I’m approaching a door near the end of my run in Elysium, a lush and skill-testing underworld zone in Hades, and I feel a sense of pride. I’m halfway through the game and I fought through heaploads of exploding sentient chariots, heat-seeking butterflies, and enemies that respawn if they aren’t fully executed. I barely have a scrape on me, and all of my death defiance resurrections are intact, so I’ll be able to have another chance after my health hits zero. All I have to do is beat whatever is behind this boss door and I’ll be able to restock on my resources and break out of Hell.
“This is the run,” I whisper to myself. The Twitch chat in my head is sitting at the edge of their seats. I gather my thoughts, open the door and I’m greeted into a stadium by a giant minotaur and a man named Theseus, the underworld embodiment of smug heroism.
What could possibly go wrong?
Immediately the bull starts charging at me full speed, forcing me to dash away. Just as I land I get impaled by a spear, and realize that I’m supposed to fight both of these monstrosities at the same time. It’s not a pretty sight, seeing myself flail around the screen miscalculating dashes and over-committing to attack strings. I finally take care of the minotaur, though. But then Theseus gets even more powerful; he can suddenly summon the power of the gods just like me and he starts throwing down a cacophony of spells while concurrently throwing a spear back and forth on the screen. It looks like fireworks, and I know I’m going to die.
I felt so prepared, but with this fight Hades upped the difficulty and got way harder than I ever anticipated. I was swiftly humbled by this mythological duo of pain. They drained my health bar like it was a cheap kiddie pool with a hole in it, repeating the process for each extra life charge I had. It was quite possibly the worst run of my life.
I died for the last time, and then I turned on God Mode. Life has been amazing ever since.
God Mode is a toggle that makes you incrementally tougher throughout your runs. The first time you turn it on it grants you +20% bonus damage resistance, and every subsequent death you get an extra two percent increase to that. Hades is a challenging roguelike full of a multitude of weapons, boons, and mechanics that reward you for combining them well. If you die you get sent all the way back to the start, no matter where you were. Having God Mode on essentially allows you the space to play around and learn the game’s mechanics, understand enemy attack patterns, and figure out what works well together, and with you, without the anxiety of getting curb stomped by the waves and waves of enemies the game throws at you.
Hades cares about its characters and plot just as much as it cares about well grounded weapon play and the thrill of an imposing boss battle. Cool content that enhances both the story and gameplay is locked away behind later stages, and in a lot of other roguelikes, it’d be tough luck for any inexperienced player who wanted to access that stuff. But because Hades’ God Mode is such a welcoming feature, that problem is completely avoided, and players of all skill levels can have a great time experiencing everything the game has to offer.
So many titles lock or limit players out of loot or ridicule the player through sarcastic quips on the select menu if they choose an easy difficulty. One in recent memory was Wolfenstein: The New Order, which had a difficulty option called “Can I Play Daddy?” with the tagline “Very easy difficulty for the spineless gamer.” That always felt weird to me, that shaming for not playing a game on a high difficulty. But as I’ve grown I’ve realized I have nothing to prove to a videogame; I am truly just trying to play, vibe, and have a good time.
God Mode has freed me from my mortal constraints of not being an elite player, and has let me see impressive narrative work and ability combinations I would’ve just missed if I quit (which I have been known to do if a game is beating my ass). Now I’ve mastered a flurry of boon combos, found out what weapons work with how I like to move around, and I can consistently ball on the minotaur and Theseus with my eyes closed. Life is good.
If you’re looking at picking up Hades, or you’re already playing and you’re stuck on a boss, flip on that God Mode. SuperGiant Games snapped with that feature, and I promise you’ll have an even better time if you turn it on. Difficulty in games is a seemingly never ending discourse, but I’m here to tell you that cringe is dead, and it truly doesn’t matter how you play games as long as you’re having fun while you play them.
Funké Joseph is a non-binary black writer and artist. Check out their goofs @funkefly.