See you in Hell?
December 25, 2021 11:55 AM   Subscribe

I would like to play the Hugo-winning video game Hades, but I'm not sure my controller skills are up to it, and searching to try to figure it out is full of spoilers. I'm also interested in ways that I can figure out if other games are appropriate for my skill level, ways to get better, and other story-based games available on the Switch. Examples of games I've played and how I did inside.

Soooo, the last console I had was an Atari, and I wasn't good at that, either. FWIW, I have never played a rogue-like but know that it involves dying a ton for all players.

Recently, I've played:

*Super Mario Odyssey (Switch) - I play in Assist mode and I fall off of things / need to wait to heal pretty often. I notice that I'm missing a lot of the "how video games go" meta-knowledge that some of the puzzles assume. I find the controller skills bits stressful, I even have a hard time with some of the 2D parts. I enjoy running around and collecting power moons.

* Breath of the Wild (Switch) - I liked this a lot, and I like beautiful open-world games where you pick flowers (I watched an ex play so much Skyrim), but I got off the plateau and managed to get to water-elephant world and it feels like I'm at the point where all the new areas are too hard for me. I basically button-mash, I know a few of the moves but can't use them in a fight.

* Stardew Valley (Switch) - this was meant to be a chance to build up my controller skills a bit after I started Breath of the Wild, and it helped. I did learn that you don't have to actually catch fish to level up in fishing. I'm not good at the limited fighting in this game, either. I quit playing when I had to do loads of that because that's how you get end-game items. I also dislike the time mechanic, I find it stressful and I hate trying to track down the villagers on a timeframe.

* Katamari Damacy (Switch) - haha, I am terrible at this, I don't even make it through the first level of the demo consistently. The two joystick controlling doesn't make any sense to me even after many plays. I do a little better if I change the settings to use a different navigation.

* Sunless Sea (PC) - FWIW, this requires basically no controller skills and I loved it. I got sucked in deep, I forgot to eat, I had to set timers to take breaks (this was also immediately after I defended my PhD, I was primed for an escape). I played Fallen London quite a bit before this came out, so I was familiar with the lore.

So, should I go to Hell? Other game suggestions?
posted by momus_window to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: A notable thing with Hades, on this front, is that there is "God Mode" (not "is invincible", but "Instantly makes you tougher, more so whenever you die. Death is not a big deal in the underworld. Try this if you find you're struggling, want focus on the story, or any reason.")
This mode may be turned on and off via the options menu at any point without consequence. When turned off, the player will lose the damage resistance, but retain any percentage gained until God Mode is turned on again. Using God Mode will not lock players out of Achievements or content. However, God Mode run records are stored separately from non-God Mode runs.
It sounds like you may have difficulty with Hades by-default, but with God Mode it might be reasonable.
posted by CrystalDave at 12:04 PM on December 25, 2021 [9 favorites]

Best answer: Hades definitely gets difficult. I am a medium skilled player (who is getting older and therefore slower) and it took me a long time to beat it. However, you can tune your builds to help you be more successful based on your play style and it's just delightful to try over and over again, in my personal opinion. I don't think this is a spoiler - you really do need to get the dash-strike down to be successful.

I am not a terribly good gamer, but I do like the patience that rogue like games and games with consequential death teach me. So while I avoid really "hard" games normally, I gravitate towards games like Hades, Souls games, etc, because they are punishing enough that I have to get my act together and really learn the mechanics.

YMMV. From what you say above I think you might get really frustrated with Hades. But I also think that it's possible that you could get lost in it, because dying over and over again is actually less painful than it is in most games.

If you find that you do like the combination of consequential death with a relatively low threshold to trying again (which imo makes death painless) you might try Celeste out.

If you hate that and the difficulty is way too much for you, you might try Return of the Obra Dinn on PC, which is very easy to get lost in and quite replayable, or The Outer Wilds, which is a rogue like more focused on exploration and less on combat mechanics.
posted by pazazygeek at 12:09 PM on December 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Definitely God Mode, as CrystalDave suggests. The one thing I'd say is that dying over and over and over again (yes, some people do it in a few attempts, while others might take 153 tries) is a fundamental part of the game and the story. It is, intentionally, frustrating and designed to make you feel like you can't do it, even as you get a little bit more powerful every time (and with God Mode, a little bit more damage resistant every time). And the good thing about that is that dying is the whole point, so you don't need to feel bad about it at all.

Even with God mode, it is going to require some amount of strategy and controller skills beyond button mashing: dodging at the right time, knowing how to control your weapon, staying out of traps and spike puts. Those are good skills to develop if you want to play more games with combat, and there are guides online and videos that can help. Before you go out into combat, there is a training area where you can practice moves on a dummy (Skelly!) that won't hurt you back, which is helpful.

