Ok, my friends. It’s finally time after weeks of build-up. This year has been sparse as far as games that I sunk my teeth into. I’ve outlined a few that were the equivalent of summer popcorn movie in this post here. There was one game I liked enough to give an actual award to which I wrote about here. Today, I’m finally ready to talk about my co-GOTY. I’ve written about both of them in length, but I have so much more to say. Since there are two, I have to talk about one of them first. There are two reasons for it. One, alphabetical order. Two, well, I’ll get to that later.
Before I get into all that, though, let me just give one obligatory honorary award first.
The game I’m desperately looking forward to but fear will never come out
Elden Ring (FromSoft)
With that out of the way, let’s get to my co-GOTY awards.
First up is a game that I was tempted to call The best game that I wasn’t good enough to beat until I was to continue a running joke and you know what? Let’s do it. Ready? Here we go!
Ok. Yesterday I covered games that were ok but not great. I talked about not-platting Dark Souls and Dark Souls III. Now, it’s time to hand out my meaningless and silly awards, but be forewarned–there aren’t many of them this year. This has been a strange year (duh!) for games (oh) because on the surface, there have been a lot of games that have had people talking. Animal Crossing New Horizons (especially important at the beginning of the pandemic); AssCreed Valhalla (fuck Ubisoft. No, seriously. They should have gotten WAY more shit for covering up all the sexual abuse at their company), and; Cyberpunk 2077 (fuck CD Projekt Red as well for being liars about their game and about being ‘for the people’. Also, for all their blatant isms in the game). These are just three of the major games released this year and I have not played any of them. Then there were the social games like Fall Guys, Among Us, and Phasmaphobia, none of which I played, either. I did buy A Mungus, though. I’ve realized that I’m not going to get on the hype train for most games that other people like. There is one glaring exception to that which I’ll get to in a second.
Side Note: I don’t get why people find Phasmaphobia scary to watch. I get why it might be scary to play, but watching it does nothing to me. Then again, watching most scary games being played does nothing to me. Anyway. Whatever. Just a side note.
In the interest of full disclosure. There are three games I’ve flagged for my end-of-the-year awards. Two will be my co-GOTY while the third is an honorable runner up.
I can’t quit Hades. You would think that after 100%ing it, I would be done, but, no. At first, I just played the next heat on whatever weapon offered the bonus Darkness for that run. But, there was one thing calling to me that I couldn’t ignore. Before I tell you what it is, I have to laud Supergiant Games for crafting an excellent game that has so much content. I think it spent two years in Early Access and it really shows. When it was released, it was a polished, slick, engaging game that only got better the longer I played it. I think back to when I was a frustrated n00b who could barely make it to the final boss, let alone beat him. I remember when it took me fifteen minutes to clear each floor and a hour to do a full run, only to lose to the final boss. Honestly, it was a Dead Cells situation except the saving grace of being able to beef up Zagreus in between each run and the beefiness would stick when I died.
I found out there was a God Mode during the time I was struggling with beating the final boss for the first time. Or maybe after I had beaten him once. Oh! Spoilers for the late game, obvs. I was tempted to put on the God Mode at least on a copy file in order to get through the game. Who would know? No one! I would. And that’s not the way I play. No shame or shade for anyone who uses it, but it’s not me. I know I would have been mad at myself if I had done it, even though it would have been a shame for me to miss the rest of the game.
What did I do? I dug down deep, got all the upgrades I could, and made sure I had Athena’s boons whenever I could. I persisted. That was all I could do. I know many good players will tell you to go pro-attack as much as possible and this is certainly a good plan. I, on the other hand, rely heavily on defense. All the boons that reduce the damage I take or deflect or replenishes my health, yes, please. This is how I play games in general so why change now? If that makes me a scrub, a scrub I’ll be.
Anyway! Back to the main point of this post which is that there was one thing I hadn’t accomplished on my way to 100%ing the game. Well, actually, two, but the second one, completing the game on Heat 32 (my highest is 16, done for the plat) is not happening. Oh, and Hell Mode where the Pact of Punishment is unlocked from the beginning and you can only do it on a new save because fuck that.
Once you beat the final boss for the first time, the Pact of Punishment is unlocked. On it is a list of pain modifiers that you can add to make the game harder. The one I put on first is Damage Control. It allows the enemy to ignore the first instant of damage–so it’s effectively giving them a shield. You can give them two points, but I just do one. I have won the game with every pain point on (but not at the same time) because that’s part of the plat.
