Xbox had a whole host of announcements and reveals during its E3 showcase, but one recurring theme was Xbox Game Pass. We saw older games being added to it, pretty much every new reveal slated for it, and it’s becoming harder and harder to ignore its value. Perhaps the most interesting addition though was Hades. Last year, Supergiant’s roguelike was a huge indie breakout hit, going toe to toe with much bigger budget games for various different game of the year awards. Unfortunately, it tended to fall short to either The Last of Us Part 2 or Ghost of Tsushima in these accolades, with the fact it was made with zero crunch on a fraction of the budget never being taken into consideration.
Hades was also a reminder of the bubble games journalism can sometimes exist in. Everyone I spoke to in this business last year was trying to make their way out of hell, and they were also playing Hades. Everyone had their own strategy, favoured weapon (gun or bust, let’s be honest), their own amazing run to share, their own hard luck story of how the boons and the will of the gods fucked over their chances that one time. When I spoke to my other friends who play games, they hadn’t heard of it. They knew Ghost of Tsushima, despite never playing it – how could they not, it was on the side of all those buses?
Hades is a brilliant game, and it snuck into my top ten last year, but unlike several of the other titles on my list, it also feels like it didn’t quite achieve its full potential. Everyone knew Final Fantasy 7 Remake, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and Spider-Man: Miles Morales, and the other indies found there like Coffee Talk, Call of the Sea, and Umurangi Generation were firmly in the ‘best games you missed in 2021’ category. Hades sits in between them, and that’s what makes it perfect for Xbox Game Pass. Practically everyone who plays it falls in love with it, but not enough people played it. Game Pass is the remedy to that.
Putting the whole game aside, what I’m most interested in is whether or not this new audience will give Theseus’ image a much needed rehabilitation. The common consensus seems to be that every character in Hades is brilliant, apart from Theseus. It’s not that he’s a villain – Alecto, the Minotaur, and Hades himself are all villains too – it’s that people find him incredibly irritating, but that’s part of his charm. Theseus is the third main boss of the game, and is fought simultaneously with the Minotaur. It’s a frustrating battle, because there’s two enemies to deal with at once, Theseus has boons of his own, and he’s the last major boss before Hades, making it far enough in that you’ve invested time into the run, but still far enough from the end that even in victory, Theseus can hamstring your chances if he takes enough out of you.
This isn’t the whole story, however. It’s not just the way Theseus fights – it’s that he’s an absolute prick about it. Every time you encounter Theseus, he will tell you proudly that you will never beat him. It doesn’t matter how many times you have bested him before, he knows he is simply better than you, and thus it is inevitable that your journey will end here. All those other times you beat him? A fluke, a cheat, a figment of your imagination. The clear truth remains – he’s better than you. All that is left is for him to prove it, no matter how many times it takes him.
Theseus has huge Zlatan Ibrahimovic energy, where Zlatan doesn’t play on Thursdays until he wins the Thursday Night Cup and suddenly the Europa League is basically just the Champions League, if you think about it. Every victory Theseus has ever won was earned with skill and toil and might. Every loss he’s endured has been nothing but bad luck.
On a purely technical level, his battle is clearly Hades’ best too. The fights against the Furies are good, but as the game’s first, they’re simple by design. Bone Hydra then lacks personality and is more about endurance and dodging, while Hades has the always dull secret second phase and just tries to overpower you. Sure, having the Minotaur by his side means Theseus is cheating a little – not that he’d ever admit it – but he also is prepared to meet you head to head, always bringing something new to the fight.
Theseus was originally supposed to be the game’s hero, and while I’m glad that didn’t happen and Supergiant gave Zagreus room to shine, I hope the move to Xbox Game Pass changes the conversation around Theseus a bit. If nothing else, his fight is where you meet the one Fade on your side, and Theseus deserves a lot more credit for his role in the story than he gets.
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