Recently I’ve been sucked into the brilliant rogue-like hack-n-slash game Hades. If you’ve come across it somewhere else online, you’ve probably only seen praise and high ratings, all completely deserved. I was quite interested in how completely it managed to make hours seem like minutes, turn it on and in a few blinks of the eye suddenly the switch needs to charge and a few hours have dissappeared.
I’ve been quite vigilant towards avoiding the attention grabbing tactics employed by social-media, and I think that Hades successfully employs some tricks to keep you so engaged for so long. I’m not insinuating it was designed to be addictive, and I love the game. I’m just saying that these are possibly some reasons as to why the game is so addicting.
1. Reward failure
In hades, you will die. A lot. In almost every other game I have played, death was a punishment, I am not good enough to finish a level, I have to train etc. etc. It turns leveling up into grinding, or progressing into a chore. Hades encourages death, there were times I wanted to die just so I could see what changed. The story is so finely integrated into the mechanic of failure, that you’re going to get caught into the endless loop of Hades gameplay.
2. Small doses
Hades is very coy with dishing out conversation/story/combat. Other games would have you fast forward through 10 pages of exposition or dialogue, 2 minute cutscenes tying some levels together. This means that while the overall story is small, it’s breadth is huge. The cast of characters to meet is very large, and add to that every interaction requires one game loop, suddenly you’re playing for a few hours just to read a few more lines of dialogue. Brilliant management of resources.
The second part of this is combat. Each room is a beautifully illustrated map with the various denisens of the underworld hell bent on sending you back to hell. The rooms are small and densely packed, most only take a minute or two to clear. A dose of intense heavy combat, a reward straight after, a bit of story. That little dose of a reward makes you crave more and more. The fact that it only takes a little time means you don’t feel devastated when you die, even though you end your run, having the combat broken down in such a small time/space makes it feel like you didn’t lose the run, you just lost that one room and almost without thinking you’re on your way to begin the run again.
This has been pointed out in all the other reviews of the game, but the mechanics of Hades are brilliant. Everything is responsive and predictable in how your character will move, in how the weapon will fire. When you have a good build going, it really makes you feel like you can defeat the gods themselves.
The art, music, voice acting and special effects are all a work of art in themselves. You can take almost any frame of the game, remove the hud and print out a poster for your wall. All of the conversations are voiced, and as per my previous point broken down into small pieces. It really makes you engaged with the character, they have their style, story and feel. You just want to pause at the egde of a cliff at the start of each level and gaze out at the world you’re about to enter. And you are rewarded for it.
In my analysis of what sucked in my attention, these were the main points. I have one more but I will leave it to the end as it contains spoilers. I hope you go and pick up this game somewhere and give it a go. Just don’t do it if you have something important to do later on, as you will most likely miss it.
—HERE BE SPOILER DRAGONS—
There isn’t one. Reaching the surface is just the start! You know those broken up converations that deliver the story at an eternally slow pace, yet manage to keep your attention? The same applies to “beating” the game. You just have to do it again and again if you want to finish the story. Usually when I get to the end of arogue-like, I never play it again as I feel like I’ve received enough from a complete run. This game however, barely seconds after taking in the new story point, I was back at the start eagerly seeking out all my favourite charaters to tell them what I just did. It’s funny that you don’t get to play as Sisiphus as an unlockable character, as you are essentially doing his task.