For the past several months, I’ve dedicated an embarrassingly large percentage of my life to working my way through Hades—an amazing video game—using all the available weapons to beat the game on the rather difficult “32 Heat” setting.
If you also play it and want a challenge, I hope I can help. I’ll be covering general tips, how to go faster for the Tight Deadline pact, helpful boons and keepsakes, and a list of all the successful builds I used.
Many, many spoilers for Hades follow. You’ve been warned!
Setting the Pact of Punishment to 32 Heat is the thoroughly unnecessary difficulty level that unlocks the last of Skelly’s equally unnecessary gift statues. Because 32 heat is quite hard and the statues are the final unlockable reward in the game (outside of badges and trinkets that only require grinding through lots of runs), being able to beat the game at 32 Heat is the Generally Accepted Marker™ that you are not terrible.
This came about because I was grinding up the heat ladder and had a particularly good build with the Fists where I cruised easily through 10 heat.
So I thought, “huh let’s jump right to 16 Heat for the next Skelly statue” and notched another easy win.
So I thought, “ok boyo let’s try 32 Heat” and died. Quickly and violently.
To reach 32 Heat you have to take lots of pacts, alterations that make Hades an entirely new game. 32 Heat is rough.
Yes all of them. It’s good to have an arbitrary stupid goal sometimes.
Going into this, I thought some weapons wouldn’t work at all. I actively hated several aspects. But Hades is balanced so well that any of them are viable in a variety of ways. Although I was tempted to throw out the weapon and go for Hunting Blades sometimes, I now have a greater appreciation for many of these.
I’ll let you in on a secret: I am not actually that great at this game! Nothing replaces practice, but here are some helpful resources I leaned on:
Hades Weapon/Boon Guide by dstritt: this self-described “remarkably overwrought” guide is a great resource to learn about proven boon and weapon pairings. I’d say its advice is more defensively and survival oriented.
Hades High Heat/Challenge Runs and Hades 32 Heat Speed Run records: All of these high heat or high-speed runs have videos. Watch a few of these for some ideas to go faster. If a build can work on ultra-high heat, it can also work on lower heat. Also, it’s oddly reassuring to see these wizards take damage and die here and there. This game is hard.
My average clear rate at 32 Heat is about 1 out of every 6 or 7 runs. Starting out it was more like 1 in 20, but I got better as I went along. If you’ve gotten used to relatively easy clears on lower heat, this is pretty tough to swallow. It’s hard! But it’s supposed to be hard! That’s OK!
My experience is that you’ll ping-pong between hardly dying on a particularly good run or dying err, a lot, on most runs. The Lasting Consequences pact does not affect how much life you get back from Defiances, so curing via Stubborn Defiance is the source of most of your healing. I was never above clearing a room close to death and then jumping in the lava to recover more health for the next room.
Especially if you get Patroclus and his Touch of Styx Dark that takes your life recovery from 30% to an outlandish 80%. Depending on how late in Elysium you see Patty and how many tunnels you get in Styx, you can still have it active at the final boss. I have several clears without Touch of Styx Dark, but many leaned on this.
Although with Stubborn Defiance you’re always on the knife’s edge of losing, there’s so much more potential healing on offer that I think it’s worth it.
You can also put coins toward getting stronger instead of restoring lost Death Defiances, which are outrageously expensive with Convenience Fee.
Finally, it’s also a little more relaxed, if you want to call it that, in the early game. You can take some hits in Tartarus or die to Alecto (goddamn spinny things) and it’s not a big deal. You’ll probably be taking a lava bath real soon anyway.
If you can work out reliable combos using the basics of the weapon and a handful of common boons, you’ll be in much better position than barely scraping by and praying for an extremely necessary Duo or supplementary boon that might never show up.
