Hades has been making the rounds since its widespread release on the Nintendo Switch and Steam. After its early access release on the Epic Games Store, Supergiant Games’ fourth release has been getting rave reviews across the board.
The game is essentially a roguelike, with the player assuming control of Zagreus, the son of Hades the god of the Greek underworld, as he makes repeated attempts to escape the clutches of his father’s realm.
Hades is an isometric roguelike, taking cues from Supergiants’ previous endeavours, namely Bastion and Transistor. If you are a fan of those two games and their narratives, Hades will be right up your alley.
What makes Hades truly different from its contemporaries, namely other roguelikes like The Binding of Isaac, Enter the Gungeon, or Dead Cells, is the game’s clever usage of feedback loops.
What is a Feedback Loop?
When it comes to feedback loops in video games, it mainly pertains to how a player’s success and failures will impact the likelihood of future success or failure. This can come in both positive and negative feedback, with Hades being especially good at giving players positive feedback whenever they end a run of the game.
Every game has its own feedback loop, depending on the genre and the game mechanics at play. An example of a good feedback loop is Fall Guys, where even if you do get knocked out early on, you still get a handful of Kudos and experience points, which can then lead you to better cosmetics down the line. Winning big will net you even more than usual, and even if you lose, the next game is only a click away.
Negative feedback loops, on the other hand, can be sinister in design, but can also be what draws players to play it in the first place. The challenge then for the player is to not experience that negative loop as much as they can. The best example would be the Dark Souls games, where if you die, you lose all the souls you’ve collected and you must risk your life to retrieve it at the place you lost it. And for added effect, if you die on the way to get those souls, they are gone forever.
Roguelikes by design have feedback loops, but not necessarily great ones. Oftentimes, if you lose a run in the Binding of Isaac or Dead Cells, the rewards can seem minuscule. Whether it is a new item or weapon, it can sometimes take quite a bit of grinding to get the right parameters to unlock a new reward within these sorts of games.
Hades’ Feedback Loop
Hades actually bakes its feedback right into the design of the game in a remarkable way. Zagreus’ escape attempts are actually “canon”, in the sense that each run actually happens in-game and isn’t just a complete reset every time you make a new run. The game remembers previous runs, with Zagreus even making a remark if you manage to defeat the enemy that bested you in the last run.
Roguelikes usually treat their narratives very lightly, with each run being like a new start with an arcade game, a total narrative reset. In Hades, after a brush with death, new story elements pop up when you return to the hub world. Sometimes there are new characters to meet that provide you with story revelations and subplots that you can only uncover even more of through subsequent runs in the game. This includes subplots featuring famous Greek characters, like Achilles, Orpheus, and Eurydice.
When it comes to in-game rewards, Hades practically showers the players with gems, darkness shards, and new weapons in a steady stream. Hades provides achievable goals and rewards very early on, easing the players to the concept of unlocking more items as they proceed through the game. Even if you lose a lot, the game provides ample rewards depending on how far you managed to reach in a run.
Making the Most of It
Honestly, it’ll be pretty hard for a person to not have fun with Hades. The combat is snappy and responsive, especially when you’ve figured out the best weapon for you and the right loadouts. And even if roguelike action games aren’t your cup of tea, the story and aesthetics of the game are just downright amazing too. The pantheon of Greek gods has never looked so cool before this game.
So if you’re wondering if Hades is worth playing, it definitely is if this is your very first roguelike experience. If you’re kind of sick of roguelikes, this game definitely offers a breath of fresh air with the overall narrative and the aforementioned feedback loop.