Embrace Hades with Cerberus and the Shades of the Underworld in TROY: MYTHOS

A Total War Saga: TROY

Ben Barrett
August 17 2021

That malevolent howl greeting you back to TotalWar.com would suggest that you’re here once again to talk about MYTHOS and our third, final, and ferocious mythological beast, Cerberus. Hound of the Underworld, Guardian of Hades, three-headed dog and the most vicious creature in existence, Cerberus brings the brutality of the afterlife to the battlefield. 

The Myth behind the Monster 

Cerberus may be the most recognisable mythical creature of all time. The hound of Hades is the inspiration – direct or otherwise – for any number of creatures throughout popular culture, now and in history. 

The origin tale is commonly agreed to be the Twelfth Labour of Herakles (that’s Hercules again, Romans), when the mighty hero captured Cerberus and brought him from the Underworld on command of King Eurystheus. This was not something the King actually wanted, having instructed Herakles to do it simply because he believed it impossible. Indeed, in many renditions, the sight of the mighty Cerberus scared the King greatly. Herakles then returned Cerberus to the Underworld after parading him around Greece – or he eventually escaped his would-be master and went back to Hades on his own. 

His legend, however, only really grew from there, being featured in works the ancient world over and even much later in things such as Dante’s Inferno. Today the name is used as commonly as the beast itself to refer to any number of fictional clandestine organisations or especially malicious characters throughout videogames, films, and manga. More than once, the mighty guardian has been reduced to an adorable pupper, rather removed from his original, menacing self. 

Our version guards the Underworld, as he must always, but will bring his power – and that of the Shades of Hades, those great warriors lost in battle over the eons – to any that can capture and tame him as Herakles once did. 

The Quest for Cerberus 

Everyone knows where Cerberus is, they just don’t know where that is. Simply reach the Gates of the Underworld and the hound will be waiting for you – unlikely to be friendly, but that was never promised. Finding the Gates of the Underworld, however, is the part of your Mythic Expedition that will take the time. You head south, naturally, towards Eleusia. Here the cults of Demeter and Persephone perform the Eleusinian Mysteries every year. Perhaps their priests can offer some assistance. Your adventure begins thus: 

The path towards the Eleusinian holy grounds is littered with poppies. Red blooms float at your feet, as though disembodied from their stalks. Young women fill baskets with them.  

Your guide, a young Eleusinian priest named Thriseros, tells you that Demeter herself made the flowers grow under her feet on her journey from Crete to Eleusis, a last desperate resort to lead her daughter to her. Persephone loved poppies and painted them with special care.  “Their milk gives sleep and solace,” Thriseros says, “final solace, for some who need it.”  

At the threshold of their temple, the pale Eleusinian priests in their dark blue robes are waiting for you.  

Cerberus on the Battlefield 

Cerberus is, quite literally, a force of nature. While he may bow to you for the moment, it is only because this allows him to personally shepherd more souls to Hades, something he is extremely efficient at. Indeed, the more chaotic a battle and the larger the casualty count, the more powerful Cerberus and his servants become. The beast itself is already a titanic creature of untold fortitude, strength, and speed, making him easily the most powerful thing on the field and the match of heroes and monsters alike. 

As well as being a terrifying beast capable of breaching city walls and never fleeing from combat, Cerberus does not come alone. The powers of Hades follow their beast to the surface, giving Cerberus access to the Fires of Phlegethon, mighty pillars of flame that scorch the battlefield. He can also summon Shades to his side mid-battle, the powers of the Underworld never being too far away to provide reinforcements. 

Finally, the howl of Cerberus reverberates through all creatures as the inevitable call of death. It is unnerving to all, friend and foe alike, and can prove crucial for showing opposing armies the futility of their actions. 

