Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Running Through Hell - Hades - Run 3

What can I say? This game has been on my mind a lot lately, and my Wednesday stream seemed to be the perfect excuse to go for another run.

Prince Zagreus is ever eager to break out of his lord father's domain, and I'm ever eager to aid with on the way.

(A warning: As I had beaten the game prior to playing this session, there may be spoilers.)

Watching so many people come into the game, playing for the first time now that it's fully released, the thing I can't help but notice is how approachable it is compared to contemporaries in it's genre. People I know who ordinarily don't get into roguelikes are having fun with Hades in a way they just haven't before.

I'm hardly the first to remark upon this, and I doubt I will be the last, but there are many common pressure points that are inherent to the genre, and Supergiant intelligent worked to alleviate many, if not all, of them to make the experience less painful.

  • Death is not something to be feared. Though players will lose all of their boons and be sent to the start, they'll always gain something permanent from their trouble. Whether that's some Darkness to upgrade Zagreus, knowledge of the enemy that killed them, they made some progress. Additionally, returning to the House means they have an opportunity to see what the rest of the cast has to say (and they always have something interesting on their minds).

  • God Mode gives those who normally struggle to come to grips with roguelikes another tool to onboard themselves. It doesn't make the game easier at first, but it grants them bonuses every time them die, a cushion that otherwise wouldn't be there to help catch them when the fall.

  • The game is not anywhere near as randomized as one may suspect at first glance. In truth, an expert player has the capability to control for their luck through the choices they make in a run. While it is certainly possible to have a poor seed, it's unlikely given all of the following:

    • The trinkets, companions, and the choice of weapon combine to give players a static load out upon which they build on and around, rather than starting purely from scratch each time they make an escape attempt. Even without getting any boons or hammers, they have that baseline ability to carve out a play style before entering Tartarus.

    • There are many branching paths on the way to the surface, and while all of them eventually reach the top, Supergiant politely informs the player what rewards they will get if they go along a specific path. This allows them to make an informed choice about which path they take and which boons, upgrades, or benefits they want to go for in order to improve the odds that they'll make it to the end.

    • When they obtain a god's blessing, players have a choice over which benefit they extract from it, giving them another method with which that can make choices over how they want Zagreus to play.

    • No matter what, the very first area will always start players off with either a god's boon or a Daedalus Hammer, so there is never a run that will be completely devoid of any power ups.

While many of these choices are hard to parse out at first, overtime most players, consciously or not, will start to pick up on what decisions lead to easier runs and naturally improve over their experience with Hades. This is especially true later on, when players unlock the ability to re-roll either chamber rewards or boon choices, given them an even finer degree of control over the preceding.

It's a truly impressive feat that Supergiant performed in the development of Hades, making one of the most accessible games of its ilk. I can only hope more roguelikes start to learn from its example.

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