Developer: Visceral Games
Release Date: February 9, 2010
Pros: Slew of magic and relics allow you to customize to preferred style, morality affecting combat allows for further customization in which one is not more powerful than the other, Environments are well designed and true to the poem, Incredible sound
Cons: The novelty starts to fade after the first few circles *cough* Fraud *cough*, Must play "Absolve-Hero" to save someone, Camera angle has gotten me killed more than the enemies, If I have to mash the B button one more time....
The Divine Comedy is the last source material anyone would have considered when making a video game. Visceral Studios begged to differ, basing an entire game around Dante's descent through the nine circles of hell. The result is a roller coaster of a hack and slash that, though satisfying, leaves a little to be desired.
Dante's Inferno loosely translates the poem of The Divine Comedy...and I do mean very loosely. You play as Dante, not a poet, but a crusader. He is...well...killed and refuses to accept it, killing Death and taking his scythe. He returns home to find his wife taken by Lucifer himself and gives chase through the circles of hell to retrieve her. You make your way along all circles of hell battling demons and disfigured entities with the sole purpose of getting her back. There is more to the story as usual, with the high points delving into Dante facing his own sins as he progresses through the circles. One of the biggest plot points that confused me was left unanswered...why is Dante the only guy who thought, "Oh I'm dead? Pfft, screw that." No real explanation is given as far as why he is the only guy that decided to fight Death, but hey, I guess he is just cool like that. Virgil, the "poet", acts as a spirited adviser, quoting the work and explaining exactly where you are located. His conversations are always enjoyable to listen to, I just wish I didn't have to continually press the right-bar to keep it going.
The environments in the game are a treat to traverse. You can tell that they drew a lot of details from the source material, with the result being a truly disturbing tour through hell. From rivers of boiling blood in the Violence circle to the giant...*ahem*...members...of the Lust circle, you really feel as if you are spiraling into a dark pit of eternal suffering. Though many elements tend to repeat and blur together in later circles, the first few circles of hell are a great sight. Character models, though not as incredibly detailed as one would like, still maintain a presence of intimidation. There are gluttons coated with slime, prostitutes that lash at you with...their...tentacles, and incredibly disfigured and frightening bosses. Not to mention the great detail taken into Dante's model, complete with a particularly shiny scythe and cloth that flutters about as you jump around.
The high point of Dante's Inferno lies in the sound. That seems like an odd thing to say, but the second you start fighting it becomes apparent.The ping of the cross as toss bolts of light at the enemies, the clanging of weapons together, and the shrill cries of the enemies all combine together to further enhance the experience. Though the soundtrack may leave a little to be desired, the voice acting holds up well enough to tie the whole package together.
Alright gotta make it through this review without mentioning God of War. So the game plays similar to God of...CRAP! Starting over.
The game works much like any other hack and slash. You fight your way through bosses, platforming sequences, puzzles, and hordes of enemies to advance. Killing enemies or finding secret fountains yield experience that you spend to acquire new moves and level equipment. Relics act as "equipment" and give special abilities such as increasing damage or adding protection, furthering customization to personalize Dante. While there are other elements thrown in, the large majority of the time will be spent in the combat. Though satisfying as it may be, the puzzles and platforming do little to really mix things up. Luckily, the combat ends up being increasingly enjoyable as you unlock the better moves and magic. Boss fights also prove fun, with some of the early fights proving the most intriguing.
There is a "morality" system in place that offers a little variety in the gameplay, with little effect on the story. Pursuing the Holy path greatly increases the damage you do with the cross, and also offers powering up certain magic. The Unholy side greatly increases the damage you do with the scythe, providing a more melee based character. The great thing is that one side is not necessarily better than the other, allowing you to customize based on personal preference. Gaining holy power and unholy power depends on whether you absolve or punish the sinners you run across in the levels. Only problem is that when you choose to absolve, you end up playing a very slow, boring Guitar Hero like game. They try to become increasingly difficult, but just end up slowing the fast paced nature of the game. This influenced me to go Unholy...as I'd rather just impale someone's face than repeat that minigame.
My main problem with the game lies with the camera. Fixed in place, there is little you can do to move it where you need. This becomes a problem when platforming, as multiple deaths were the result of not knowing exactly where I was in reference to the tiny platform I was jumping toward. Where this really ruins the experience is in combat. That's right, you will be attacked by enemies completely off screen. Nothing is more annoying than racking up a killer combo only to have a random fireball or enemy come in so fast that you have too little time to react and lose it all. Being hit by my own wrongdoing is one thing, but to be continually pummeled by bats shooting fireballs from the corners of my television is just irritating.
The only other real problem I had with the game is the large amount of time you will spend mashing the B button. I have never mashed this button so much in my life. You mash B to open doors, you mash B to absolve/punish an enemy, you mash B to get health and magic from the fountains, you even mash B to save yourself from enemy grapples. I am not sure if the letter B is hellish in some way or the red color of it influenced the developers, but by the time I was finished I could not feel my thumb. You couldn't throw in a simple button sequence or joystick twist?
Now I've tried to keep God of War out of this for as long as possible, but this is the huge comparison many have made. I will say this....it is a really close clone of the game. The magic system, the style of combat, even the platforming seem incredibly too similar. Every game takes elements from other games or is inspired to utilize a system that works in a different manner for their own game.....but man did they do little to hide it. Anyone familiar with the God of War series will see sections taken straight from the GoW textbook (rope segments, the boulder segment, levers and boxes galore). This is not necessarily a bad thing, as this style of gameplay is pretty enjoyable. The only problem being that they really did not feel like risking anything new or inventive, which may have hurt the game in the end as most simply view it as a rip-off.
Dante's Inferno is a fun experience overall, but left me a little...unsatisfied. With a little more time taken into doing something different and improving a few of the game mechanics, this could have been a title worth the pricetag. At its present state, however, it remains just a "meh" hack and slash with a great opening. In no way is this a terrible game, but it did not win me over.