For the uninitiated, Hades is a roguelike, dungeon crawler, action RPG where you play as the only child of Hades, God of the Dead, Zagreus. It was released by Supergiant Games in 2018 as an early release.
The game’s full release came in December 2020 for PC and the Switch. In 2021, Hades was brought over to Xbox and Playstation.
The game was released to universal acclaim and rave reviews, becoming very popular very quickly, selling over a million copies from 2018-2020.
Hades has a lot of awards, counting at 19 as of writing and having been nominated for even more. But the awards can only speak so much – to understand why Hades became so popular you have to play it.
Supergiant Games took the death mechanic of dungeon crawlers and action games and made it essential for growth and improvement. In most games, dying is the ultimate frustrating experience, but in Hades, death only makes you stronger and helps you to forge relationships with more characters.
The speed at which these relationships, individual storylines, and the overall story progresses is up to the player and how quickly you manage to escape.
You learn the story as you play Hades. There are no long-winded shots of exposition in the beginning, and it takes a few runs to even get some background on what exactly is happening.
Pieces of dialogue give you more clues to a story based on bits and pieces of Greek mythology. Even if you’re not familiar with Greek myths, on the whole, the game does an excellent job of helping the player to learn (especially if you take the time to read your Codex!).
This Hades Getting Started guide is aimed mainly at new players, though hopefully, it should help some more experienced players with tips and tricks to the harder aspects of the game.
Before You Begin
This article will NOT contain any spoilers for the game, so feel free to read with reckless abandon.
Before we dive into the game headfirst, let’s take a quick look at some of the options in the settings and when loading up a fresh save file. For anyone who has played a video game before, the first few options are pretty self-explanatory – Master Volume controls both the Music and SFX (special sound effect) volumes, alongside the volume for the voice lines.
Brightness is a great option for those who can’t control the brightness of their monitor or their console’s brightness, so feel free to adjust as needed.
For those who enable “Dash to Cursor” and “Attack to Cursor” in the control menu, the Bright Cursor option here will be awesome for you, as it will keep you from losing track of where your cursor is at, especially in areas like Asphodel.
If you get motion sick easily, I recommend turning the screen shake off pretty quickly. Although the screen doesn’t shake a lot, it’s better to take care of the problem before it catches you off guard.
The most important setting in this menu, however, that needs to be discussed is God Mode.
The other day on the Hades subreddit, I saw a post asking if using God Mode was cheating. The simple answer most people gave in the comments, and the answer that I will always endorse, is no, using God Mode is not ‘cheating.’ If it were cheating, it wouldn’t be a feature in the game.
Personally, I prefer playing on God Mode – mostly because I like feeling powerful in my games. I have a sibling who refuses to use it, though, so it really is an “each to their own” feature.
The feature itself slowly increases your damage resistance each time you die, starting from 20%. Each death raises it by 2% until it caps out at 80% (which will likely happen if you play through the game enough).
Supergiant Games specifically added God Mode to make the game more accessible and to help players progress the story faster if they so desired (and I do desire). This feature cannot be used if you’re playing in Hell Mode, however, so make your choice carefully.
If you do decide to take on God Mode, however, I will leave you with a warning: If you are trying to intentionally die to one of the final bosses in Elysium while trying to get the autograph for Hypnos, this can just end up with you standing around for a very long time.
New players do not do Hell Mode. This is not a challenge to you; this is a warning. The game even states, upon selecting Hell Mode, that it is for veteran players who are looking for more of a challenge – and a challenge you will have on your hands if you so dare. If God Mode was an option, and it’s not in Hell Mode, it would not be able to help.
Hell Mode automatically equips the Pact of Punishment at a minimum of five heat for every escape attempt. In the standard mode, the Pact of Punishment does not become an option (and remains optional) until you have beaten the final boss for the first time. In Hell Mode, the Pact of Punishment is not optional.
As a minimum, all of your foes will deal 20% more damage, there will be 20% more of them, and they will have 15% more health. Zagreus has 25% less health, and any health effects gained during your escape attempts will be worth 25% less.
As an added measure to rub salt in the wound, Hell Mode has a special feature in the Pact of Punishment that cannot be unequipped: Personal Liability. This feature removes Zagreus’s auto defense that triggers for a few moments after he takes burst damage.
