“Hades” (2020): awards for best literature, greek myths and fun gameplay all in one videogame

I recently had a lot (A LOT) of fun playing this. It’s a super-fun “hack and slack” – it means: you will mash your controller’s buttons in a frantic way, all the time, until your fingers are sore – with some nods to the genre classics (“Ghosts and Goblins” or “Castlevania: Symphony of the Night” come to mind) and a lot of fresh ideas to keep even the most demanding players constantly engaged.

It’s an action game but make no mistake, the story and its characters are all the time in the center of the stage. It boasts excellent writing and voice acting and constant humor touches that I found honestly hilarious. It had me giggle to myself all the time.

The writing, I said: among a bunch of other prestigious awards – Game of the Year, Best Music, Best Acting – “Hades” received both the Hugo and the Nebula for its year. It’s like winning the Oscar and the Golden Globe and it’s an achievement very few works of art can boast (for example, Dune did it in 1965).

The conflict with the Father figure is a classic. When Father is the Immortal God of the Underworld… well, things can get interesting

So what is it about?

It’s the story of Zagreus, the adolescent prince of the Greek mythic Underworld, who tries to escape his underground realm to reunite with his lost mother Persephone. In the process, Zagreus will have to work his neverending conflict with his father Hades, challenge an incredible amount of demons and otherworldly creatures, and solve a number of other side plots.

These are introduced gradually not to distract from the action – the vastity of Greek myth can be overwhelming – but as they unfold, the player will find themselves always motivated to make one extra step, open one more conversation, go out of their way in order to progress a side plot.

Tha game’s own version of the ancient myth of Orpheus (left) and Eurydice (right)

In his quest, Zag will get acquainted with the stories of Achilles and Patroclus, Orpheus and Eurydice, Sisyphus and his giant boulder, the three Furies, Chaos, Cerberus (the monstrous three-headed dog guarding the doors of hell; but really just treat-loving pet, if once is the Prince of the Underworld),

Meet Cerberus: who is a good boy? Or three?

and of course meet so many Gods of the Olympus, constantly wrestling for power and entertainment as they bestow their favors (or their wrath) upon the protagonist. Dionysus, the god of wine (and good times) is probably one of my favorites.

I honestly found it really enjoyable, experiencing how each character is brought to life, each with different personalities and many possible interactions with the others.

In conclusion: “Hades” is a super fun game, but also an immersive and delightful experience that will leave the players with a deeper, first-hand understanding of many plots and characters of the Greek myth. Visuals, music and level design (procedurally generated, so to change at every run) are top-notch, but the gameplay really shines.

“Hades” is a Roguelike (genre named after the 1980 Rogue), which means a game where the protagonist is actually expected to die many, many times over: progress comes from experience and guarantees that the experience will always be fresh and rewarding.

The three Furies, or Erinyes, were the sisters Tisiphone, Alecto and Megara. According to the myth, they were born from spilled Titan’s blood when Uranus was castrated by his son Cronus (ouch!)

In this case the smart twist comes from the fact that the Prince of the Underworld… cannot really die, right? So every time he is slain by his enemies, he just re-emerges from the underground rivers directly in his home. The worst part will be having to hear his father’s nagging, one more time.

Definitely give it a try! And don’t worry if you are not a professional gamer. Be prepared to fail, many times, but this game, like a classic god, looks distant and indifferent at first, but can be very fair and generous with its rewards.

It will not judge you (well, many in-game characters definitely will). And most importantly, it always keeps fresh with new lines, discoveries, quests and advancements to unlock. Each playthrough is fast, but overall the game makes for a long-term experience.

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