Underneath my yellow skin

Hades: come for the combat, stay for the lore

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.

Aoife won the first run and started a second with the bow on Heat 1. She immediately got into trouble and lost a life on…want to say it was Alecto. Maybe Lernie? Nah, pretty sure it was Alecto. She mentioned that Alecto was her least-favorite which I loved. She also mentioned the Lernie story (actually the Lernean Hydra, second floor boss), which had made me smile when it happened.

One interesting thing in watching someone else play the game is to see what boons and keepsakes they like. Her favorite keepsake is the Evergreen Acorn from Eurydice. It absorbs a certain amount of damage from the boss of each floor. In its base form, it allows you to take three hits. Then four, then five. When I first got it, I dismissed it as limited and why would I use that? Hearing her rave about it, however, I gave it a shot. I mean, I’ve used it once or twice before, but not enough to level it up. During a boss fight with it on, I was like, “What is that yellowish grid-like shield around me?” It looked like honeycomb, honestly. Then, I went back to watching Aoife and she explained it was the visual effect of the Evergreen Acorn. That made sense!

I still don’t think it’s as useful as the Broken Spearpoint (Patroclus), though, which gives you 1.5 seconds of invulnerability after being hit and then has a 7 second cooldown. It’s interesting because I Googled this and the opinion on the best Keepsake is so varying, of course. I also learned that the Spearpoint got nerfed. It didn’t used to have a cooldown, which I agree is OP. The cooldown was made to be 10 seconds, which people griped made it useless. I can see that. Ten seconds is an eternity in this game. I do think 7 seconds is still on the long side, but…oh. Maybe it was 10 seconds when I first got it. I Googled. It wasn’t the cooldown time that changed but the invulnerability time.

Anyway, I tend to use Lucky Tooth (Skelly) for the final floor because it gives me an extra rez with 100 HP. However, I’m half-convinced it’s better to have Broken Spearpoint. Also, Aoife raving about the five free hits on bosses with the Evergreen Acorn, well, I’ll counter it with the invulnerability from the Broken Spearpoint for the whole floor. I think I might change up the Keepsakes somewhat given the opinions on the best ones, but I like the ones I like. Plus, the ones who like others are hardcore players, which means they’re better for people who are better at the game. Also, I haven’t gotten them all yet. Yes, even this far into the game, I haven’t gotten all the ‘base’ content. Aoife said she’d heard that you don’t get the ‘true’ ending of the game until you’ve escaped Hades several times. It seems like 10 might be the number, which surely I’m coming close to.

Aoife lost all three of her rezzes on the third floor before reaching the boss. She said that her only hope was finding Patroclus and I had to laugh. I’ve felt that so many times. He has a gift he’ll give you that gives you back all your rezzes. She mentioned that she wasn’t feeling it that run and I sympathized with that as well. She did beat the first run fairly easily on the shield Heat Zero run.

That’s something you need to know about this game. It’s like many roguelikes in that the more you play, the easier it gets. Escaping Hades the first time took me so many runs, I despaired of ever doing it. The second escape took me maybe half that time. And I reach the fourth floor nearly every run. Now, I’ve beaten the final boss twice in four runs? Three? It surprised the hell out of me and I’ve escaped Hades on Heat Two with…the sword? I think it’s the sword?

Another reason it’s easier the longer you play is the accumulated skills and abilities that you unlock as you go. There are six weapons. Each weapon has three different ‘aspects’ which are similar to skill trees. They give you different buffs and abilities. Plus, there’s a mirror in my bedchambers that is imbued with the power of Nyx. It gives different bonuses like more health for certain reasons, more speed, better boons, etc. By watching Aoife’s stream, I realized that each element in the mirror had an alternate ability that I hadn’t upgraded so I have a bunch of that to do now. In addition, in the third floor boss arena, I hadn’t noticed that there’s one shade who is cheering for you. Aoife said she went to talk to this one supportive shade (what the entities in Hades are called, the remnants of the people who’ve died) after every fight. I had never seen this shade before. I’d accidentally talked to her before, but never knew what was up with that. What a funny little detail!

In addition, Aoife always takes out Asterius first so she can deal with Theseus’s nonsense of calling down the gods by itself at the end. I, on the other hand, kill Theseus first because I fucking hate his pompous arrogant ass. Her way makes more sense, but I still kill Theseus first just because I hate him so much. She did meet Patroclus on the third floor of her second run, which saved it. She beat the duo with very little problem then had to quit for the day.

Here’s the thing. I’m pretty much done with the combat of Hades. Oh, by the way, I learned from watching her stream that Athena’s boons, mostly defensive, are considered crutches by the hardcore Hades fans. Don’t give a fuck! It’s either use them or not play the game at all for me. It’s the same when hardcore (read, asshole) Dark Souls fans decry magic or shields or whatever. I’d rather people play and finish the games than quit in frustration so whatever gets them through. I will take ALL the Athena boons as that’s how I’m able to semi-consistently beat the final boss. And, no, there’s no logical reason why I’m keeping that boss a secret but not the rest.

I’m more in it to see what happens to the different characters. I’ve finally gotten Than (Thanatos) in bed and I’m working on Meg (Megaera). I united Eurydice and Orpheus, and I want to do the same with Achilles and Patroclus. I’m also working on getting my father and mother back together, and I want to know the true story of what happened back in the day to get her into Hades in the first place and why she really left. Also, why are the Olympians helping me? I don’t believe their stated reason so I’m interested in knowing what their ulterior motive is.

I’m tempted to do Heat Zero runs just to get to the true end game, but I know that’s not my style. I’ll probably get there either way. Eventually.


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