Your First Three Attempts
With the settings covered and God Mode equipped (if you want it), you are ready to dive into Hades. To start, you will be lost, you will be confused, and you will die – this is the point of Hades. The game throws you into your first escape attempt without a tutorial at first, so don’t panic – that is coming soon. All you have to do is try and gather some resources.
Before you get to your resources, go ahead and try out every button to see what it does – during the early game, some buttons just won’t do anything, but that’s fine.
Unlike some games, pushing all of the buttons to see what they do will not cause you to lose any limited resources. In fact, most of the resources in Hades are practically endless; it’s just a matter of how many runs you need to do to get what you need and want.
Escape Attempt One
If you’re lucky, you’ll make it a few chambers in. If you’re unlucky, you’ll die in chambers two or three, but that’s to be expected. The most important part of your first escape attempt is meeting Athena.
No matter how many fresh files you start with, Athena will always be the first god that you meet. If you want to make it further than the next chamber, take her Divine Dash.
After meeting Athena, go for Darkness and the Chthonic Keys (symbols shown above). If you have to make a choice between the two, prioritize Darkness (the purple drop), as it will help you to upgrade Zagreus faster using the Mirror of Night.
Your First Death
Whether you die in chamber one or two or in chamber forty-two, you’ll be sent back to the House of Hades. Here you will emerge from the Pool of Styx, where you should run around and talk to everyone who has an exclamation mark above their head.
This will introduce you to some of the members of the House and help to set some other events into motion. Talking to them is technically optional if you’re a monster (otherwise, it’s obligatory).
Characters who have an exclamation mark inside of a spiked speech bubble have something important to the story to say to Zagreus – these are conversations that you do not want to miss out on.
The Mirror of Night
When you enter Zagreus’s room for the first time, you should make yourself familiar with the big mirror on the left side of the room. This is the Mirror of Night, and it helps to “level” Zagreus up and make him stronger. At first, you’ll only have access to four abilities – these are the most basic ones, but they’ll help you get the furthest faster.
If, like me, you only have 20 darkness after your first death, put one into Chthonic Vitality (this gives you 25 more health for the first rank) and one into Shadow Presence, which gives you 10% more damage when you hit a foe from behind for the first rank.
After that, I recommend saving up for Death Defiance, which gives you a second chance during each escape attempt. Death Defiance can be ranked up three times, giving you four chances total during each escape attempt – though each rank up gets progressively more expensive.
Afterward, put some into Greater Reflex, which lets you dash more times in a row. This talent is exceedingly useful when trying to dodge attacks, as Zagreus becomes briefly invulnerable during his dash.
As pictured above, Chthonic Keys can be used to unlock more talents in the Mirror of Night.
Unlocking Your First Weapon
If you were lucky enough to grab a Chthonic Key on your first run (or any of the subsequent runs), go ahead and unlock Coronacht rather than save up for the Mirror of Night. This bow only costs a single key, so you should get it early on. As soon as you’ve unlocked the Heart-Seeking Bow, you’ll get to meet a new character, only known to Zagreus (as far as you’re aware): Skelly.
Skelly functions as the tutorial character, teaching Zagreus how to use each weapon in his cursed, semi-sentient, bloodthirsty arsenal.
Meeting the Gods
During your first few runs in the game, you’ll likely meet seven out of the nine available Olympian gods to meet. As previously mentioned, the first god you’ll meet will be Athena. Afterward, you can meet any of these three: Ares, Artemis, and Dionysus. You can meet and claim up to four gods during each escape attempt.
Escape Attempt Two
During your second run, you can meet three more gods: Aphrodite, Poseidon, or Zeus. If you can make it to Asphodel, you’ll likely encounter Hermes, which puts you at eight out of nine gods encountered for the first time. You will only meet the ninth god, Demeter, after reaching the final boss area for the first time. You do not have to beat the final boss to meet her.
During this attempt, you’ll likely be able to make it further than before. Even still, prioritize Darkness and Chthonic Keys. If you’re not comfortable using the bow, stick with Zagresus’s sword. Changing up your weapons will really only matter after you’ve made your first successful escape attempt.
