Hades takes the roguelike genre and uses the genre’s premise to tell a unique tale of trial and error. Even though Hades isn’t too difficult, there are plenty of things that beginners would benefit from knowing that will make their early escape attempts easier overall.
Hades tells the story of Zagreus, the son of the Greek god Hades, as he tries to escape from Hades (the location). Along the way, Zagreus encounters other Greek gods, plenty of foes, and even a few friends.
As a roguelike, the main premise of Hades is that the player will encounter many of the same locations, enemies, friends, and challenges. Players are expected to use their previous experience to best the challenges, though there are plenty of ways to help meet the difficulty in the middle and overcome these challenges without having to play perfectly.
For anyone new to Hades, the following advice should help with getting the most out of each escape attempt, both in terms of gameplay and narrative.
Hades gameplay tips
One thing new players should note right from the start is that many of the game’s mechanics are locked away until they’ve attempted enough escapes.
Picking a weapon
Hades offers players six weapons (five of which must be unlocked), multiple upgrade paths, and a few permanent character upgrades that can make the game much more accessible. Hades does a good job of giving these to players over time, but it also means that each player’s first few escape attempts will have to be done without them.
Anyone who is just starting Hades shouldn’t worry if they can’t find upgrades at the start. Instead, just push through those initial escape attempts, get familiar with the game’s controls and the various in-game items. Hades starts off stacked against the player at first. Don't worry, it gets much easier over time.
Playing is easy enough. Each weapon has an attack, a special move, and a dash attack. Some include charged attacks as well. Additionally, Daedalus Hammers found in-game can give these weapons new functionality during the remainder of the escape attempt. The key way to play Hades is to figure out how to mix and match these attacks as needed.
What to pick during an escape attempt
In addition to hammers, players can find boons, pomegranates, centaur hearts, keys, gems, darkness, nectar, gold, and item shops as well. Of these, the only items players keep after an escape attempt, and therefore can be used to buy upgrades, are the keys, gems, darkness, and nectar (more on them later).
During an escape attempt, gods will leave messages that offer up a choice of boons. Each god has their own specialties, strengths, and weaknesses, and players will have to figure out which ones are best for their playstyles. Beginners are strongly recommended to pick up a boon from Athena as her boons often give players the ability to deflect ranged attacks - something that really helps for certain rooms.
Once the player has the boons they like, they should consider going for pomegranates too, as they allow players to level up their boons. Additionally, centaur hearts are strongly recommended whenever available, as they increase the player’s maximum health.
Gold is lost once the escape attempt ends, but can be used to purchase items from item shops or small kiosks, such as additional boons, healing items, and more.
What the other items do
Darkness, gems, keys, and nectar are all used to earn permanent upgrades that make future escape attempts easier. Beginners won’t have access to these upgrades, but it’s still worthwhile to build up a stockpile for later use.
Hades uses Chthonic Keys to unlock new weapons and new upgrades, and they are very useful at the beginning of the game. It will take a while to have enough keys to unlock all the available weapons and upgrades, making these a high priority until everything is unlocked. Once everything is unlocked, the keys can be traded for other materials in the game’s lounge.
Gems are used to purchase upgrades to the map, such as healing rooms, challenges chests, and ways to change your keepsakes in the middle of a run. While not initially as important as keys, there are certain renovations that are better gotten early. In particular, the Fated List of Minor Prophecies gives players some side quests to complete, and the Keepsake Collection and Fountain Chambers make future runs much easier.
Darkness is used to upgrade the player directly at the Mirror of Night. This item, located in Zagreus’s room, takes a few escape attempts to gain access to, and requires Chthonic Keys in order to unlock more upgrades.
Lastly, nectar can be gifted to characters both during an escape attempt or while wandering through the Great Hall of Hades. When an NPC receives nectar for the first time, they reward the player with a keepsake, and equipable item that gives certain benefits. Each of the gods’ keepsakes makes finding their boons easier, while other characters give other benefits.
For new players, the best early keepsakes that make the game easier are the ones given by Cerberus and Skelly. Players can only have one keepsake equipped at a time in Hades.
Where to find the story in Hades
A major reason why Hades ended up being so well received is that it managed to tell a compelling narrative in a genre that often struggles to have good stories. For many players, the story is just as much a reason to play as the game itself.
Finding the story is easy, as much of it unravels naturally through conversations. Players can find these conversations whenever they accept a boon from a god, or whenever they talk to characters throughout the game.
Talking to these NPCs is important to unlock certain items or access to certain abilities, but once all of this has been unlocked, the only reason to keep talking is to advance the story. That said, the story in Hades is quite engaging without being overly difficult to understand.
NPCs will comment on your performance in runs, and reveal little bits of information about themselves as well. Additionally, players can continue to give these characters nectar even after they’ve already given away their keepsakes in order to unlock new conversations with them.
Once the game’s various mechanics have been unlocked, Hades is a very open game that gives the player plenty of freedom in deciding how they want to approach playing.
Of course, certain parts of the story can only be seen by progressing far enough in game.