There’s this theory in gaming that the reason people like video games is because, when everything comes together, inputs become automatic, like clockwork. You lose track of your surroundings and see nothing but the screen. You’re completely in the flow.
Now, I like video games, but I rarely get this. Usually, after half an hour, I get antsy and feel the need to get up and do something useful. Games have to really click to consume me.
Then I played Hades!
Hades is a roguelike – a game in which you keep on repeating an arduous and difficult “run” through a semi-randomized set of levels. In Hades, you play as Zagreus, the titular god’s son, and the run is escaping the underworld. The semi-randomized part is a meticulously crafted set of variables: Not only do enemies change, but your uncles and aunts on Mount Olympus give you certain boons to help you in your escape attempt. For instance, Poseidon might imbue my attacks with tidal waves, whereas Zeus has the power of lightning. Every ability interacts, making sure that no two runs are alike.
I think roguelikes are okay. I’m not a huge fan of the time investment involved in mastering and finishing one – often times, I get bored by the second or third run. But Hades has a hook: Every time you die, you end up with your father, and the story continues. This game is filled to the brim with beautifully recorded dialogue and superb characters, making sure you go for one more run, just so you know how the story unfolds.
This narrative is a brilliant idea, no surprise coming from Supergiant, the makers of Bastion, Transistor and Pyre, who’ve always been strong storytellers. Bastion and Transistor exist on pretty much every computer, tablet or smart fridge, you should try them out, if only for the art style and the story. Or better yet:
Hades. It’s on switch, so you can play it on the toilet.