In this run, you might be fortunate enough to pick up Nectar (icon above); grab it immediately. After this, I would gift it to one of two beings: Athena or Skelly. Athena will grant you her Keepsake the Owl Pendant. This will allow you to summon her every time you equip it, which means you can grab her Divine Dash or other deflecting abilities.
Skelly will grant you his Keepsake, the Lucky Tooth. This Keepsake gives you an extra Death Defiance, which is amazingly overpowered in the early game.
Returning to the House
After you’ve died in your second attempt at a bid for freedom, you’ll meet another new figure: the House Contractor. They will offer you a free upgrade to Tartarus, placing a fountain chamber into the mix. Although it’s not guaranteed that you’ll come across one, it is absolutely worth doing as they can make or break a run.
Escape Attempt Three
This is the first run where you will be introduced to a Daedalus Hammer. Throughout each escape attempt, you are guaranteed to come across these at least twice. You don’t have to take them, but I highly encourage you to do so.
Most of the upgrades offered can make using the different weapons easier if you find their demanded playstyle to be a miserable experience (Like I do with Coronacht, Aspect of Rama).
This should be (but is not guaranteed to be) the furthest you will make it thus far. You should have a decent idea of each chamber reward, but if not check out this article: Hades Items Guide, written by yours truly.
Core Mechanics Guide
There are a total of seven Infernal Arms that Zagreus can end up using – all of which have unique playstyles that lend themselves better to some players than others.
I personally hate using Coronacht, the bow, and find it a miserable experience, but I adore using Aegis, the shield. For an in-depth guide to each Infernal Arm and the upgrades available to them through the Daedalus Hammers, see our guide on them!
Fishing will only be an option after you have reached the Temple of Styx at least once. From there, you can purchase it from the House Contractor for 20 Gems. This is one of the more difficult aspects of the game, requiring fast reflexes if you even want the chance at catching a legendary fish. For a tip on how to get the hang of fishing, see the “Things I Wish I Knew” section.
As covered earlier, you should take either Athena or Skelly’s Keepsake first. This is done by gifting Nectar to a character for the first time. Most Keepsakes from the Olympians, Hermes aside, will summon your chosen god to your aid.
Keepsakes from the members of the House of Hades or others of note (as found in the Codex) will offer a buff to Zagreus or gift him something to help with purchase from Charon. For a more in-depth guide on how to get Keepsakes and how to exploit them see our article on Keepsakes.
Yes, you can pet the dog, and you should. You can pet Cerberus as much as you want. In fact, on consoles that have achievements, you get one if you pet Cerberus 10 times.
Different boons lend themselves to different playstyles. If you find yourself dashing into the middle of enemies and slamming them with attacks, rather than using specials or your bloodstones, go for boons that enhance your dash and your attack.
The best advice I can give for new players in this regard is to be picky and specialize. Strength yourself in the aspects you use the most rather than the ones you don’t.
Instead of taking on as many boons as you can get your hands on, take the ones that will benefit you the most and go for Poms of Power to upgrade them.
For Chaos Boons, in specific, see Let’s Cause Some Carnage.
The Different Areas
This is not an in-depth look into how to fight each area’s final boss. If you’re looking for that, consider looking at our guide on Hades’ Bosses here.
Tartarus is the first area you will become well acquainted with. Its green hue might become comfortable for you.
The unique chamber in this area houses Sisyphus. His chamber, as all other unique chambers are, is marked with a stone circle with an exclamation mark in the middle. If you see this symbol, take it without hesitation every time. Sisyphus will offer you food to heal, obols to purchase something from Charon’s shop, or some extra Darkness. If you’re fully healed, I urge you to go for the Darkness.
There are three Mini-Boss rooms you can come across in Tartarus. During a run, you can only encounter one of them, but depending on your path, there is a chance you won’t run into any. These rooms are marked with a small skull at the bottom of the chamber reward preview. You can face two Dire Inferno Bombers, a Wretched Sneak, or a Doomstone.
After breaking free and defeating the end boss of Tartarus, you’ll enter a small area where you can drink from a fountain and, if proper upgrades have been done through the House Contractor, change out your Keepsakes. A Well of Charon will be available to buy items if needed, and a purging pool will be next to that to get some extra obols if you have a need.
Your worst enemy in this area is going to be the lava that is exceedingly easy to dash into.
