympus and further add a false claim that due to her having eaten Underworld pomegranate seeds, she can only leave the Underworld a few months out of the year. The Olympians readily accept this explanation, though it's implied they know what really happened and simply wish to move on. Everyone now reconciled, Zagreus' new duties to escape his home continue.

Development

Following the release of their previous game, Pyre, Supergiant Games was interested in developing a game that would help to open up their development process to players, so that they would end up making the best game they possibly could from player feedback. They recognized that this would not only help with the gameplay approach but also with narrative elements, and thus opted to use the early access approach in developing Hades once they had established the foundation of the game.[6] As Supergiant was still a small team of about 20 employees, they knew they could only support early access across one platform, with the intent to then port to other platforms near the completion of the game. Supergiant had spoken to Epic Games and learned of their intent to launch their own Epic Games Store, and felt the experimental platform was an appropriate match with Hades. Supergiant's decision was made in part due to Epic's focus on content creators, as Supergiant had developed Hades in mind to be a game favorable to streamers, which would be benefited through the Epic Games Store.[6] Supergiant anticipated that Hades would take about three years to complete, comparable to the development time of their previous titles.[6]

In terms of the game's narrative and approach, the Supergiant team had discussed what type of game they wanted to make next, and settled on a concept that would be easy to pick up and play, which could be played in very short periods, and had opportunities for expanding on after release, driving them towards a roguelike game, which have generally best utilized the early access approach.[6] The roguelike approach also fit well with their past gameplay design goals, where they aimed to continue to add in new tricks or tools for the player that would make them reconsider how they have been playing the game to that point.[6] Pyre had been an attempt to create a branching open-ended narrative, but once the game was released, Supergiant recognized that most players would only play through the game once and thus lose out on the branching narrative perspective. With Hades established as a roguelike, the team felt the branching narrative approach would be much more appropriate since the genre calls for players to repeatedly play through the game.[7]

For the setting, Supergiant considered revisiting the worlds from their previous games but felt a wholly new setting would be better. Supergiant's creative director Greg Kasavin came onto the idea of Greek mythology, a topic he had been interested in since his youth.[6] Originally, it was planned to name the game Minos, with the hero Theseus as the player-character seeking an exit from the ever-shifting mazes of Minos. The mazes readily supported the roguelike facets but Supergiant found it difficult to incorporate the branching narrative factors.[7] They also found that Theseus was too generic of a character to fit their narrative.[8]

During a work break, Kasavin researched more into Greek myths and found that Hades was underrepresented in these stories, as the Olympians feared him. This discovery led Kasavin towards having the game centered on Zagreus attempting to escape from Hades and the Underworld as a more interesting narrative approach.[8] Kasavin compared the gods as "a big dysfunctional family that we can see ourselves in", and that by having Zagreus repeatedly try and fail to escape from Hades, it would provide both the type of slapstick comedy that he felt captured the relationships in this "family", as well as the player experience typically associated with roguelikes where one moment the player may feel invincible only to be quickly defeated and brought back to the start the next moment.[6][7] The change from Theseus to Zagreus had minimal impact on the game content they had developed to that point, and helped in establishing the gameplay connection to the narrative; Theseus remained in the game but his role became that of a boss character, transforming him to a boastful villain along with a tag-team partner of Asterius the minotaur.[8] The Greek God narrative also easily informed the benefits that the player obtains as they progress through the game, representing the different powers of the gods, and various gameplay elements such as Trials of the Gods, emphasizing the fickle relationship the gods had with each other.[7] These bits of dialog are advanced with each run through the game, thus making each attempt to escape meaningful compared to traditional roguelikes, which Supergiant felt would help draw more players into the game.[9]

In contrast to Bastion and Transistor, which were more linear games and thus had more control over how the player progressed, Hades presented the challenge of writing dialog for the multitude of routes the player could progress in the game. Kasavin and his writers draft out about ten hours' worth of dialog between Zagreus and the non-player characters based on a large number of potential chained events that could happen to the player. For example, while in a run, the player may encounter Eurydice, and on return to the main hub after failing the run, meet Eurydice's husband Orpheus, who, because of that prior meeting, asks the player to deliver a message to Eurydice the next time they encounter her.[7] These dialog events also tied into improvements at the hub once the player saw through the chain of events.[7]

Supergiant remained committed to honoring the Greek mythology throughout the game. The game's art, primarily by in-house artist Jen Zee, show all of the Olympians as attractive with tasteful homage to the "heroic nudity" of ancient Greek art, according to Kasavin.[10] The game also explores the diverse sexuality that was implied by the Greek myths; Zagreus is bisexual, while one side narrative explores the gay relationship between Achilles and Patroclus.[11]

During the development process of Hades, Supergiant decided to rewrite their custom game engine to provide better game performance and better cross platform support. Their original engine, which was written in C# and used the Microsoft XNA framework, had been used by the studio for all of their games since Bastion. While making Hades, due the technical limitations and difficulties of hardware porting and other performance aspects, Supergiant decided to rewrite their engine using C to provide the increased performance that native code provides.[12]

