As a fan of roguelikes, roguelites, and Rogue, I find my standards for the quality of a roguelike are as follows: if the game can provide significant mechanical novelty across playthroughs such that each new run feels like a new character embarking on a new adventure with new perils to face, then I consider it a success - and the level of its success is amplified by both amount of content (which multiplies the sense of novelty), and consistency of mechanics, which allows the player both feel themselves in a world governed by consistent rules, and to create more and more successful attempts at the given goal of, say, going to hell (or, as in the current example, escaping from it). Narrative and design soundness are also useful aspects for game makers to focus on, and can elevate a title massively, but when I consider the most significant aspects of the roguelike genre, the ability to produce consistent mechanical novelty within a mechanically consistent world is paramount.
Hades, then, is concerned with the things which to me are the exact opposite of the point, and does very little to push this mechanics-focused genre forward. While the combat is punchy and fun, it's essentially just action gameplay ported from Supergiant's previous titles Bastion and Transistor - "work smarter, not harder" ostensibly being the aphorism in the office after releasing a significantly more unique game, Pyre, to much less vibrant fanfare - and while the story is lively, there is for me a feeling of disappointment after the first, the third, the fifth successful fight with Hades, which springs from the grim question not ever to be evoked by such a life-sucking medium as this: what's the point?
I'm all for well-constructed works which adhere to the mores of a given artistic movement, and to its credit, perhaps that is simply what this is (which is to say, a game consistent with the times, and guided by superficial forces which garner positive attention, such as: general polish, strong VA, a coherent aesthetic, lovely music, fascinating attention to detail, a rags-to-riches developer story, bright readable visuals, a transparent development process, a charming cast of characters and an absolutely absurd amount of dialogue lines) - but nonetheless, I find it all kind of boring.
lacking in sufficient secrets or novelty, yet polished to a mirror's sheen, Hades is a roguelike himbo with daddy issues, perceiving the multigenerational success of its forefathers, and projecting outwardly that it can be a big boy too, just as long as its prettier than pops. What himbo fails to realize, unfortunately, is that brooding daddy was actually sort of deep.

Reviewed on Mar 02, 2021


2 years ago

solid review. honestly might be enough to bump my score for this game down from a 3.5 to a 3, cause i more or less fell for a lot of what you said in the last couple paragraphs. i love supergiant, and my bias for them's definitely colored this game just a little bit nicer than i think it really is. the game's def the kind that needed more time in the oven, and i wonder how it would've turned out if it was never in early access. hopefully supergiant doesn't continue to make this sort of thing for their future games, but this was super successful so...
all that said, have you got any immediate roguelike or roguelite recs (or even just rogue the game), particularly ones that do something similar to hades (i.e. character strength progression rather than item pool progression) but better? your criticism on hades' skewed use of the genre has me trusting that i'd probably have at least a somewhat relatively similar in these sorts of games if i played more

2 years ago

Very well said.