Attraction is difficult to define. One person’s yuck is another’s yum. And while erotic allure sells everything from cars to gadgets to superhero movies, it’s often absent in our video games. As the industry has matured, games need a lot more than bikini armor and big muscles to win hearts, minds, and nethers. But can a titillating game offer long-term satisfaction? You betcha.
Hades from Supergiant Games came onto the scene in 2020 and captured the imaginations of gamers and shippers everywhere. (It was one of our favorite games in a positively stacked year, too.) Its flawless character designs, based on infamous Greek myths, provided plenty of eye candy in a game that also delivered one of the greatest dungeon crawls in human history. An escape from hell itself.
But Hades didn’t set out to be deliberately seductive. This isn’t a thirst trap in the vein of a Leisure Suit Larry or Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball. This is a game where players legitimately fell in love with characters because they are genuine, nuanced and, well, kinda hot. I mean just look at these folks.
Hades does offer players the opportunity to romance one of three characters: Dusa, a floating Gorgon head and chambermaid; Megaera, a sadistic underworld dominatrix; and Thanatos, a very handsome embodiment of doom itself. These in-game options give players an outlet for making a romantic connection that comes complete with combat buffs and bonuses. Diamonds are forever, but gaining two percent damage for each encounter cleared without damage lets you escape eternity.
There are also plenty of references in the story to relationships among characters beyond the hero, Zagreus. A few short lines are all it takes for fans to go all-in on epic ships, and a big part of the fun of navigating through the underworld is learning the tea about the entire pantheon of Greek gods. Everyone has history, and some of it is spicy.
Of course, this isn’t really a game about dating and romance and drama. It’s about Zagrues, son of Hades, on an epic quest to escape the underworld forever. Along the way you’ll get aid from all manner of Greek gods and goddesses and, unfortunately for you, you’ll be seeing that game over screen a lot. Dying is part of the plan, though. The more you do, the more you learn. The more you learn, the further you’ll go.
Hades is a success because it deftly balances the learning curve within the conceit of the game. Because you’re supposed to fail over and over you actually feel like you’re playing the game right when you do. As you unlock more weapons and abilities, the procedurally-generated challenges become easier to manage. You’ll start stacking gear and abilities in ways that make you more powerful than you thought possible just a few runs ago.
If the term “roguelike” scares you, this is the rare game in the genre that understands how to manage the frustration. You’re rewarded with captivating level design, gorgeous aesthetics, and enough drama to make Aeschylus grab the popcorn.
Hades is on Xbox Game Pass until August 31. It’s also available for purchase on Xbox, PlayStation, Switch and PC.
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