It's also a game where there can be a lot, visually, happening on the screen at once, which can be confusing (when I first saw videos, I was like "there is no way I can do this because too much is happening too fast," but you get used to knowing where to focus your attention), so I'd consider whether that's something that works for you or not.

It's a fantastic game, but I guess my question for you is how you'd feel about that much death and the game wanting you to feeling like it's hopeless. If you're a person who is already frustrated dying in video games, a game that exploits that frustration could either be really meaningful for you or incredibly annoying. So I'd give some thought as to how you'd feel about that. I think it will be extremely frustrating, but whether you'd find it to be an enjoyable kind of frustrating depends on you. Remember that the more times you die, the easier it gets (especially with God Mode),

That said, it's on the cheaper side of games ($16.24 on sale right now), so that lessens the commitment if you try it out and decide it's not for you. You might consider watching the first 15 minutes of gameplay to get a feel for what it's like, which limits the spoilers to things you'd experience right away anyway.
posted by zachlipton at 12:28 PM on December 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: God Mode does help and, as noted, will help more and more as needed.

I think a potential upside to Hades is that it is not a 3D game. You don't use both sticks or interact with camera controls. It doesn't feature that concept of taking your thumbs off sticks and hitting the right button in an instant. Instead, it's more like a Super Nintendo game with a couple extra shoulder buttons.

Something like Outer Wilds seems gentler and less violent, but it uses all the buttons.
posted by Snijglau at 12:36 PM on December 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I am not really that skilled of a gamer and I like Hades. You can get away with a large degree of button-mashing, honestly, although you do have to learn some skills (like dodging, timing, etc. Especially with God mode and fairly generous power-ups, it never feels frustratingly hard to me. I actually like that dying serves a purpose and moves the story forward.

I haven't played in a bit but I'm fairly close to finally beating it. I think I've been putting it off because I've enjoyed playing it that much.
posted by edencosmic at 12:47 PM on December 25, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I am a terrible gamer, I generally avoid real-time games and I could not get past the very early parts of Breath of the Wild (bloody weapon keeps breaking! Things attacked me and I couldn’t get away or hit them back!) and I LOVED Hades and have escaped a number of times (with God Mode!). The controls are pretty simple and the enemies don’t generally rush you in difficult ways, at least not until you’ve had the chance to get the hang of things.
posted by corvine at 1:27 PM on December 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

Also, if you do try Hades and like it, try some of the other games from Supergiant. I’ve enjoyed what I’ve played of Transistor.
posted by corvine at 1:29 PM on December 25, 2021

Best answer: Honestly the only way I got any better at games with twitchy combat controls was to play them.

Mario Odyssey is considered difficult even for experienced gamers, depending on who you ask, Breath of the Wild has fussy combat that is balanced with buffs and armor but only if you really pay attention to how to do that, Stardew Valley is an entirely different genre that (IMO) shoehorns in clunky and unfun combat, and Katamari is a trip but uses a bizarre control scheme and is way more high energy than any of the rest of the games you listed. Basically what I’m saying is that it sounds like you’re actually a pretty experienced gamer (if you will allow me to call you that) and you should forgive yourself for being frustrated with things that frustrate many other people. Give Hades a try! Then, give any other games that pique your interest a try. It’s okay if you don’t finish them, or come back to them later.

One category of games that is just ding dang fun is the Lego games. There are a lot of them for various IPs but they all work on pretty much the same formula. Run around, bash stuff up, build things, do mini quests, work through the story, repeat. Newer ones have open worlds and older ones are chapter based. They are very forgiving and surprisingly lore deep, a lot of the time. Combat can sometimes involve pressing the correct button at the right moment, or mashing one really fast. They’re funny and cute and colorful without a lot of the pressure, and are designed for kids and new gamers to get used to camera controls, button schemes, and interacting with things.
posted by Mizu at 1:43 PM on December 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I am 45 and played a lot of Nintendo in the late 80s but I'd say in the last ~25 years I haven't played a tremendous amount of games besides playing most of the Mario games on the Wii/U/Switch.

I picked up Hades on a whim without knowing much about the games or what "Rogue-like game" meant or pretty much anything other than it was getting effusive praise. I was initially shocked at how poorly I did and how quickly and often I died. It took me a bit to realize that dying over and over again is the point. With enough reps you will figure out which weapons suit your play style best as well as which of the power ups aka "boons" will enhance your game. That coupled with spending your gems or whatever they are called on powering yourself up will eventually get you to a point where you can overwhelm the enemies in the game. My upgrades and weapon choice were so powerful that I didn't sweat through the last 20% of the levels and beat the final boss on the first try.