But those extremely necessary duos might show up! Or you might get some epic Hermes or Chaos boon that upends things! You never know what will happen, so stick in there even if you’re convinced the run is doomed to failure. One example: one run with the Nemesis blade I was using Death Defiance and had a stupid death in Tartarus and two more stupid deaths in Asphodel, but in Elysium I got Double Edge and Heart Rend and 2 more dashes from Hermes and Patroclus and turned everything around.
I still barely won but I did it!
Hang in there. Just like when first starting out with Hades, if nothing else you’ll probably learn something.
Three things that are helpful here for controlling your builds: first, each run will try to keep you to 4 gods (not counting Chaos and Hermes). You can force more with keepsakes, but then you’ve got even more gods in the pool and you’ll be less likely to get any particular god later on. The takeaway here is if you’re planning on forcing another god in Asphodel, take a maximum of 3 different gods in Tartarus.
Second, selling a boon does not remove the god from your pool, so that’s not an escape hatch.
Third, the game tries real hard to fill your Attack-Special-Cast-Dash-Call slots, so if you’re fishing for tier 2 boons, duos, or legendaries you might want to fill those so you stop getting offered a cast you don’t care about every time.
Take your time in the courtyard and understand every shortcut or combo that’s available to you. Here’s a few things that weren’t immediately obvious to me:
On the Rail and Fists you can hold down Attack and tap Dash to continuously attack, dash-strike, and immediately resume attacking to float like a butterfly around enemy attacks while continuing to sting like a bee.
With the Gilgamesh Fists you can hold down dash to continuously dash and dash-strike.
The game-altering trick for the Arthur blade is that you can dash in between and during the windup of the powerful swing attacks to reposition yourself or change direction. It isn’t that slow once you know this!
Given the choice, I opted for harder normal encounters with the less horrible final boss.
Hard Labor (0–2 🔥): I usually kept this around 20%, because with Forced Overtime you’re gonna get hit.
Lasting Consequences (2 🔥): 50% was my sweet spot where you’ll still get some healing at fountains and 2HP recovery per room with Cthonic Vitality. I have a few clears where I maxed this, but it makes a run extremely dependent on getting Patroclus.
Convenience Fee (1–2 🔥): It hurts to make boons cost 270, but you can typically pull that together before the final shop on each level for Underworld Customs. That said, if I could swing more Hard Labor or Jury Summons or Damage Control, I was always thrilled to lower this.
Jury Summons (0–1 🔥): I tried to keep this at zero to help with Tight Deadline, but sometimes I had to go higher to account for other things or if I was really confident in the weapon. 20% you’ll barely notice; 40% and up you’ll definitely feel.
Extreme Measures (6 🔥): The first two ticks make the Furies and Lernie trickier, but EM3 truly hurts. Asterius on EM3 is a beast, and, worse, is juiced up for mid-Elysium miniboss fights. At least EM3 Theseus is easier, I think: he doesn’t have his shield at first, his joyriding follows a predictable pattern, he’s wide open to backstab or Rupture damage, and you have lots of time to avoid his bombs. Hell, he even sits still throwing confetti around sometimes. You should try the EM4 fight because it’s metal as hell but pass on high heat given that you’ll probably be on a timer, have a less-than-ideal build, and he’ll probably be moving faster and hitting harder from the other pacts.
Calisthenics Program (0 🔥): Even 1 tick will add thousands of HP to the bosses, not to mention giving more armor to armored baddies, who are soon to be your worst nightmare. That said, I’ve been playing on Hell Mode where 1 tick of this is mandatory and I barely notice anymore.
Benefits Package (5 🔥): Two perks in some combinations are a nightmare. Get ready to lose big chunks of health if you run into Cloner + Savior Numbskulls, Speeder + Seeker Witches, or Speeder + Slugger Slamdancers (oh sorry you blinked and lost 28hp). Still, 5 Heat is a lot and it doesn’t make bosses or minibosses any harder.
Middle Management (2 🔥): The enhanced minibosses aren’t much harder with some practice. The most troublesome change for me was the Megagorgon in Asphodel, because the Skull-Crusher hits hard, your build might not yet be in a good place to handle it, it’s tricky to hit both with a summon, and you might still be roughed up from the Furies. At least the Witches Circle is mostly unchanged ie still horrible.