I got the not-plat plat a few nights ago in Hades by Supergiant Games and it was timed brilliantly. Dionysus was the last Keepsake I needed to level up–or was it Poseidon. It was one of the two, probably Poseidon. I got it on the last combat room before the final boss and what a fitting end to the not-plat run. There are a few in-game achievements (Fated List of Minor Prophecies) that I would like to finish, but as they are very random, my interest will probably peter out before then. Anyway! As an expert in the game (wild, maniacally laughing), I have some tips for newbs who want to get into it, but are worried about the steep learning curve. I was going to tack them on at the end of the last post, but I ran out of steam. Plus, the post got out of control near the end so I decided to make the tips a post of its own. By the way, I found a really cute animated trailer for the game that I hadn’t seen before. I’ll post it below. I want Hades plushies!
Ed Note: I did a few more runs to clean up the Fated List and there is a bombshell that happens in the House of Hades. *spoiler* (Though the whole post could be considered spoilers?)
NYX FIRES DUSA!!!! I mean, what????? I’m pretty sure it was procked by finishing the Fated List. I mean, I knew there was tension there, but what??????? That can’t be the end of Dusa, can it? I had a hunch it wasn’t and I had a hunch I knew what I had to do, but I didn’t want to bumble around to figure it out. I Googled it and found out that you have to do more runs in order to get Nyx to rehire her. Sigh. I mean, I have to do it now, but what????? The problem is that Dusa is too hardworking and Nyx had admonished her more than once to CTFO. Dusa couldn’t because it’s not in her nature and she was working all the time. Nyx wanted efficient, not slavish obedience.
I may just give it a rest and come back to it, but I cannot let it lie. Damn it!
Think of it, though. I could have missed that whole bit if I hadn’t done that little bit of cleaning up.
Hi, my name is Minna and I’m addicted to Hades. Every time I think I’m done, I get sucked back in. Most of the time, it’s the lore. Oh, consider this whole post spoilers of some sort. In the beginning, spoilers for the very end game. Then, spoilers for techniques and whatnot. In general, spoilers abound.
About a week ago, I realized that I had most of the achievements for Hades. Not surprising, really, given how much I’ve been playing it. Which is roughly 165 hours. You know what’s bizarre to me? I just passed the amount of time I put into Dead Cells (and got nowhere near this far), which was about 150 hours. I just checked. It was 127 hours. Still. It’s 1/5th the amount of time I put into Nuclear Throne. And, let’s not talk about how much I’ve played Binding of Isaac.
Anyway, more lore! I found out that everyone is shagging everyone else in the game. Megaera has slept with Thanatos and Hypnos (brothers!), and it’s heavily implied that she’s slept with Achilles as well. Or maybe it’s just my interpretation. He, by the way, is in love with Patroclus, and I had to reunite them in Elysium. Orpheus and Eurydice, of course, are beloved as well. Side note: Orpheus is very goth in this game with puffy long black hair and black eyeliner. I was Googling him for something (probably how to do the side quest. We all know by now that I have no qualms about Googling how to finish side quests after I have given it the old college try) and I saw a bunch of Reddit threads asking why did they make Orpheus a girl in this game.
How embarrassing, boys. Can we at least pretend we’re part of the 21st century? Guys can have long hair and wear makeup! Although, I wouldn’t be mad if Orpheus was a woman in this game, but that’s not the lore.
Am I going to talk about Hades. Yes. Am I going to gush about how great the game is? Kinda. Am I going to talk about what a thirst-trap the game is? Yup! Am I going to talk about the lore? Hell, yeah! Am I going to keep asking rhetorical questions? Nope!
SuperGiant Games have absolutely hit it out of the park with this game. It’s fucking brilliant and it’s replaced Binding of Isaac as my go-to for a daily roguelike run. It has quite a ways to go before I put in anything close to the amount of time I put into BoI. I’m actually surprised by how little (relatively) time I’ve put into Hades given how much I feel like I’m playing it.
I’ve mentioned before that I never got into any of the prior SuperGiant Games. They’re all really great graphically and game-wise, but none of them clicked with me. I *really* wanted to like Transistor because I loved the mood, the graphics, and everything about the game–except the gameplay. I could not get into it and found the controls awkward and counterintuitive. When Hades came out of early release, I was hesitant to get it. I had heard all the accolades and how great it was. I watched NL play some of it and agreed it was a great game. I was tired of BoI and hadn’t found a roguelike to replace it. It was on sale and there had been across-the-board good reviews for it. I finally bought it and, holding my breath, I gave it a shot.
