Why The Roguelike Formula Works So Well With Hades, And Why Death Could Be Fun?

Because you die so much in it!

I’m not gonna lie. Hades is the first roguelike game I have ever played; and unfortunately it sets the bar of my future expectation for the genre too high that any other roguelike game I will potentially play would live in its shadow for quite a while. I’m talking particularly about how Hades marries the rough like formula with narrative.

Death has been treated in so many action games as such a common factor that everyone takes it for granted. It is nothing more than a setback in an overall triumphant journey, and that everything will be OK with respawning. There is nothing wrong with this design choice, ultimately video games are supposed to entertain people. If too much death gets in the way of the journey, frustration will be the only emotion gnawing at the players, right? (Let’s not get into the decision of Soulsborne games here).

Well, what if reinvent and integrate the death mechanics into the overall narrative and lets the virtual world in the video game react to it, so that players somewhat look forward to it?

Thanks to its genre, Hades’s players are not strangers to Manny deaths and resets. In roguelike games, players are supposed to die and try again, constantly. But my research tells me that most roguelike games on the market treat death no differently from how it is treated in genres. Player dies, respawns, and the journey starts from the very beginning again. For Hades though, when the thrill of gameplay ends, player not only respawns, but the thrill of narrative begins. As you steps out the pool of blood, crestfallen, the player gets to meet many of the gods of Greek mythology in the hall of Hades the god. From there, NPCs fill you in on the latest events happened in the hall, on their skill-written backstories, on what they think you should try out on the next escape attempt just to name a few. Death does not punish the player by reseting all the levels, it rewards player by granting them insight into the world you are in. Talking to Achilles for the 30th times does not feel boring because he always brings something new to the table. This applies to every single character you meet in the game, regardless if it is the gods giving you boons, the characters in the Hub area, bosses, or even Skelly, the dummy the takes up all the beats you give him testing out a new weapon…This huge assemble of characters makes your death much more sufferable, so much so that I sometimes look forward to it, because one more death would give me the chance to meet my favorite characters again, who then fills me in on their backstories once more. The marriage of gameplay and story engages the players every second they are in the game. Death has never being such fun and wholesome.

It is hard to believe that it took this much time for someone to reimagine the death mechanics for roguelike games, a genre where death is an integral part of the whole experience. Hades’s success proves that when narrative fits right into the characteristic grooves of gameplay, magic happens.