Underworld Customs (2 🔥): You can spare 3 boons per run. That said, many runs had me scrambling to get enough coin to buy a potential throwaway boon at the shop before each boss. You can re-roll the choices with Fated Persuasion if the initial choices are all important to you; all the more reason to not take Routine Inspection. Pro tip: if a room reward is 3 boons that don’t care about, take the highest rarity one so you can hopefully sell it later for more money. Unwanted Duos and Legendaries (it happens!) are 400 coins, which opens up a ton of other options.
Forced Overtime (3–6 🔥): These are brutal, so it’s good they’re 3 Heat each tick. Every time you up this, throw away at least 10–20 runs adjusting to the faster enemies. Both ticks is borderline unfair, especially with Speeder armored baddies moving even faster. The first time Asterius charges at you will be eye-opening. Give FO2 a try for a bunch of runs. Even if you can’t make it work, when you go down to FO1, the game will feel easy in comparison.
Heightened Security (fuck right off with this): Me: “Sure, I’ll take this. I never hit traps!” Also me: [Hits traps constantly, turns out]. This will ruin your run probably half the time. So will Tight Deadline 3, but that’s 6 heat, not 1. Take this once for the prophecy and then never again.
Routine Inspection (0 🔥): The first tick you give up re-rolls, greater odds of epic or legendary or duo boons, and much greater odds of Gold Laurel rooms (read: boons and health, both of which you need desperately at high heat) from Dark Foresight. No thanks.
Damage Control (0–2 🔥): I see this frequently called “free heat”, but I loathed it. Sure, it hardly affects boss fights, but even with one tick, you’re kneecapping your ability to drop charged attacks, rail bombs, casts, and summons on spawning or unaware baddies. Nothing worse than seeing Battie’s 2500hp explosion wasted on a blue heart. Rooms with large spawns of Numbskulls and Pests and Flame Wheels and Vermin that should be 1-shot by most aspects are now horrid timesinks. I only took this in 3 specific circumstances: Lightning Strike builds, Hangover-centric builds, and the Rama bow where you have to hit everyone with your special before bringing the real pain with the shared attack damage.
Approval Process (0–2 🔥, rarely): Horrid. I swear this one always knows exactly which boon you want. If you don’t need many specific boons or a particular Hammer, 1 tick can be workable. The Arthur blade comes to mind here, because that can go a long way with any percentage-based attack boon. The Rama bow is kind of a beast by itself, too. Fated Persuasion re-rolls can help in a pinch, so, again, never take Routine Inspection.
Tight Deadline (3–6 🔥): It took some adjustments (see below), but any aspect should be able to clear TD2 with 7 minutes per biome. Five minutes for TD3 is a gamble, especially if you’re not used to really hustling, but I did this with most aspects.
My first clear took 58 minutes (wooo Stubborn Roots!), so the idea of beating a run in less than 20 seemed impossible, but now I’ve done it with almost every weapon. And so can you!
You might argue that 6 heat from Tight Deadline 3 rules out 3 heat from Jury Summons, 2 heat from Calisthenics Program, 4 heat from Extreme Measures 4, and 2 heat from Damage Control to make the deadline manageable. And you probably have to take Chaos or a shop instead of a different room reward you might really want. And, yeah, no friend rooms, a 4–5 tunnel Styx, or rooms filled with Bruiser Greatshields can ruin a run. That seems a bit off-kilter!
On the other hand, Tight Deadline itself doesn’t inherently make you any weaker or baddies any stronger. And it turns out unceasing aggression is a pretty viable and fun way to play.
Clear everything near the entrance and move back towards the exit. Later spawns will generally be close to your position, and you want to be near the exit (or Well or Chaos Gate) when the last baddie dies.
