The Underworld of Greek myth, sometimes called Hades after the self-same god that rules it, is where the souls of the dead live out their eternity. It is not a single place, instead split into different areas depending on the life you lived. These areas shift and change with the soul and the story, but are always where the departed dwell.
In Hades, the underworld is split into the four major sections: Tartarus, Asphodel, Elysium, and the Temple of Styx. Though the journey culminates in reaching the surface, the underworld itself is the real star. Every region is great in all honesty, but some just leave a very strong impression.
A region that many players may not have ever visited. Named after the personification of Darkness, Erebus is treated as a challenge realm within the game. It can only be accessed through Infernal Gates, which themselves are a random spawn, and require increased Heat through the Pact of Punishment with each region. It's no easier once you're in either, having to defeat whatever enemies Hades throws your way without taking a single hit.
Due to only actually having two designs and being easily missed, Erebus is far from the most memorable region. On top of that, they're a massive challenge mixed with their own difficulty and your Pact of Punishments on top. That said, it's a dark and eerie place in an oddly alluring way, with sharply defined walls and pillars with decadent gold filigree all around. Oh, and you can also fight Charon here, if you choose to steal from the Ferryman of the Styx.
Asphodel of Greek myth is one that is written about much less, and for good reason. It was not a grand place for heroes, nor a place of punishment for sinners. Instead, it was seen as a place of balance. Those who lived lives of no particular note dwelled here, though whether this was truly neutral or a form of shame changes over different tellings. In Hades, Asphodel falls between Tartarus and Elysium, two extremities of the afterlife. Seems fitting then that it's for the average soul.
Despite the mundanity of its purpose, Hades has it depicted as a flaming landscape like the inside of a volcano after the river Phlegaton flooded it. Now, it looks like a land of punishment, akin to many depictions of Hell. In terms of appearance, it's the least striking of all of Hades' regions, fire and brimstone being a fairly common depiction of death, after all. But then it also has Lernie the Bone Hydra, and they're one of the most loveable fellows in the game, so that nudges the region up a bit.
3/5 Temple Of Styx
In myth, Styx represented two things. One was the river that flowed through the underworld which the dead were transported down, the further in they went leading to more punishment. The second was the Primordial Being Styx, a child of the titan Uranus. As such, the Temple of Styx in Hades can be seen as a temple to her and the river, both being central to the gods and the underworld.
The Temple of Styx functions differently from other regions. Where the others have you progressing through a set amount of random rooms, Styx has you choosing your rooms, but never knowing which one will actually lead you to the end. It's a big gamble being so close to the end of your run. You could finish it in a single room, or need to go through all of them. Plus it also has those damn rats. It's not always the most fun region for how some of the enemies are, but it's also the most unique gameplay-wise.
Like Styx, Tartarus is seen as both a location and a being. As a location, it is the deepest part of the underworld, as far apart as Earth is from the Heavens. It is where souls are tormented and punished for eternity, and also the prison of the Titans following their war with the Olympian gods. As a being, they are seen as one of the primordial forces of existence, and in fact are at times seen as one of the oldest pieces of existence in general. In Hades, seeing as you start at home, it is the very first region you explore. And just like the tormenting prison it was envisioned as, you'll spend a lot of time there too.
Tartarus is a gloomy place, filled with souls that can deal out as much punishment as they've suffered. It's characterised by deep green flames and crumbling stones. It's not meant to be fancy or awe-inspiring. It's prison and punishment, plain and simple. However, it's easily the region you'll spend the most time in, and it's impossible not to fall in love with. Plus having Megaera beat you into submission — even if you romance her — is a special kind of love.
Elysium is one of the most detailed aspects of the Greek afterlife, and one that went through dramatic changes throughout history, both intentionally and through contradictory tales. Originally a resting place only for the gods and their loved ones, it became wider until it was the home of all the heroes of Earth. Indeed, Elysium was envisioned as a paradise where warriors could live out their glory days forever, or drink of the River Lethe to forget their mortal woes. In Hades, this is presented identically.
Being a place of such high prestige, you'll encounter the souls of plentiful legends both sorrowful and boastful. You'll fight chariots and skilled warriors, and all of it against the backdrop of beautiful fields and running rivers. Everything is opulent and grand, yet simultaneously soothing. It represents all the parts of the afterlife that someone blessed in life could want. For Zagreus it's just another distraction, but it's a joy to play against enemies who thought they'd have a peaceful eternity.
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