I sucked at it, but damn it felt good. The graphics are gorgeous; the writing is great; the music is tight, and; the gameplay just feels right. It’s smooth and snappy, and it has that ‘just one more run’ feel to it. But, and I cannot stress this enough, the learning curve is steep in the beginning. I’m watching Johnny Chiodini start a new save file for a charity stream and it’s bringing back memories as to how difficult it was in the beginning. I tried to clear up a few achievements that negated many of the upgrades and even with the goosed-up weapons, it was rough. I quit, in fact. Plus, I just tried a run with the sword after unlocking one of the aspects of the spear (Poseidon, in this case) and it’s so under-leveled. I’m trying to do a Heat Nine run and it’s not great with an aspect of a weapon that only has one level.
A week after I saw the credits roll in Hades, I’m still firing it up every day. Why? A little for the combat, somewhat because it’s soothing and comforting (it’s my new Binding of Isaac), but mostly for the lore. That sweet, sweet, Greek lore. Again, this is all going to be spoilers if you haven’t seen the credits and played beyond it. Fair warning before I jump into the meat of the post. All spoilers, all the time. Spoilers for DAYS.
You’d think with all the content I’d experienced so far that SuperGiant would be satisfied to rest on their laurels and say, “Good job, us!” with a satisfied nod. It took me roughly fifty hours to see end credits because I am bad at the game. Or I was. Now, I win more runs than not and my personal best was five wins in a row. I’m on Heat 7 with the sword, which–ok. I need to explain this. One of the genius touches of the game is how they do NG+ and beyond. Most games just start you at the beginning again and make the enemies harder. In a roguelike, there may not be any NG+ at all. In this game, each run is called a heat. The first is Heat 0 (which I call Heat Zero for clarity), which is your basic New Game. There are four floors with a boss at the end of the floor. When you beat the final boss, a mechanic called the Pact of Punishment is introduced and it has modifiers that increase the heat. You can increase as much as you want, but you’re only going to get the rewards for the appropriate heat. So, in this case, Heat 1, you need one pain point. My go-to is adding what is essentially a shield to each enemy which means they can take one free hit.
Also, you have to beat each heat (well, except Heat Zero) with each weapon in order to advance to the next heat with that weapon. There are different aspects of each weapon, including hidden ones. I have to say, I love the hidden aspects of the weapons because they’re named for famous people. Like the sword’s hidden aspect is Excalibur, wielder, Arthur. The spear is a really interesting one. Guan Yu. Gives you much more power, but a third of your health. So you’re very much a glass canon. Ugh. I just read how to unlock one of the hidden aspects I don’t have and it’s not going to be fun. At all.
This is one complaint I have about the game. The grind gets super grindy. At this point, I’m pretty much over the combat and am in it for the lore. I’ve united Orpheus and Eurydice, and I’ve done the same with Achilles and Patroclus. I’m having an interesting relationship with Dusa, the Gorgon head who is a helpful maid in the House of Hades. I’ve been giving her Nectar/Ambrosia (how to bond with people) and while she’s appreciative at first, she then tells me she can’t take it because it makes Nyx mad. What, huh? Why does Nyx not want me talk to Dusa? I haven’t figured that out yet, but at least she’s allowed to talk to me again.
Just kidding. You didn’t think I’d let this achievement go without gushing about it, did you? Before I get into that, however, I wanted to touch on a few things I forgot to say in yesterday’s post. I have called myself sucky at the game. Then I read the chat for Aoife’s stream of it and realized that I needed to upgrade myself to mediocre. Why? Because while there were the people who clearly were really good at the game, there were also people who…weren’t. And not people who just played it once or twice, but people who played it regularly. Like the person who mourned that they couldn’t beat Theseus and Asterius no matter how hard they tried. At this point for me, I have to ready myself for it, but if I have a halfway decent build, I can get through it without losing a life. And, despite knowing that Aoife is correct in killing Asterius first, I still hammer away at Theseus because I just can’t fucking stand him.
Anyway! I beat the game and we need to talk about it. It was surprisingly emotional and I have many feelings about it. Consider the rest of this post spoilers because it’s all about the end game. Oh, and it was on the tenth escape that I got to see the end credits.