The friend rooms, which you would probably take anyway, stop the clock. But you should also take every mid-biome shop, hop into every Chaos portal, and check every well for Lights of Ixion for even more Chaos. Taking Chaos is risky, but he counts as a room and he’s fast. Go for the least-horrible bane, not necessarily the best boon. The only exception is if Chaos appears in the last room before the pre-boss shop (chambers 12, 22, and 34), don’t take him, because that’ll be an extra room.
You’ll get into a rhythm eventually where you’ll clear a room and quickly place yourself in a position to see all the exits, then immediately pause when the rewards are revealed. You can take your time deciding; just do so with the game paused. Do the same thing in shops. The in-game timer doesn’t run when choosing boons or poms or from the Well, so don’t be in a hurry then either.
This sounds fairly obvious, but killing things faster is always better not only for meeting deadlines, but also survival in general. Nothing in this game attacks fast enough to kill you if you can kill them first or kill them quickly.
Almost without exception, dash-strikes are the ideal balance of speed and damage. Even when you wouldn’t expect it! The bow’s dash-strike doesn’t hit quite as hard as the regular attack can, but it charges twice as fast, so you do damage faster.
You can strip off armor or skip entire phases. I typically save them for Asphodel and later, but extra summons from the Well are relatively cheap if you burn them early. You can slam out Battie the instant the Theseus & Asterius fight starts and it’ll hit ’em both for 2,500, lopping off a huge chunk of their health and saving a ton of time.
I personally waffle between Battie and Antos. Battie can do more damage overall if you’ve got multiple targets, but she can miss. (Here’s a guide for aiming and timing Battie that I found very helpful.) Antos will do more damage to a single target and can’t miss, so that’s handy for later boss phases.
I sometimes get tunnel vision and ignore these. Casts hit hard and sticking casts give you an damage boost with Boiling Blood, all the better to take down Bruiser armored baddies. It can be quicker in Tartarus to fire your casts at a semi-distant Pest or Witch instead of chasing them down. If you don’t have a call you don’t have that potential source of damage or support. I really like calls that are impactful with one bar like Zeus or Dio so you chuck those out more often and clear regular rooms faster.
Tartarus has the steepest increase in difficulty on high heat and it’s the longest biome. If you’re flexible with your build and it’s attack-heavy, an instant 100% bonus attack damage from the Shackle is tough to top. Use it to punch through Tartarus quickly and see what gods are on offer, then adjust keepsakes before Asphodel.
Obviously don’t, like, try to die but you can give up a little health against bosses to hit them a few more times if given the opportunity. For example, when Theseus does his call he’s totally open to attack. So you can dodge every explosion or you can dash around wailing on him, taking a few hits but possibly taking him out before he puts his shield back up. If you’ve got the health or extra defiances against the final boss, go to town instead of dodging. A clear with barely any health left is still a clear.
I’ve done EM4 with 32 heat with several of my favorite aspects (and the Lucifer Rail for some reason). For those runs I made the following adjustments:
dropped a tick of Forced Overtime;
dropped a tick Tight Deadline (it’s a long final fight);
added ticks of Jury Summons or (ugh) Damage Control to make up the heat;
switched back to Death Defiance;
used Bouldy to try and stay topped up and avoid blowing a life.
You’re looking to make Daddy minimally extra-horrible and go in with as many Defiances as you can manage. For melee weapons, Athena was near-mandatory for Divine Dash and hopefully also Sure Footing for the ubiquitous green pots.
After that, it takes practice to learn the changed attack patterns. I also strongly recommend ignoring the summoned minibosses during the first phase; they take way too long to kill.
I’m not gonna list every good boon, but these were some broadly useful additions to murder things quickly or stay alive at high heat, in no particular order:
Lightning Rod (Zeus ⚡️ and Artemis 🏹 duo): I’m never actively going for this duo, but it’s unlocked with Zeus and Artemis in any of the primary boon slots so I see this all the time. It’s not the quickest or most noble way to kill things, but you can chuck out your stones and let the passive bolts wear baddies down or pick off Exalted souls while you attend to other matters.
