Like clockwork, another game that I enjoyed from the very first moment of playing it would become my #1 pick of 2020. Hades is not only another amazing title from Supergiant Games, but represents the most mainstreaming take on roguelike design I’ve seen yet.
Hades may not be a roguelike in the traditional sense, and leans more towards a roguelite design, but it is the first game of this design to push beyond the niche elements of the genre. To do that, Supergiant Games really brought their trademark story and art design to the forefront.
This is the first game I’ve played that really integrates the aspects of roguelikes beyond just the gameplay but to the story as well. The character designs, writing, and plot all work in the fact that this game is meant to be replayed multiple times. The amount of dialogue alone for all the different permutations and events is astonishing.
Hade’s smart use of procedural and random generation may not be the most complicated example from roguelike design, but it focuses them perfectly to create variance on each run. Similar to The Binding of Isaac, you can’t perfectly prepare for any given run, and will have to adapt on the fly to whatever buffs show up. Admittedly, I would have liked more elements in play during the runs themselves, and if Supergiant decides to expand on Hades, supplemental content would be fantastic.
The beauty of the game is that the developers understood an essential part of roguelite and persistent element design: the needle has to always be moving forward. For core and casual fans, losing a run still means progress in terms of unlocks and the game’s excellent story. I don’t think there was even one run where nothing happened when I got back to the hub area.
Difficulty design is often hard to do right in games like this, and Supergiant comes the closest to a game with a wide appeal in this regard. For casual fans, god mode provides a far easier time and permanent benefits to help you see everything. The game itself is on the moderately difficult side as it is, which should be a challenge for most action roguelike fans.
And for those that want more, the pact of punishment is in my opinion the best example of progressive difficulty I’ve seen yet. Being able to directly choose the areas of the game you want to make harder is a fantastic example of player-controlled difficulty.
While roguelike games will continue to flourish for hardcore fans, I feel like Hades has officially set the new standard for elevating the design to the mainstream. I’m really curious to see if more developers will try to integrate the story and narrative more into their designs going forward. Being able to play the game regardless of your skill level, with the design able to accommodate that, is a huge step forward in terms of approachability for the genre.
And that does it for 2020, and only a week late this time, and now it’s time to start writing more design pieces.
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