Cerberus as an Agent 

The key resource for Cerberus, perhaps unsurprisingly, is souls. The more mortal remnants are dispatched back to Hades, the more strength Cerberus can draw on. Your deal with Hades is one-sided – you fuel the Underworld, and it repays you with but a fraction of what was sent. Souls are generated through just about everything Cerberus does, from simply taking part in battles, to sacrificing captives or sacking cities. Cerberus can also target enemy armies and settlements to draw Souls from. 

These are spent on a collection of new buildings and units, as detailed below. Shade units do not cost food, but Souls, along with other resources the more powerful they are. Maintaining the natural flow of humanity to the afterlife will keep you well-stocked in favour. This can in turn be used on putting Shades to work in your settlements, increasing output of all resources in that province. The constant upkeep of Souls can be challenging to supply, though the unique Cerberus buildings provide a steady income. 

These buildings are required to recruit Shades, which do not replenish or cost upkeep, and can be hired instantly in Cerberus’ army when called upon, but are recruited normally for others. Cerberus brings a lot of potential flexibility to the campaign map, all built around the harvest of souls. 

The Army of Cerberus 

Wretched Shades 

The Wretched are a depressing sight, the fate of all who do not make a name for themselves in life and sink to the depths of Hades without incident. The lowliest of the slain, the basic warriors of Cerberus’ army, they are neither especially skilled nor well-armed. However, undead warriors are still hardy foes for mortals to face, and the spears and shields of the Underworld are just as effective as their real-world counterparts.  

Notable characteristics: 

  • All Shades are Unbreakable and have the Revel in Death trait, which powers them up massively after a certain number of deaths on the battlefield. 
  • As basic Shield & Spear infantry, Wretched Shades are good on the defense but lack the punch of a good attacker – their three-headed master is wise to use them for holding the line. 
  • Several really sad ghosts, if you’re into that sort of thing. 

Marksmen of Elysium 

Heroic archers, great hunters, bowmen of incredible renown – all make up the ranks of the Marksmen of Elysium, the hallowed fields of the Underworld where the mighty gather to live the afterlife they earned from heroism or favour from the Gods. Called once more to battle, they enter the fray as arrogant as ever, unimpressed by the marksmen of today. It is a sad and doomed army that finds itself on the business end of a volley of the Arrows of Phobos. 

Notable characteristics: 

  • Outrange everything else on the battlefield with their bows. 
  • The Arrows of Phobos sap the strength and morale from those they impact, further supporting your front-line forces. 
  • One does not become a renown warrior of Elysium without above-average competency for melee combat, making the Marksmen fierce fighters even outside their element. 

Spearmasters of Elysium 

Each Spearmaster is a warrior of great prowess. They enjoy battle as the living might enjoy wine, grapes, or the companionship of a lover. They are the betters of the Wretched Shades in almost every way, though weighed down by heavier armour and there are, simply, less of the extraordinary than the mundane. Still, a unit of the Underworld’s finest is likely a match for anything the mortal realms can offer. 

Notable characteristics: 

  • Brilliant defenders, including a bonus against flanking that sees them hold a frontline like no other. 
  • The Pact of Punishment can return them to the Underworld in exchange for a final burst of incredible power. 
  • Proud of themselves for their status in the afterlife and delighted to be entering combat once again. 

Giant Shades 

The afterlife is not limited to merely humanity. The Giants make a home just as comfortable in Hades as anyone else, and they are even more desperate for a chance to stretch their legs. Lumbering into battle with giant clubs and no shields, their mighty attacks should be feared. As an Ancient battlefield motto goes: ghosts are bad enough, but big ghosts are not something to mess around with. 

Notable characteristics: 

  • Unflankable, fearful, and nasty. Giant Shades are a horrible thing to face on the battlefield. 
  • Experts in melee, or simply larger than most things they face, Giants do massive damage with wide, sweeping attacks. 
  • Revel in Death will pump them up to incredible numbers, making them a ludicrously powerful final charge against a near-broken enemy. 

The power of the Underworld is not to be trifled with, and Cerberus will happily teach your enemies this with a vengeance. Work with him at your peril and know that, eventually, you will be in his domain, whether you are victorious or not.