Release

Hades was announced at The Game Awards 2018 on December 6, 2018, and confirmed as one of the first third-party titles to be offered on the newly-announced Epic Games Store.[13] According to Geoff Keighley, the host and organizer of the Game Awards show, Supergiant's Amir Rao and Greg Kasavin approached him at the 2018 D.I.C.E. Summit in February about Hades and their intention to release it as an early access title on the same day of the Game Awards.[14] Hades was a timed-exclusive on the Epic Games Store, later releasing for Steam on December 10, 2019.[15] Supergiant officially released the game out of early access on September 17, 2020, coinciding with the release on the Nintendo Switch platform.[16] Though cross-save between the Windows and Switch version had been planned at that point, Supergiant had to put this off until a patch that was released in December 2020, with crosssaving enabled through the Epic Games Store account platform.[17]

A physical Nintendo Switch release of Hades was released on March 19, 2021.[18] Ports for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S were released on August 13, 2021.[19]

Reception

Hades received "universal acclaim", according to review aggregator Metacritic.[20][21] During its nearly two year long early access, Hades sold 700,000 copies. Within three days of its official release, it sold an additional 300,000 copies for a sales total of over one million.[34] In particular, critics praised Hades for its story, characters, gameplay and soundtrack.[35][36][37]

IGN praised the characters, writing that they each "[felt] like an authentic reinterpretation of a classic Greek myth...they're all a joy to behold."[38] The Guardian liked art director Jen Zee's work on the game, particularly her portraits of the characters, calling them "wonderfully drawn" and "with appropriate godlike profiles."[39] Jordan Devore of Destructoid enjoyed the story, feeling the dialogue made use of its non-linear nature "without coming across as artificial or "game-y"".[40] Game Informer's Matt Miller felt that "the combat is fast-paced and challenging" and there was variety in the enemies Zagreus would face, although Miller thought that the combat could rely on button mashing at certain points.[41] Suriel Vazquez, writing for GameSpot felt that the worldbuilding complimented "a robust postgame that... offers even more reasons to play an already entrancing mix of RPG and action combat".[42]

Awards

Hades won several awards and honors. At the 10th Annual New York Game Awards, it won in the Game of the Year, Best Music, Best Writing, and Best Acting categories.[43] Several publications considered it one of the best video games of 2020, including Polygon,[44] Giant Bomb,[45] IGN,[46] USGamer,[47] Destructoid,[48] Time,[49] The Washington Post,[50] Slant Magazine,[51] and Entertainment Weekly.[52] It also won the Nebula Award for Best Game Writing,[53] as well as Game of the Year at the 2021 British Academy Games Awards,[54] the 24th Annual D.I.C.E. Awards,[55] Gayming Awards,[56] 21st Game Developers Choice Awards[57] and the inaugural Global Industry Game Awards.[58]

Note: The grand awards of any cermony is written in bold.

Year Award Category Result Ref.
2020 Golden Joystick Awards Ultimate Game of the Year Nominated [59]
PC Game of the Year Nominated
Best Storytelling Nominated
Best Visual Design Nominated
Best Indie Game Won
Critic's Choice Won
The Game Awards 2020 Game of the Year Nominated [60]
Best Game Direction Nominated
Best Narrative Nominated
Best Art Direction Nominated
Best Score and Music Nominated
Best Performance Nominated
Best Indie Won
Best Action Won
Player's Voice Nominated
2021 17th British Academy Games Awards Best Game Won [61][54]
Artistic Achievement Won
Audio Achievement Nominated
Game Design Won
Music Nominated
Narrative Won
Original Property Nominated
Performer in a Supporting Role (Logan Cunningham) Won
GLAAD Media Award Outstanding Video Game Nominated [62]
Gayming Awards Game of the Year Won [63]
Gayming Magazine Readers’ Award Won
24th Annual D.I.C.E. Awards Game of the Year Won [64][55]
Outstanding Achievement in Art Direction Nominated
Outstanding Achievement in Character (Zagreus) Nominated
Outstanding Achievement in Story Nominated
Action Game of the Year Won
Outstanding Achievement for an Independent Game Won
Outstanding Achievement in Game Design Won
Outstanding Achievement in Game Direction Won
Nebula Award Best Game Writing Won [53][65]
Hugo Award Best Video Game (Special Award) Pending [66]
21st Game Developers Choice Awards Game of the Year Won [57]
Best Audio Won
Best Design Won
Innovation Award Nominated
Best Narrative Nominated
Best Visual Art Nominated
1st Global Industry Game Awards Miscellaneous - Best Representation Won [67]
Art - Best 2D Animation Won
Art - Best 2D Character Design Won
Art - Best 2D Environment Art Nominated
Art - Best UI Art Won
Audio - Best Voice Acting Won
Design - Best Systems Design Won
Design - Best UI/UX Won
Writing/Narrative - Best Dialogue Won
Writing/Narrative - Best Narrative Design Won

Notes

  1. ^ PlayStation and Xbox physical versions published by Private Division

References

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External links

  • Official website