Look, I know we all believe in a Megaera supremacy. Meg is one of Hades’ most interesting characters, the first real challenge in the game, and for many of us she offers the first taste of death – and in Hades, dying is winning, so long as you learn something from it. But all of these factors seem to have positioned Megaera’s boss battle as one of the more popular ones, while it’s actually probably the worst encounter in the game.
First, let’s take a look at the other boss battles. I’m not counting mid-level mini bosses like the weird pink crystal we sometimes clash with – I’m talking proper bosses. That means Meg and her sisters (more on them later), Bone Hydra, Theseus and the Minotaur, and Hades.
The Bone Hydra is a phenomenal battle. I know the other people you fight are gods, but they’re still just people. The Bone Hydra is an unfeeling snake made of cold, sharp bone. Gods fighting gods is boring – it’s a level playing field. But no matter who you are, taking on the Bone Hydra is an impressive feat. Even on a technical level, the Bone Hydra fight is wonderful. It’s not a smart creature, and has gotten along in (the after) life by simply being fearsome. That means it does not employ any evasive tactics or quick thinking – it just stands there and fights you. Sure, it uses a shield sometimes so it’s not completely vulnerable, but it essentially tries to frighten you or kill you with its spiky talon-tentacles, all while screeching in your face. You could argue that it has less of an impact narratively than Megaera (or indeed, any of the bosses) but it’s important to see Zagreus going up against a beast of the underworld and not just a bunch of other people.
Then there’s Theseus and the Minotaur. The fact that you’re up against two at once – and the fact Theseus has his own boons – immediately puts you on the backfoot. Theseus revels in the battle too, fighting you for the pleasure of the duel. Even after you’ve beaten him several times, he keeps up his “Zlatan doesn’t play on Thursdays” attitude, never even acknowledging his own defeat. The boons make it constantly unpredictable, having two bosses that move around the arena and launch their attacks in very different fashions keeps you guessing, and there’s something so satisfying about beating Theseus – and so frustrating about falling to him – that even though the battle is not personal (Theseus does not care one way or the other about Zag’s quest), it feels so deeply personal because it pulls you as a player into it.
The final battle is then with Hades, the titular character, your father, and the game’s central antagonist. It lives up to its position as your final obstacle, and its narrative is a brilliant play on the roguelike – each time you defeat him, you unlock a snippet of the story afterwards, but once you return to the start, he refuses to acknowledge what has transpired – though there are enough changes in his demeanor and the characters around him to make things feel tangibly different.
So we’re back to Meg. There are good sides to this battle too, with her different attack patterns helping to teach you the strengths and weaknesses of Zag’s various approaches for the rest of the game, but once you’ve cleared the underworld a few times, it just feels more and more like Meg is a tutorial. She’s outshone by her sisters, and her battle goes from being a clash with an agile and deadly Fury to being a minor roadblock. You play the game enough and equip a few buffs and they can all start to feel like a pushover, but there’s not enough depth to Meg’s style for the game to fight back against your experience. Bone Hydra and Theseus both have built-in variety, but Megaera does not.
Alecto, one of Meg’s two sisters, has a style that feels a little bit like Meg’s, except fuelled by pure anger. She uses similar tactics, but adds in rage powered projectiles and can attack you in close quarters much easier thanks to her leather whip. Meanwhile Tisiphone, the third sister, will not use allies as Meg and Alecto do, but instead forces you to fight in tight spaces and learn how to overcome the same techniques in a completely different way – all while the lights keep going out.
Okay, so Meg’s battle isn’t all that great once you’ve done the rest, but what am I expecting? She’s the first one out – Meg’s real strength is in her narrative arc, right? Except, I’m not too sure that it is. Meg’s story is that she doesn’t really want to stop Zag, and seems to even offer tacit support for his cause, but she still fights him because it’s her duty. I’m not sure why putting duty above friendship – especially when all your friend wants to do is visit his estranged mother – is a laudable quality. You can romance her too, which fleshes out her story but also makes her position as an enemy more bizarre; and besides, Zagreus belongs with Thanatos.
Again, despite having less development and screen time, her sisters reign supreme. Alecto has straightforward, Lady Dimitrescu attitude of “I will rip your limbs off and you will like it,” which works perfectly for the simplicity of an early game boss, while Tisiphone’s small but significant character arc of learning how to say “Zagreus” instead of just “murderer” makes you want to keep meeting her in order to help her keep making progress with her phonics. This is part of a larger issue with Meg – because you’ve already defeated her several times before her sisters appear, they become the fascinating characters, the ones you’re hoping to see more of. Once they have appeared, it’s a random chance for who pops up next time, and Meg often feels like the disappointment.
Megaera became one of Hades’ many breakout stars, but looking at the other bosses, it seems like that’s down to her personality, her position as one of the game’s first bosses and – predictably for the internet – the horny. Hades has no bad boss battles, but when you stack them all up, Meg is probably the bottom. There’s a first time for everything.
Next: Uh Oh, Is Space Jam Trying To Be Ready Player One?
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Stacey Henley is an editor for TheGamer, and can often be found journeying to the edge of the Earth, but only in video games. Find her on Twitter @FiveTacey
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