In this area, the special chamber you can encounter holds Eurydice. In this area, she will offer you three different treats to pick from; Ambrosia Delight, which upgrades two of your boons to the next Rarity; Pom Porridge, which picks four random boons and gives them +1 level; and Refreshing Nectar, which upgrades the Rarity of the next three boons you find.
If you are certain you’ll make it further, I recommend taking Refreshing Nectar. If not, I encourage you to take Pom Porridge.
Like Tartarus, you can encounter three mini-boss chambers (and all of them suck if you can’t stop running into lava).
You can encounter the Barge of Death, which is literally impossible to run off of (but exceedingly easy to get blown up on); the Megagorgon and Dire Skull-Crusher (which is exceedingly easy to die in, as you can be frozen and smashed repeatedly); and the Spreader Witches (who are my mortal enemies, as they get knocked back into the lava and I have to chase them into it because they float above it).
Elysium is the second to last area you need to fight your way through and is arguably one of the harder areas. In this area, you will need to battle your way through seasoned heroes who fight just for the fun of it.
In the unique chamber for Elysium, you will find Patroclus, who offers god-sent gifts (not literally).
Patroclus will offer you Kiss of Styx Premium, which restores all your death defiance, or Touch of Styx Dark which allows your Stubborn Defiance to restore 50% more for 15 encounters; HydraLite Gold, which restores 30% when you enter a chamber for five chambers; and Cyclops Jerky Select, which allows you to deal 60% more damage for the next ten encounters.
If you’re down a death defiance, take Kiss of Styx Premium. If you need health, HydraLite Gold is a life-saver. Otherwise, Cyclops Jerky Select is fine to take.
There are only two mini-boss encounters you might have here. You may run into Asterius (the easier of the two and the most fun) or a Dire Soul Catcher who summons a bunch of Exalted Warrior souls to come and be a nuisance during the fight.
Temple of Styx
The Temple of Styx is the final area before you reach the Final Boss room. This area is set up differently from the other aspects of the game, offering a nice change of pace. Well, nice enough. The Satyrs are the worst part of it, to be honest. I hate them with a passion and their stupid poison spit.
If you’re struggling with this aspect, I would prompt you to consider starting each run with Athena’s Keepsake and snag her Divine Dash, as it should help to deflect their poison and send it right back into their faces.
In this area, you’ll be offered three “standard” encounters and two boss rooms. I’ve generally always found my Saytr Sack on my second choice (never on my first), but if you’re exceedingly unlucky, you may end up going through all of the rooms (which I have been forced into doing once).
Things I Wish I Knew
I hated fishing for the longest time. I thought catching a Legendary Fish was impossible. But here’s a tip: place your finger just over the bobber so you can’t see it dip up and down.
Tense up your finger like a coil, so when you see the flash of white, indicating the bobber is ready, you can press that button within the required time to get the chance to catch a legendary. It’s still a 50/50 between the legendary and the rare, but you’ll know you did it when you see “Perfect Catch.”
You absolutely do not have to catch a Legendary fish to finish Poseidon’s favor, so don’t panic about it like I did.
If you plan on changing out your Keepsakes in between areas, don’t equip the one you want for the final boss area when you start your escape attempt. It will lock that Keepsake, and then you can’t have it for the rest of that run.
Let Your Boons Work For You
If you have a Boon that does damage over time (e.g., it inflicts a status effect), you don’t have to keep swinging away at your enemies. Instead, you can dash away to deal with others while the status effect takes care of them.
Not All Weapons are for Everyone
You do not have to use every weapon if you do not want to. Nobody is pressuring you to use that miserable Infernal Arm if you don’t want to do it. Wait until you’re stronger and can tank quite a few hits if you want, or just don’t use it.
Nobody is demanding you play exactly how they play. Yes, the game encourages and rewards trying out and escaping with every weapon, but in the end, it’s your game time and nobody else’s.
Hoard and Don’t Let Go
If you have Gemstones and Darkness as an option – take them. Later on, when you’re putting 3000 Darkness into the Mirror of Night, you’ll thank me. Or, when you want to upgrade the appearance of the House, you will also thank me. Gemstones are also great when you’re trying to buy Nectar from the Wretched Broker.