Heartbreak Strike or Flourish (Aphrodite 💝): The combo of highest percentage damage boost and conferring Weak status for automatic damage reduction is real strong. You can technically get higher damage output with Artemis and all her support boons, but Aphrodite is almost as strong, consistent, gets you halfway to Privileged Status, and effectively extends your life.
Electric Shot (Zeus ⚡️): Other casts can hit more things or hit harder, but Electric Shot is a good balance between damage, projectile speed, and the ability to hit multiple baddies without perfect aim or enemy grouping.
Divine Dash (Athena 🛡): No shocker here.
Holy Shield (Athena 🛡): I ignored this on lower heat, but it gives you effectively the same benefits of the Broken Spearpoint. By making you briefly invulnerable after taking any damage, you avoid chunky combo damage from swarms of fast-striking enemies or Witch projectiles or Daddy lasers.
Last Stand and Defiant Stand (Athena 🛡): Athena’s secret weapon are these 2 boons that restore lost defiances. I learned this from Reddit user Piyamakarro: if you’re running Stubborn Defiance and die in a room where an Athena boon is the reward, then take one of her defiance boons, you get an extra defiance that sticks around until you die twice in a later room, which can be a real run-saver.
Hyper Sprint (Hermes 🕊): This or Greatest Reflex (more dashes) are close to mandatory with Forced Overtime 2, especially to get away from over-caffeinated Asterius and Hades. I typically go for Hyper Sprint because it happens automatically and gives you Sturdy to make up for mistakes.
Merciful End (Athena 🛡 and Ares 🗡 duo) or Deadly Reversal (Athena 🛡 and Artemis 🏹 duo): A solid build strategy I found for high heat is “get Athena first and see what happens.” Merciful End and Deadly Reversal turn that security blanket into, uhh, a ferocious security blanket. Both are hugely enhanced with Divine Dash which you’re probably going for with Athena in your god pool. If you get both Merciful End and Deadly Reversal, that’s some truly beautiful carnage.
Aphrodite’s Aid (Aphrodite 💝): Many runs were saved by insta-nuking Theseus or Lernie or Daddy for 3000 HP to immediately end their final phases as the Tight Deadline timer ticked down. Just make sure not to fire it when a boss is near a phase change.
Dionysus’s Aid (Dionysus 🍷): Probably my favorite call to take as it’s best at 1 bar instead of needing the full charge to really shine. Though, really, any call is worth taking to unlock the amazing post-call boons like Billowing Strength and Second Wind.
Second Wind (Hermes 🕊): At high heat, 30% dodge chance after using a call is possibly more valuable than whatever the call is doing. Especially if you get Rush Delivery so the movement speed boost is also a beefy damage boost.
Tartarus: God keepsake of choice for the planned build. At 32 heat I’m not here to try to run the super-slow Arthur blade with a Zeus attack. I want my primary damage boon in place ASAP.
Asphodel: Different God keepsake. Maybe the Coin Purse if I already had the gods and major boons I wanted. Maybe the Sigil if I hadn’t picked up a call and I was fishing for other boons or duos with my existing god pool; if you have the Sigil equipped, you can’t get offered call boons at all and therefore increase the odds that you’ll get other boons you might want more.
Elysium: Usually a defensive keepsake (more on those below). Sometimes if the Well had a particularly useful item, I’d take the Bone Hourglass to make Jerkies or Hydralites or Prometheus Stones last through all of Elysium and a good a chunk of Styx. 23 Chambers of Touch of Styx is hard to resist.
Styx: Defensive keepsake
I went back and forth between the Spearpoint, Sigil, and Acorn for defensive keepsakes.
The Acorn can nullify huge amounts of damage, but sometimes you’ll lose it to a pack of summoned skulls and be filled with regret. And it’s no help in regular encounters.