I'm sure that's not impressive to a true game player but I enjoyed the game and it was on sale so the game was cheap. Not sure I could beat the game with any weapon but the triple firing arrows with the boon that causes them to fire continuously is a force to be reckoned with.
posted by mmascolino at 2:01 PM on December 25, 2021

As a sidebar - stardew valley on the PC can easily be modded to make fishing and fighting completely painless, remove the friendship timers and let you do just the fun for you parts.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 5:02 PM on December 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I’m a fairly inexperienced gamer (I had an easier time with Odyssey and Stardew than what you’re describing, but struggled right away with BotW) and I found Hades so difficult as to be unplayable for me, even on God Mode. It’s not that I’m bothered by the frequent dying, it’s just that it felt to me like all I did was fight, fail, and die, so I got bored quickly. But it was enjoyable to watch someone else play; the voice acting is neat.

Other Switch games I’ve enjoyed:
-Paper Mario and the Origami King (similar vibe to Odyssey but easier, with more story, and with a puzzle-based combat system)
-A Short Hike (short, cozy, small open-world game; would recommend to fans of Stardew)
-Animal Crossing: New Horizons (for people who wish Stardew didn’t have the time constraints. Controls are pretty simple, but there’s not much of a story.)
posted by chaiyai at 5:22 PM on December 25, 2021

Best answer: Hades does have a pretty forgiving difficulty curve, as far as this genre of games goes. I tend to do poorly at similar games, but I enjoy them, have played a bunch, and am going to write too many words here talking about why Hades is a good one to start with.

The key mechanic of the "rogue-like" is that you *must* die to progress, but the form of progress can vary. Do you learn something and *that's* what carries over? (In all games, yes.) Is there some sort of currency, or set of currencies? (With a set, you generally lose one when you die, but managing it is key to survival within an attempt.) And how much randomness is there? How important is it?

Hades does a really good job at ramping the complexity across runs by balancing all of these different systems. It introduces new mechanics slowly, so you always feel like you understand what's going on. You can also always count a run as progress (of some kind) if you gather more resources: gold is gained and lost within a run, but other resources can be gathered as well. This leads to a feedback loop: you understand the game, you gain resources (maybe not as much as you wanted, but anything helps), you save or spend them to make the game easier and thus make it further in a run. The game then responds by adding something to the mix. God Mode adds a steady push from behind, to reduce the number of deaths needed to progress.

You also have a bit of luck in the mix: you pick a weapon going in, and then grab more upgrades as you go. One of the player skills you develop is "what would this do with that" (and the game gives pretty good rewards for experimenting with new upgrades). So you might have a string of so-so runs laying the foundation for a combination that just steamrolls over everything.

In terms of button mashing, I personally wind up with one of two play-styles: running away and mashing the shoot button at enemies or mashing the dash and attack buttons to zip around crazily while attacking. You do need to be more deliberate for boss fights: look at the boss, they'll have a tell that indicates whether you should run away or attack, you do that for a little bit and repeat as needed. Of course, since the bosses are always the same you can plan ahead somewhat when you pick upgrades. One combination in particular is suited for a slow defensive style, shredding stationary enemies without needing a lot of movement from the player.

In short, I'd try it. The $16 bucks it's going for now is the lowest it's ever been on the Switch digitally, but even at the full $35 for a physical copy it's a value. (You could also check your local library system, some have branched out into games of various kinds.)
posted by Anonymous Function at 10:17 PM on December 25, 2021

Also, you're asking about story games. (Hades does have amazing writing.) But another interesting rogue-like on the Switch is Slay the Spire. It's turn based and very similar to a genre of board game called a "deckbuilder". It might not be as streamlined and accessible as Hades in the gameplay loop, but it's certainly much less demanding on coordination. Turn based games also have a pleasant "I can put this down for a bit to take care of something" that goes well with the Switch.

Game recommendations that are mostly story: Ace Attorney, Darkside Detective, and Kentucky Route Zero are all on sale right now for the Switch. Heaven's Vault or Overboard might also be right up your alley.

Other games from the Hades folk: Transistor is short (which I consider a plus for many games), less demanding of controller skills and very story and style focused. Bastion is also from the same folks and would be a good warmup for Hades, being pretty similar in terms of movement and combat but with a more traditional progression. (They have another game Pyre which is very story focused, but also not going to ported to the Switch.)
posted by Anonymous Function at 10:45 PM on December 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Hades is outstanding and you should play it with God Mode on. You will die 40-50 times before you make your first escape but it will definitely get easier the more you play. When you find the right combo of weapons and boons you will be able to button mash your way through all the bosses with little difficulty.
posted by gnutron at 6:00 AM on December 26, 2021

Best answer: I played it with God Mode on, and not only that, I took half an hour to die in the first room to maximize the God Mode buff. Then I had fun.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 7:21 AM on December 26, 2021

Response by poster: All of these answers are fantastic, thank you! Having many perspectives is helpful. I’m going to save Hades until I have a little less overall life stress but I’m looking forward to it.
posted by momus_window at 1:27 PM on December 26, 2021

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