I Love Meta-Gaming (in Hades)

I think one of the things that I’ll never tire of is meta-gaming. Now, that’s a broad term and I know Quietschisto will come in here and make an ass of himself if I don’t immediately clarify it so let’s start there.

Broadly speaking, meta-gaming refers to any action where players use knowledge from outside of a game to their benefit within it. This can manifest in a number of different ways, but I enjoy the aspect of taking one’s knowledge about skills and equipment to envision strategies and combos. My intentions are to take my brain-storming into the game to test out new strategies and evaluate their effectiveness and validity as alternative play-styles.

With that preamble out of the way: why do I like meta-gaming so much? For me it adds an extra layer of depth to a game. Instead of taking everything at face value, I’m able to dig into games thinking about new strategies I may have initially overlooked. In a lot of cases this leads to a continuous cycle where I prototype a “build” followed by a testing phase. While testing I’m gauging the effectiveness of what I came up with and later I make revisions where necessary.

This is some really nerdy sounding shit isn’t it? However, participating in this meta-level thought process can dramatically improve my experience with a game.

Recently, I returned to Hades looking to sink more time into escaping hell without the obligation of achievements hanging over me. It was here that I started thinking about various skill combos that would have synergistic properties. This caused me to lose many hours experimenting with various setups and ultimately led to me having a much deeper understanding of the game.

I’m going to share an example of one such strategy that was born out of meta-gaming, but first we need to establish some background information.

In Hades you play as Zagreus, the son of Hades. Regardless of which weapon you choose, you will have the same set of basic abilities: an attack, a special, a cast, and a dash. Attacks and dashes function exactly as one would expect, while specials are generally high damage moves that are slower than the basic attack. Casting fires a ranged projectile into a foe which becomes lodged within them for a set period of time, or until they perish. This setup encourages the player to use their full suite of abilities instead of relying on casting, which is objectively safer then getting up close and personal.

That is unless you’re playing the Poseidon blade. This magnificent weapon has two unique properties that radically change up the flow of how it is played relative to other swords. First, while Zagreus wields it he is granted an additional fifty percent damage buff to his casting ability making it tremendously powerful. Secondly, the Poseidon blade can retrieve cast charges prematurely if Zagreus uses the blade’s special attack on the foes who currently have the stones lodged within them. Thanks to these unique properties, the Poseidon blade is far more focused on a combination of Zagreus’ casting and special attack.

Thanks in no small part to the unique properties of the Poseidon blade there are a number of boons that become far more powerful when used in tandem with it. For starters, all casting skills become far stronger thanks to the innate damage buff. Athena already offers a substantial damage increase to the basic cast taking it from fifty damage to eighty-five, but with the buff from the blade this is pushed to almost one hundred and thirty. That’s a huge material difference that makes Zagreus far deadlier, especially in the early game.

Furthermore, Artemis’ boon Exit Wounds is transformed into a high damage utility skill that naturally synergizes with the Poseidon blade. Exit Wounds deals damage when your cast stones dislodge from an enemy. Because the Poseidon blade can force this to happen you’re able to manually trigger it giving Exit Wounds huge damage potential. This creates an extremely effective cycle where the act of both using and retrieving your cast stones does large chunks of sweet, sweet damage.

You can also take this a step further by adding two of Lady Demeter’s boons into the fold. Snow Burst sends out a forty damage area blast around you every time you cast, which has the added benefit of applying the frost debuff onto foes. She also offers Ravenous Will, which gives you a damage boost and ten perfect damage resistance buff while you have no cast stones. Both of these skills add a little extra flavour to the build and function much greater than they do with other weapons.

Isn’t this fun? By simply using knowledge we have about different skills available in Hades we can piece together a situation where said skills all come together in a really impactful way thanks to the unique properties of a particular weapon.

For another example let’s look to Monster Hunter: World.

I spent hours coming up with my different armor sets in Monster Hunter: World. Each piece of armor has skills on it, which provide passive and active passive effects. As you apply more points to a particular skill it increases its potency up to a point. This means there is a lot of room for creativity to get exactly the right combination of skills you desire by rearranging which armor you wear into battle.

My biggest challenge in World was supplementing my damage output as little as possible while also leveraging the defensive skill Health Boost. Health Boost increases your hunters hit points by fifty up from one hundred. In my eyes it is an invaluable skill that often makes the difference between life or death when you make a mistake. Unfortunately, the normal meta template didn’t accommodate having this skill, so I had to look at gaining damage from skills on armor that still allowed me to max out my health buff.

This led me to experimenting with a skill called Maximum Might. This was a three point skill (prior to Iceborne) that provided a thirty percent critical hit increase, but it had the caveat of only activating while the player had all of their stamina. This meant that the skill wouldn’t work with weapons that used stamina to attack, and also wouldn’t be active after you dodged or sprinted. However, for slow bulky weapons that relied on careful positioning this skill was an ideal match and it fit a lot easier into builds thanks to it only having a three point requirement instead of a seven point one like the standard critical hit skill.

As I was playing the slow and bulky hammer at the time I gave the skill a shot and found it worked exceedingly well while still allowing me to hold onto my precious Health Boost. Were it not for this uniquely specific scenario I wouldn’t have bothered to look into the viability of Maximum Might, which I later found out was applauded by the Monster Hunter Math guys (that’s what they call themselves) as being a very economical skill for off-meta builds.