The Spearpoint saves you from nasty combos like getting stuck in a green pot or stacks of poison or if you get caught in Daddy lasers. I lean towards this over the Acorn for EM4 because the fight is so much longer.
The Sigil is nice if you’ve been ignoring your call slot. At full call, five seconds of invulnerability with a ton of bonus damage slaps. And it insta-poofs Daddy’s skulls and clears poison if those are overwhelming you.
This is a favorite recipe of mine for melee weapons: Dionysus attack and Aphrodite dash. Baddies just melt with hangover and Privileged Status.
Is it flashy? Nope! Does it work? Yup!
From there, there are helpful duos galore:
Low Tolerance so you can lay on 8 hangover stacks? More damage!
Curse of Nausea for faster hangover ticks? Free damage!
Splitting Headache for increased crit chance with each stack of hangover? If you add Pressure Points, everything can crit, so Splitting Headache can make that particularly vicious.
Heart Rend can beef up the Nemesis Blade or an Artemis special on the Demeter Fists.
One fun variation is the Chaos Shield—the perfect Hangover weapon—with Aphrodite on attack and Dionysus on special to immediately apply 5 stacks after a Bull Rush.
A particularly spicy twist is the Achilles Spear with Aphrodite on the special. Rush right through a baddie. Boom, Weak. Stab ’em once in the back. Blam, Privileged Status. Hey you have 3 more boosted things to do after Rushing and 3 bloodstones. Enjoy how hard casts hit with 190% bonus damage. True Shot doing crits for like 1200 feels pretty good. Probably most things are dead now, but if not, charge and stab away until they puke up the bloodstones.
While I don’t love the Zeus aspect of the Shield (Chaos is my jam), I do love finding new ways to kill Theseus. My favorite new way to kill Theseus is wrecking his chariot and then sliding my spinning lightning death disk on top of him:
That figure-eight I was running wasn’t strategic. That was just for me.
I was unaware that you could combine Cluster Bomb with Rocket Bomb to shoot 5 rockets at once. That shouldn’t be a thing! I was also unaware that standing in any rocket’s blast would trigger the Eris aspect’s damage buff.
Throw any percentage-boosting special boon on there (this has Athena) and end Daddy’s entire 2nd round in under 20 seconds.
If you were wondering if I was saying “Kablooooom!” every couple of seconds, I absolutely was.
I died many times trying to crack Guan Yu. The built-in 50% life reduction is awful. Even though you can heal with the charged attack, that proved too slow, unreliable, and dangerous with Forced Overtime. I’m probably missing something.
Someone on Reddit pointed me towards the Charged Skewer hammer and things clicked. I threw Poseidon on because the knockback gave me more time to charge the next shot in regular encounters. 400 a pop even at low levels’ll do.
This was just one of those runs. I had Merciful End halfway through Asphodel, then I started piling on the usual goodies like Blinding Flash for Privileged Status and Impending Doom. Then I got an Epic Greatest Reflex for 5 dashes. Then Deadly Reversal. Then Demeter showed up and an Epic Rare Crop took Impending Doom and Curse of Agony to Heroic during Styx.
Not even a 5-tunnel Styx filled with Bruiser rats is gonna stop you when your Doom drops crit for around 1,500.
I’m not sure how this build could be improved… maybe Zeus instead of Demeter for Billowing Strength might be more damage? Maybe the Sigil? Use Gilgamesh for 1 fewer total dashes but go for Hyper Sprint with Rush Delivery? There’s always something…
In Tartarus, Louts rear up and then charge, just like Meg does; she’s just faster. Pests create little circles of destruction that you have to dodge out of, just like Meg does; she just lays down more of them.
In Elysium, Asterius charges at you just like the giant Chariots you fought in earlier rooms. If you try to run away, they move faster than you do and you’ll get hit. You might have figured out that the counter for the chariots is to dash through them, not away from them. Same trick works for Asterius.
The bosses are by far the most dangerous parts of the game, but even when you’re not fighting them, you’re getting a little practice in. What a brilliant bit of game design.