There she is again. Megaera, the first boss in Hades. I've come up against her more than once before, but this time I feel like I can actually win. With some practice under my belt, I'm more powerful and accustomed to how everything works. I've learned how best to read her moves and I'm gripped by a sense of determination. I can do this. I can. As I frantically dash to avoid her barrage of ranged attacks, I dart every which way – ridding the dungeon of other enemies trying to get a hit on me as I go. Every chance I get, I whittle down Megaera's health.
As I inch towards victory, I become impatient and go in for one too many blows without paying attention to my own health. Just when I thought I had this fight in the bag, I'm beaten at the final hurdle. The First of the Furies has bested me again, but she hasn't defeated my will to try once more. As Zagreus, the protagonist of Supergiant's masterful roguelike, I depart for yet another escape attempt. Heading through that now all too familiar window to face the ever-shifting Underworld, prince Zagreus expresses his will to try again by saying "one more time". 'Yes, one more time', I think to myself. 'I won't make the same mistake again'.
I'll be the first to admit I'm not the best at games like Hades, which is why my strong resolve and self-belief completely catch me by surprise when I go up against Megaera. I tend to shy away from roguelikes and dungeon crawlers because I've never had much faith in my ability to play games of the genre. But Hades is steadily starting to change that, little by little. With its God Mode - a difficulty setting that gives you more damage resistance - easing me into the experience, each run leaves me feeling more and more encouraged, and while I still find it frustrating at times, I'm surprised by just how much I've been enjoying it.
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I've been drawn to Supergiant's god-like hack-and-slashing RPG as a concept for quite some time now. As someone who's interested in Greek mythology, I was all too eager to get stuck in, and the beautiful character designs of the many Greek gods added to its appeal. But I couldn't get past my own apprehensions toward the genre. With every screenshot and recommendation, the desire to play kept on rising until eventually, that desire won out. And as one of GamesRadar's best games of 2020, I finally decided to give it a try.
After landing in Tartarus to start the first escape attempt, the music kicks in and Zagreus moodily declares he's leaving this place once and for all. The first run is very much all about learning the ropes and trying to find my footing. Playing around with all the moves I have, I steadily start to get a feel for how everything works. With close and long-range attacks, I begin to fall into the flow of fighting as I make my way through each connected area. Before long, I receive my very first boon from Athena, cousin to Zagerus and one of the gods of Olympus. This boon grants me with a powerful buff or ability of my choosing that's unique to Athena, which will stay with me during the run.
As it's a lot of trial and error, to begin with, I soon meet with my untimely demise and I emerge in the House of Hades for the first time. This will become very familiar to me over the course of many runs, but instead of feeling deflated each time I find myself back here, I'm only left with an eagerness to see how well I can do the next time around. The gods and residents of the house often share words of encouragement each time I return, which also bolsters my confidence. On one occasion, Skelly, who acts as my own personal training dummy, tells me to keep at it after another failed attempt. "You're getting tougher, getting smarter," Skelly says, "between the two of those, I'm thinking you'll pull through soon enough here." As I make my way through the Underworld again, those words stay with me as I head to face the boss who continues to beat me.
Any boss you've faced before will remember you, just as you remember them. And when I reunite with Megaera for yet another time, she's not too happy to see me. I've fallen to the First of the Furies a lot now, but this one run has gone especially well. With powerful boons, most of my health, and a useful keepsake bestowed by one of the gods in exchange for nectar, I really think I'm in with a chance this time. Learning from my past mistakes, I don't make any rash moves. I'm powerful enough to see it through. When Megaera finally falls, I'm left with an overwhelming sense of accomplishment. I did it. I actually did it. I may have more bosses to face, but I'm more determined than ever to escape the Underworld.
Hades by its very design is built for replayability – it's only by dying that you become more powerful. Not unlike the way we grow and learn from our own mistakes in reality, we learn from every failed attempt; as Zagreus grows stronger, my confidence grows along with him. There's something so encouraging about the way Hades lets you gain something each time you're unsuccessful. I'm so glad I finally gave it a chance. Even if I'm still not especially good at it and I can find it frustrating at times, I keep thinking about those words Skelly said to me after another failed escape attempt. Not only is Hades an excellently designed and incredibly enjoyable game, but it also serves as a reminder that it's entirely okay if you're not the best at something – the important thing is that you're willing to try and that you have fun while doing so.
Hades is out now on PC and Switch and is set to release on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X on August 13, 2021.