Horizontal Design

As I put more time into Hades, the more I come to appreciate it’s horizontal design. At the most basic of levels, the tool sets you are given on your 1st run are there on your 50th. Sure, there are some back end number tweaks, like slightly more HP, or better odds for a rare boon. And when you get the weapon aspects unlocked, the damage boosts they give are offset by the gameplay changes they present. Homing missiles on a bow, a long-term DoT for the gloves, a massive AE slow effect for the sword.

In my mind, horizontal design excels where the gameplay itself changes over time. Vertical design is where you do the same thing again, and again, just that your power (and potentially enemy defence goes up). RPGs almost exclusively focus on the vertical aspect, you get bigger numbers, bigger attacks, more targets. Destiny, Avengers, Anthem, Division are in a similar bag, where you certainly have gameplay choices, but often they lack the balance due to the difficulty of enemies. Not that you want to select the highest DPS option, but that you essentially have to. And there’s a place for that design, no question.

What Hades does is more akin to something like Civilization, or XCOM, in that the strategy and tactics you apply change dramatically based on each step. Hades just has so many variables into the mix, it’s bonkers.

  • 6 weapons, 4 variants each. Each weapon has 12+ hammer upgrades.
  • 10 gods, with 15 personal boons each, and 28 duo boons. I’m not counting Bouldy
  • 25 Keepsakes and 6 Companions

You’re looking at hundreds of thousands of combinations, most of which are completely randomized. You can pick the weapon/aspect and the keepsake/companion, but the rest is all RNG.

A previous post mentioned a Chiron Bow (homing missiles) run which focused on Doom stacking. That build is not possible without 2 specific boons – enabled by a Hades favoured run. I got those really late in the run, so it was a decent build… getting those two put a massive smile on my face.

A recent Arthur Sword (AE aura that slows enemies and reduces damage) was off to a rough start. Arthur is the slowest of all weapons, but deals insane damage. It’s the only build I’ve seen where the default attack is actually decent DPS. Normally my start of builds are focused on getting boons and then potentially poms if I think the boons are worth upgrading – it makes room choice important, so I end up skipping gold/nectar/keys. Well, some “bad” luck was in with some so-so boons that aren’t all that good together – then I got an interest hammer upgrade – Hoarding Slash. This thing gives extra damage to attack equal to 5% of your total gold. Which stacks with a % attack boost. Long story short, when I got that one I started focusing entirely on money, no more Chiron shops, and gold rooms all the time. I re-rolled Hermes boons to get the +10g per room and equipped the +100g keepsake. I was at 1500g when I reached Theseus/Asterius and over 2000g when I fought Hades. So 100dmg attacks as my baseline, upgraded through other boons, and an exposed Hades. It was my 2nd fastest boss clear. Just insane damage. And that entire run was dependent on that one random hammer roll.

The less obvious point here is that nearly all the boons build on each other. My base attack may deflect. Then deflects cause Exposed. Another than increased deflect damage. And another that causes deflect to trigger Doom effects or increase crit chance by 20%. And then there’s a similar train for critical hits.

In the 50+ runs I’ve done, I have had only 1 run where I didn’t like the results of RNG. It happened to be a run with Guan Yu which came with a 70% HP penalty. In retrospect, the rolls were not bad, they were just average. I was going in with a large penalty and needed some luck to get through.

I’ve done runs that focused on Cast damage, Special damage, chain lightning, curse stacking, dashing, DoTs… all sorts. I’ve had similar runs, but never identical runs. I’ve cleared with every weapon, using a bunch of aspects. I’ve cleared on multiple heat (difficulty modifiers) levels. I’be maxed out a chunk of keepsakes, and have 1 companion on hand. I’ve beaten the last boss without getting hit once. I’ve died a bunch of times. Every run is a new adventure.

And I’ve not even remotely touched the storyline of the game, the fact that NPCs remember what you did, that you have relationships with them, or their quests. And god forbid I start talking about how this game has fishing!

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