The great thing about Hades is that you can always go back for more resources – Chthonic Keys will be found aplenty, and they’re great for exchanges at the Wretched Broker.
After you’ve completely unlocked your Infernal Arms and the Mirror of Night, they have little use outside of exchanging for a lot of Nectar (which is needed to finish some aspects of the game).
Things to Avoid
These are some mistakes I made during my first time playing Hades, and I regretted them forever (and I still regret them). If you want a great time with Hades in the late game, learn from my mistakes.
These mistakes mainly deal with the Wretched Broker and the Resources Director and the poorly made and timed trades I have made with them.
The Wretched Broker
- Don’t exchange Titan Blood with the Wretched Broker
- Don’t exchange Ambrosia with the Wretched Broker
- Don’t give the Wretched Broker your Diamonds – they are used to buy out Pacts later on.
The Resources Director
- Don’t exchange resources with him until you are certain you do not need them.
- Don’t expect the title upgrade to come with anything other than a fancy badge and a new title – you don’t get any buffs.
- Don’t be stingy with gifts of Nectar and Ambrosia, especially concerning the Unique Chamber characters. You can summon a god when you’re ready to gift them or run across people in the house – it’s much harder to guarantee a meeting with Sisyphus, Eurydice, and Patroclus.
- Don’t shove Ambrosia into your Companions until you’re done gifting it to characters – it is the hardest resource to get, and it is not an unlimited one.
Long-Term Goals to Consider
As mentioned earlier, you can’t move through the game too quickly. Everyone finds their own pace with Hades and completes the various storylines presented as they can and will.
Considering that the game also hinges on somewhat randomly triggered events after specific quotas are met, it’s very unlikely that everyone has the same experience while playing. Regardless, there are a few long-term goals you can consider while you’re playing Hades.
Make it Past Redacted Ten Times
Redacted is the fandom’s inside joke to refer to the final boss (and yes, you do have to beat the final boss multiple times). Once you’ve beaten Redacted, you’ll understand why we refer to them in this way. Regardless, the story is far from over after your first successful attempt, so keep on pushing through to see the first ending.
See the Epilogue
I was surprised to see that only 8.1% of players on Steam had seen the epilogue, as it genuinely helps to give the story some much-needed closure.
It can be a bit of a pain to get to (many, many runs), but it’s easily done if you have each god’s Keepsake and a lot of nectar. In total, you’ll need 36 Nectar and at least 6 Ambrosia (7 at most).
You can easily get this many by trading Gems for Chthonic Keys and the Chthonic Keys for Nectar at the Wretched Broker. Occasionally he’ll have a deal of 10 gems for one Nectar (take it every time).
See the Patroclus and Achilles Storyline Through
This storyline is possibly one of the hardest to achieve in Hades, as it requires having reunited Eurydice and Orpheus and having freed Sisyphus from his pact. Furthermore, you have get hear Patroclus ask Zagreus to tell Achilles to “risk it all,” which, genuinely, can take a while to get (as do most randomly triggered events in Hades).
Get on the Board
You can, in fact, see Zagreus as the featured Houseservant. In order to see him on the board, you must complete the epilogue and at least five heat in the Pact of Punishment.
Question: How Long is Hades?
Answer: To 100% the game, you’re looking at over 100 hours of gameplay. To beat the first part of the story, on average, you’re looking at anywhere from 20-40 hours, depending on your skill level.
Question: When does Persephone Return in Hades?
Answer: After you have made your tenth escape attempt, Persephone will come back to the House of Hades.
Question: Where can I play Hades?
Answer: Hades is available on PC and Mac, the Switch, Playstation 4 and 5, and Xbox One and Series X and S.
Hades is one of my favorite games, if not my favorite. I put off playing it for so long, and I don’t know why – I am so thrilled I finally started to play it even if I wasn’t sure I would be “good” at it.
But in the end, I am so happy I took a chance and played it. With Hades II coming out to early access sometime in 2023 and possibly being fully released by 2025 if the same pattern follows, now is the time to pick up and enjoy the first game!
The community that has developed around this indie title is a wonderful one that has proved to be incredibly supportive of individual players and their unique experiences playing this absolutely amazing work. Whether you love greek myths or are just looking for a fun game, Hades should be at the top of your “to-play” list.
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