Underneath my yellow skin

Hades–the final challenge

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.

But, there is one thing that I didn’t have to do for the plat that was left hanging over my head. One of the Pact of Punishment pain modifiers is called Extreme Measures. What it does is add wrinkles to each boss fight, starting with floor one. In that case, it’s having at least one extra Fury in the room if not two (meaning two or three total) and is 1 point. The second floor boss is Lernie, the Hydra, and the twist is that the floor is not solid. It’s like five little islands so you have to keep an eye on the lava. In addition, Lernie can hop around instead of remaining static (for a portion of the fight). Still, I find Lernie to be the easiest boss, both in the vanilla game and in Extreme Measures. You get 2 pain points for this Extreme Measure.

Third floor boss, Theseus and Asterius, well, it’s complicated. Even without Extreme Measures, this boss fight is dynamic. Asterius is the minotaur that Theseus slew. They become buddies, but it’s fraught. Asterius respects me as an opponent whereas Theseus thinks I’m scum beneath his feet. He’s pompous and a ninny at the same time, and I want to kick him in the posterior repeatedly. Asterius, on the other hand, is a fine figure of a bull man and I would not mind grabbing a beverage with him. Throughout our repeated fights, the dialogue changes. I don’t mean within the fight, but from one fight to the next. This is all after beating the final boss for the first time if I remember correctly. At one point, Theseus and Asterius nearly come to blows. They start to doubt each other. Then, they bond even harder than before and are able to do a united attack that spreads poison across the floor which I have to dash through. It’s similar to an attack in the final boss’s repertoire. I think it’d be cool if I could have convinced Asterius to join me, but that would be a whole different game.

Anyway, under Extreme Measures, you receive 3 pain points for this boss(es). They get shiny gold armor and Theseus, apparently, gets extra health. He also gets the Macedonian Tau-Lambda, supposedly the toughest chariot ever. He loses his spear and shield and receives two mini-guns instead that are mounted to the chariot. He drives around bombing you as Asterius chases after you, adding a spinning axe move and a pull-up move at the end of his (Asterius’s) slash that does an AoE of damage around him.

It’s fucking hard is what I’m saying. But, I’ve never lost to this version of Theseus and Asterius, much to my surprise. I also like that Poseidon tells you to beat that ninny in his fancy armor as one of the Minor Prophecies. Except, I had already beaten Thesus and Asterius in EM before Poseidon requested me to do it so I had to do it again. Anyway. That fight was hard enough, but it was nothing compared to….

Daddy Hades in Extreme Measures (which is 4 pain points). Oh my god. I can’t even think about it without shuddering. I tried it once during my not-plat run or just before and got wiped out pretty quickly. Vanilla Hades was almost impossible for me to beat for so long (and it’s a thrill to do a Heat Zero run and beat him now without breaking a sweat) and the EM version is insane. It really is like they threw everything and the kitchen sink into the game. In the vanilla version, it’s him and adds and constant harassment. He can shoot out skulls at you at any time and if you don’t beat them to death, they dissolve, spreading poison all over the floor (same as the Theseus/Asterius). It’s easy to dash through one, but if Hades gets it into his mind, there can be five or six at a time. That’s significantly more difficult to avoid. The adds he summons in are random and I hate the Elysium bastards who constantly attack me.

That’s just the first phase, by the way. Yes, the second phase comes as a surprise (though it shouldn’t. They clearly respect Dark Souls–there are a few nods to the series such as Zagreus telling Lernie to prepare to die) so why wouldn’t they have a two-phase boss who only shows one health bar? The second phase is actually easier than the first in my opinion. No adds except the skulls he shoots out of his spear. He does raise up green amphorae/urns filled with hands that grab you if they break and he shoots out fire beams (apparently, it’s brimstone) in a circle, but the former can be run around and the latter, there are two pillars you can hide behind to block the fire. I usually have Than’s Companion, Mort, and I use it at the end of the second phase to do a massive amount of damage to Hades. In fact, I’ve ended the game with that move more than once. I really hate that Mort takes some time to proc, though, because it means Hades can block it almost as often as not.

