Despite current circumstances, this year has been a really good run for indie games. For example, a couple of weeks ago, Among Us was trending on Twitch for months, and Fall Guys before that. The industry also saw the Untitled Goose Game’s growth, which sold over one million copies in three months. The breathtaking sequel to the well-loved series Ori and the Blind Forest, Will of the Wisps, was also released this year.
But if there’s one game that knocked it out of the park this year, it’s Hades. It has provided the one thing no other game could to the same extent: incredible replay value.
Every good replay value starts with a brilliant story, and Hades’ stellar writing is one of the first things fans fell in love with. The game tells the story of Zagreus, the immortal son of Hades, and his attempt to escape the Underworld… multiple times. There’s a lot you can do with the narrative when the protagonist is immortal, including having your demon of a father mock you with every failure. In fact, Hades likes to use Zagreus’ escape attempts to test the security of the Underworld, which makes for a hilarious conversation every retry.
Once you’ve “beaten” the game for the first time, you realize that it’s the start of a much bigger narrative. In fact, Supergiant Games, the developer of the series, encourages players to complete all the branches to reach a full ending. Of course, as the immortal son, Zagreus remembers everything—and the relationships with all the characters he meets never reset, but develop with every successful escape attempt.
Even if this game didn’t have an all-encompassing story, Zagreus’ interaction with each character makes every run worth it. A lot of their quests are integral to the plot, which you can only unlock by increasing your affinity with them. With a high enough affinity, they’ll start granting you boons and keepsakes, making dungeon runs much easier.
True to Supergiant Games’ branding, every character (sans Zeus—he has an iconic look that never changes) has a unique design. Ares, for example, looks like a refined samurai as opposed to, let’s say, God of War’s Ares. Plus, they’re very good-looking. Some of them can even be romanced. Zagreus just needs to offer them an Ambrosia when their affinity is high enough.
Hades is a dungeon crawler game that will punish you at every corner. After all, it’s a crowning jewel of the roguelike genre, whose games are known for their difficulty. Titles like Spelunky, Dead Cells, and The Binding of Issac belong in this category. Normally, the market for such a difficult game would be much smaller, but Hades creatively weaves around this difficulty to make it more accessible for casual gamers. For example, there’s a setting called God Mode that reduces all damage taken by 20%. Every time you die, the damage resistance is increased by 2%.
Plus, the player never starts from zero after every failure. You collect a purple currency called Darkness, for example, which you can use to upgrade skills and attributes. As aforementioned, high affinity with the characters will also grant you perks, which can help boost your abilities and increase your chances at success.
The combat itself is pretty straightforward. Zagreus has a basic, special, dash, and a ranged attack. The attacks are different for each weapon you wield, which you can only select before each run.
The Team Behind Hades
Supergiant Games is an LLC based in San Francisco. It was founded in 2009 by developers Amir Rao and Gavin Simon. They were attracted to California’s creative scene, not to mention the amount of support it has for small business owners. LLCs in California enjoy a lot of benefits, from better tax options to more freedom in structuring businesses. This means that companies could have any number of members that can switch around positions at any time, which worked well for a two-man team like Rao and Simon. This is why when their company grew to more than 20 employees, there was very little paperwork involved in the process. They debuted in the gaming industry with an action RPG called Bastion in 2011, followed by Transistor, Pyre, and now Hades. And they’ve never looked back.
For a game to have great replay value, it has to be both exciting and rewarding. True enough, Hades presents an addictive time loop and a continuous sense of reward that makes every run feel fresh. In fact, it’s so good that it’s the only indie game to be nominated for this year’s Game of the Year Award. Here’s hoping that it wins; after all, there are plenty of things about it that’ll make it worth your time.
Check out our list of ‘Gorgeous Indie Games You Need to Play’ to explore more amazing titles from small game developers.