I’m still playing Hades. I’ve upgraded myself from saying I’m sucky at it to declaring that I’m firmly mediocre! Again, I have to qualify that by saying within the community who actually play the game on a regular basis. Among the gen pop, I’m aces. It’s how I describe myself at Dark Souls as well. And, yes, still, even though I’ve platinumed the first and third game. By the way, I still haven’t played much of the Souls games since I finished the not-plat for DS III. That platinum grind was horrible and I regret doing it. A fourth of me wants to not-plat the second game, but the sane part of me says sternly not to go up that same tree again. Weirdly, I’m fine with it. I’ve played DS III a few times and enjoyed it, but I don’t have the burning desire to play it. I know it’s there if I need it, but I don’t need it at the moment.
Back to Hades. Here’s the thing. I watched Aoife from Eurogamer play it yesterday. She’s almost exactly where I am in the game (she’s sharing a character with her hubby and combined they have about the same number of escapes together that I do, though in less attempts), but she’s better at not getting hit. What I love is that she has many of the same thoughts as I do, such as romancing both Thanatos and Megaera (though she’s not as far down the line as I am). She mentioned the boss fights being somewhat like Dark Souls not in the actual gameplay but in the sense of–well, let me give you the background. She was up to Meg doing a shield run on Heat Zero when she mentioned that the game was like Dark Souls. The first time she faced Meg, she was thinking, “What the hell? How the hell can I ever beat this?” Now, she’s like a a bump in the road at most.
That’s exactly how I felt, especially with Megaera. The first time I faced her, I was overwhelmed by all her different attacks and despaired of beating her. Of course, in the grand scheme of things, she isn’t that hard and now I get cross if I take too many hits. That is–*spoiler*–when I actually face her. At some point, not sure exactly when, Meg’s sisters get involved and you can face either Tisiphone or Alecto (or Meg) when you reach the first floor boss. Alecto is by far the worst, not only in terms of fighting, but personality-wise. Aoife agreed with me that Alecto was the worst. Someone in the chat said, “Worst than the one who is basically a zombie?” That would be Tisiphone and I’ve come to really like her. She only says ‘muuuuuurder’ and ‘muuuuuuurderer’, but then Zagreus tries to get her to say ‘Zagreus’. She does eventually, but mostly says a combination of murderer and Zagreus. Something like ‘muuuurdeZaaaaaaaagerer.’ Then, he decides to try to get her to say happy and she reverts to murder and murderer. She’s the best! *unspoilered*
Aoife also mentioned that she had trouble seeing the traps in the game, which I do as well. It’s partly because I’m not paying attention, but it’s also because the traps are designed to blend in with the floor. I had to laugh when she chose the modifier that gave something like 400% damage from traps and lava. She said optimistically that maybe it would make her more careful with the traps. Spoiler alert: she was not.
I’ve been trying to quit Hades by Supergiant Games for weeks now. Every time I think I’m out, I get sucked back in. “I’ll just try one more run,” I say. Then it’s one or two more runs every day (each run takes at least half an hour and up to forty-five minutes).
My issues with the game are still there. It’s very twitch-based and I feel as if my success is based on what boosts I get rather than my skills. Also, the insane ramp-up of the last boss and the fact that he
Has a fucking second phase. I can’t tell you how enraged I was when I thought I beat him for the first time and then had to go through a second phase with only one rez left. Honestly, I think if I hadn’t managed to eke out the win, I would have quit then and there. I still don’t know how I did it because it was very build-specific. I know I had a regen ability after dying and reviving plus a shit-ton of defensive perks, but that’s it.
The problem with the game is that I can make it through the first three floors with relative ease depending upon build. The last time I died for good on the third floor (which was yesterday) was because I had an awful build and was using the shield which I don’t understand. Oh, and I hate the railgun and refuse to use it. I don’t think I’ve beaten the third floor with it yet. I can usually get to the third floor boss without losing a life and I consider it shameful to lose two to the third floor boss. One is acceptable, barely, and no lives loss is optimal, obviously.
You see, I don’t feel comfortable facing the fourth floor boss with anything less than four revives (I pick up an extra before the fourth floor) and even then, I feel like my odds of beating him are 50/50 at best. Everything has to line up exactly right in order for me to win and I have to be at my very best for the whole fight. It’s very dispiriting to be on cruise control for the whole game only to have the final boss wipe the floor with you.