I’ve tried and gotten pretty much nowhere in a lot of roguelikes. While I can appreciate a grind, I don’t really enjoy games where the grind is the point and the grind requires your full attention. For a lot of roguelikes, that’s not just the point of the game, that’s the entirety of the game. There’s not a lot of plot, just an endless series of attempts to reach some nebulous end. As someone who appreciate puzzles, I would never say people are wrong for enjoying something that’s just work until you get to the end and then just slightly different work until you get to the end again. Still, I’ve always struggled to enjoy those kinds of games despite them including a bunch of ingredients I enjoy in other games.
Until Hades, anyway (really not interested in roguelike vs roguelite since the main reason I’ve seen to differentiate between the two was to make people who play difficult games seem superior). I got into that game HARD. For a while there, over the last winter, that was how I spent every evening. Grinding my way through an endless cycle of the same (slightly varied) maps and enemies as I adapted to the style of gameplay, various strategies provided by the powers in the game, and accruing the resources needed to unlock everything I felt I needed for more successful playthroughs in the future.
Turns out what I was missing in roguelikes was a plot. Even one that moves slowly, one small remark at a time, was all I needed to keep playing. All I needed was a sense of progress even if I died, so that it didn’t feel like a waste if I messed up a combo and got absolutely annihilated. Hades not only delivered that, but did so with aplomb, some of the most catchy music I’ve heard in a game, and an absolutely stunning visual display even on the relatively low-powered Switch. It was a treat, beginning to end. It also helped that, around run twenty, the game clicked for me and everything changed.
Up to that point, I’d gotten to what is essentially world 3 of 4 and kept running into trouble fighting the mid-world boss and end boss for that world. It was a coin flip if I’d even make it to the end of world 3 and the one time I made it into world 4, I died immediately and had to start over. What made the difference for me, though, was learning that I was actually invincible in the dash and could go through things, not just away from them. Seems like a pretty basic part of a roguelike game, right? The dodge mechanic that give you the brief invincibility you need to not die every time something attacks you? I’d been running and just taking hits up to that point. In retrospect, it seems weird that it never occurred to me that the dash actually let me go through stuff.
After that, and figuring out how to use it in the game, I cleared the stage and started getting doube-digit escape chains. It was very rewarding to have struggled and overcome. That being said, I know it is easier than a lot of other roguelikes. More forgiving, maybe. I’ve played others since my Hades play-throughs tapered off and I’m still terrible at those, but I do know that when it finally clicked for me, it was more than just learning how to use the dodge. I’ve got friends that still struggle for escape and one who stopped playing because the game just wasn’t working out for him, and I’ve even got a friend who hit the triple digits in their chain of escapes and has basically played everything that game has to offer. It’s been so interesting seeing the ways this very popular game has worked out for people, especially since it seems to have absolutely no bearing on whether or not they played and enjoyed other roguelikes.
Honestly, it’s a very fun, very pleasant game to play and I’d highly recommend it. The replayability can get you very far and there’s so much to discover, learn, and unlock that it could easily give anyone a hundred hours of entertainment if they wanted it. No run of mine has taken more than fifty minutes, start to finish, and the game is very good about letting you stop and resume if you need to (the Switch is even better at this, thanks to sleep mode). I recommend it if you haven’t played it and want something to enjoy.