Anyway. Extreme Measures Hades. First of all, he can throw Gigaros, his spear, at you. That’s new. Plus, he can summon mini-bosses to fight you. Who can go invisible and teleport. And are armored. Apparently, the skulls his spear spits out now have an aura that slows you down. Never noticed that, but that’s because there’s so much going on. In the second phase, the green vases heal him. The brimstone lasers have a pulse that push you back if you’re too close (why you’d be close is beyond me unless you have Athena’s Call Aid or the shield). Hades gets his own Call Aid which is Cerberus romping all over the field causing rocks to fall all over–and I mean all over. There are a few places where you can stand to avoid, but it’s not fun. Oh, I forgot Hades can double spin instead of just spin. I don’t even know how to reliably avoid the single spin except by running the fuck away and praying I’m fast enough. Yes. So much fun.

I tried with the sword the first time I decided to have at it and got wiped out pretty ruthlessly. Then, I tried a few other weapons and made it to the second phase with the bow. I think with the Aspect of Rama. No wait. It was the twin fists with the Aspect of Talos (the special pulls enemies closer to you). I pummeled him to the end of his life with about a fourth of my own health less. I was jubilant–until he said he was not finished with me yet. And he didn’t disintegrate. And his health bar regenerated. I was crushed. Of course he’d gain a third health bar–why wouldn’t he? At that point, I gave up. There was no way I was going to be able to beat him with no death defiances left and a quarter of my health. The biggest change for the third phase? The whole arena is covered in darkness except for the immediate bubble around Zagreus.

At this point, I felt like shit. I had platted the game and felt like it was all a lie. Of course, I could just stop and be done with it, but that left a sour taste in my mouth. I acknowledge this is alllll me. I set a standard for myself that might or might not be ridiculous but is always moving. It wasn’t enough that I had beaten the game, seen the credits and the epilogue, and platted it. Suddenly, because I couldn’t beat Hades in EM, I was trash. I’m not saying this is a good thing, but it’s a part of my personality I have to recognize.

I read up on builds for this specific task. Unfortunately, it was mostly guys just flexing about how easy Hades in EM was. Because that’s so helpful. I managed to glean one important tip–use the shield. Now, I will confess. I don’t really get or like the shield. I would say it’s my second-least favorite weapon (the railgun being the least). But, there’s one thing it’s good for–blocking. And you can throw the shield. My favorite is Aspect of Chaos which means after using your Bull Rush, you throw three shields. It’s pretty dope. Even if, again, I don’t always understand it.

I did it. Bitchez.

I reluctantly chose the shield with the Aspect of Zeus (a blitz disc), set the EM to 4 (which meant I was running a Heat 10) even though I was only up to…I want to say Heat 6 on the shield and I started. The shield is weird because it can either be mind-numbingly boring as you shield and plink away at the enemies’ health (the base damage is low) or you can get some great boons and just melt away the enemies. This time, I decided to try to do both. Yes, I normally suggest not splitting the difference, but against EM Hades, it seemed that I needed both in spades. Of course, it’s difficult to guarantee the boons you need, but there are ways to affect that outcome.

What boons did I take for this? I had Ares’ Doom ability on both my Attack and Special which meant any time I hit an enemy, it took additional damage. I had Athena’s Call Aid, which gave me 12 seconds of invulnerability when it was super-charged (Greater Call Aid). I had boons that automatically filled my God Gauge or filled it when I took damage (it normally fills when dishing out damage). In other words, I had constant damage and constant defense. I was ready if not willing to take on Hades. Oh, and I had Stubborn Roots, which is a Duo Boon (tiered like a Legendary) of Athena and Demeter. When I’ve used my last Death Defiance, it restores health at 1 HP per .84 seconds. I probably also had something that gave me full health at every fountain so I was as strong as I was ever gonna be going into the fight. I had 4 Death Defiances, which I didn’t think would be enough. It hadn’t been in the past. Oh, and the underrated gem was Sudden Rush which made my Bull Rush faster to activate.

To cut a very long story a snippet shorter, I did it. I made it to the third phase with one Death Defiance left (if I remember correctly) and lost that fairly soon. But! My shield was strong and I kept regening health. It took me twenty minutes for that boss fight alone, but I finally did it. I can say that I’ve done everything I’ve wanted to do in the game and can walk away with my head held high.

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