Immersive #5: Hades

Even though many centuries have passed since the decline of Ancient Greece and Rome, the mythology of the time still exerts a significant influence on present day works ranging from classic books to popular films. As such, it is to no surprise when the “forbidden romance” between Hades and Persephone or even the struggles of Sisyphus appear in our daily conversations and in the media that we consume. But while these mythic figures and legends are often spun into fresh new stories that adopt different perspectives, these adaptations often fall into the trap of generalizing their allusions, lacking the nuance and depth that the original stories hold.

As a result, it’s not often that we witness retellings of myths that spotlight lesser-known stories or figures, which is often a result of the lack of substance or conflicting narratives surrounding these tales. But, in the rare occasions that these neglected narratives are brought to light, our understanding of the mythology shifts for the better, a change particularly witnessed after the release of Supergiant Games’ Hades, a roguelike action role-playing game.

In Hades, players follow the story of Zagreus, a son of Hades who attempts to escape the Underworld by defeating enemies and bosses, all of whom originate from Greek mythology as well. And through playing as Zagreus, each player is able to interact with the various personalities of the gods, goddesses, heroes, and monsters through the branching narrative structure of the game, which customizes the dialogue of non-playable characters to the actions of the player, resulting in a personalized gameplay experience.

Achilles responds to Zagreus talking about Zagreus' love of history.
A Conversation with Achilles

It is through this ambitious branching narration style that allows for every character, familiar and unfamiliar, to be introduced to the player as if for the first time. Here, players are able to converse with Achilles, a mentor figure who slowly opens up about his relationship and separation from Patroclus, fight against Megaera, a potential love interest who is forced to battle Zagreus on behalf of Hades’ orders, and even barter with Chaos, a patron who offers various “power-ups” throughout the game, among many other storylines written for the player to gradually uncover over time.

Overall, the rich variety that Hades offers the player in terms of a unique experience with the Greek mythos is something to truly commend. It’s ability to balance the different stories of each character in a manner that closely resembles a charmingly dysfunctional family dynamic presents a fresh take on its mythological content that allows for players to endlessly replay the game without ever encountering the same narrative plot twice. Thus, it is because of this masterful adaptation that I must commend Hades for crafting an increasingly nuanced experience that goes beyond our present understanding of Greek mythology and its presentation in popular culture.

Experience Hades: HERE

Liana Lau

Liana Lau is a student at the University of Michigan, who enjoys learning about interesting marketing campaigns and storytelling techniques. Her section, Immersive, is dedicated to captivating storytelling experiences across many different platforms that engage the viewer with its content through its art form.

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