What I outlined above is why I love meta-gaming so much. It feels great to conceptualize something, test it, and find that it does, in fact, work as you expected. There’s also always room to optimize and improve if things aren’t quite right and working toward a solution can be fairly compelling. Though, my predisposition toward programming might be a big reason why I find this all so enjoyable.

I know I’m not the only person who has done some meta-gaming in my time. Let me know below if there was a game where you enjoyed several hours of fun by diving deep into the weeds like I have. I imagine some of you who frequent World of Warcraft, Warframe, or and of the Souls games will have a story to tell and I’d enjoy reading it.

17 thoughts on “I Love Meta-Gaming (in Hades)

  1. Puny mortal! You thought you could prevent me from barging in and making “an ass out of myself”, but by pursuing this foolish undertaking, you unwittingly sealed your own fate! For I, Quietschisto The Terrible, Tyrant of Typography and Despoiler of Dispute, would have allowed the use of the word meta-gaming without further elucidation!

    Nonetheless, you have invoked my fury and I will unleash the full power of my wrath upon you now! Tremble in fear as I begin to crush your feeble statements as if they were brittle bones! Muahahahahaha *evil laughter and thunderous…uhm, thunder*

    Okay, to be honest with you, I was going to write up a full, post-sized comment in this ridiculous “voice”, but man, I can’t formulate concise thoughts while simultaneously trying to figure out synonyms for words so I can make alliterations or try to translate a sentence that makes perfect sense in German into English. So, please just imagine that I am still speaking with the Anger of the Gods *more thunder around that statement* That would have been really fitting for a game about Greek mythology, though. Damn, I kinda wish I was able to pull that off…

    Anyway, I’m not here to talk about how difficult it is to formulate comments (and by now, you should have gotten the point…), but to argue with you on your post. The problem is, I have not played Hades or Monster Hunter myself, so I cannot take you up on your examples. I can, however, understand where you’re coming from with your points. Quick question aside: Monster Hunter started as a NES-era JRPG of sorts, right? Or am I confusing it with something else?

    Okay, back to the topic at hand. As you stated, meta-gaming is, generally speaking, anything pertaining the game in question without actually coming from itself. The term literally means “beyond gaming”, with meta being Greek (again, fitting). However, some people claim that it is an acronym for “Most Effective Tactic Available”, but the term was coined far before that phrase. So much for me smart-assing around a bit. (Is that a word? Smart-assing?)

    You then go on to explain a bit about Hades (which is good because, as I mentioned, I haven’t played the game or watched you play, so I only know what you wrote here), but you made one crucial mistake, in my opinion. And that mistake was to read until now. Honestly, I have exactly nothing to say, and I wouldn’t have, if you hadn’t called me out 🙂

    But you did, and seeing as you always “complain” about my long-ass comments (I know you love them, though), it is the perfect punishment for your inexcusable crime of smack-talking me xD So here you have it, a monster comment saying absolutely nothing of any importance or significance.

    Okay, I really don’t expect you to read on, but just in case you do, I’ll write one more paragraph for you to enjoy. Honestly, this is just a boost to the word count, and I hope you don’t see this while skimming through. But as far as I know, people do tend to read the first and last portion of a text first, so here’s one last paragraph that sounds like I had said something meaningful above:

    So, all in all, it is hard to accurately pinpoint whether I completely understood your points or just misinterpreted it again, but even if that’s the case, I hope you could make some sense of my rambling and my arguments still hold some value. Or, at the very least, you learned some etymology…

    Peace out
    Quietschisto The Terrible, Tyrant of Typography and Despoiler of Dispute (I like that title, I think I shall keep it)

    PS: You spelled my name right! Noice!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Monster Hunter started as an action RPG on the PS2. I believe you’re confusing it with Dragon Quest. Or at least that is my best guess for a JRPG that started on the NES.

      I keep remembering that I don’t know how to spell it properly and double checking. I miss the c 100% of the time and add it in my “Quietschisto” edits.

      These comments perfectly encapsulate the difference between us, at least in terms of writing.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This reminded me of my current setup in Monster Hunter. My current armor set from the Nargacuga has the Peak Performance skill that increases your attack as long as you are at full health. It makes you want to avoid taking damage and using up heal items in order to stay at peak form for good attack points. It makes the pay of not worth it.

    Unless you have another skill to play off of it!

    Introduce the Resentment skill! As long as you have recoverable damage, your attack will be increased. This allows the player to go a bit wild and not worry about the dip in attack power as long as you have recoverable health to build up. With the Nargacuga armor also packed with Evade Window and a palico who loves to heal you back to full health, you are normally always left with high attack power.

    This is a fun set up for a dual blade user when entering demon mode. Attacks for days.

    You’re right. Meta-gaming is fun!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Holy moly. I never would have thought of that, but perfect example right there. Just take a few skills with synergistic properties, smash em together and see if what comes out is any good. XD

      Thanks for sharing.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. The great thing about meta-gaming is that it allows you to peel away layers. In this way you can start off in the shallow end and slowly submerge yourself into the depth of a game at your own pace. 😀

      And yes…definitely go play Hades hahaha.

      Liked by 1 person

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