I watched a Zero Punctuation video a few weeks back and got a little offended. While the video was funny for the most part, Yahtzee spoke of a certain game’s central theme by asking “do you remember that lust level in Dante’s Inferno? Actually, I should ask, do you remember Dante’s Inferno?”.Of course I and many other remember it very fondly. Then again, many others shrug it off and say “wasn’t that the game which stages angry Christian groups outside EA and came out between Bayonetta and God of War 3?”.
Yes it was.
Let the Punishment begin!
Dante’s Inferno had the perfect concept for any gamer. Go through Hell in God of War fashion that ramps up the original source material to extreme degrees of action adventure. It came out at a bad time, literally between two very good hack and slash adventure games. It still got noticed, but maybe not for all the right reasons.
As you expect, you play as Dante, who’s very different from the book. This time he’s a Knight’s Templar, a crusader waging war in the holy lands who’s had enough. He returns home and discovers his father and beloved wife have been murdered and the soul of his deceased loved ones have been taken by Satan. So it’s up to Dante to venture through Hell to battle his way through legions of demons and to confront some difficult truths.
Hell in the most Hellish way
Now, the plot is very different from the actual book. Dante’s a poet venturing through Hell to discover the purpose of his life. Here, there’s a new and interesting dynamic which lends very well to the book’s central themes. The voice acting is very good and the cinematics are stunning. I did find issues with the third act’s pacing (among other problems) and the “twist” was so obvious. It’s clear from the first ten minutes what’s going to happen.
In terms of presentation, I will be honest and say it’s hit and miss. AS stated before, the cinematics are great. The visual designs of Hell, demons, and things such as partial effects can either be very good or slightly poor. Even in 2010 the game still warranted this praise and criticism. Things like muddy water, fleshy walls and various demons and bosses look amazing. But then, the fire effects look a little flat and I’m surprised as it’s Hell. Isn’t 60% of Hell basically fire? Overall, though, Hell is pretty stunning. Its design has had a lot of love and care poured into it. The soundtrack is consistently spot-on with great atmospheric scores that unnerve yet sound eerily beautiful.
Gameplay-wise, this is properly the best God of War clone ever with tightly-knitted hack-and-slash action which has some engaging progression elements. Dante’s Inferno‘s key mechanic is the ability to punish or redeem lost souls and demons to level up. Punishing lost souls earns Unholy, or by saving them, Holy experience which can be used for the diverse skill tree. Dante can evolve his taste for the darker side or level up his holy stature. Each side of the skill tree has its own skills and perks to master.
Players can learn brutal and devastating attacks through the unholy skill tree or develop holy maneuvers such as wide attacks, handy for dealing with masses of enemies in a single swoop. There’s a fair few skills to learn. They all feel useful and enjoyable to execute. Having to save or punish demons and lost souls gives a little more depth to progression. It also allows players to break up combat by purely fighting everything head on or being more tactful and utilizing enemies to gain extra experience.
I will say that while I understood why holy experience is harder to obtain, I wish the “sin eater” mini-game was a little faster or had a bit more variation. Bumping up the difficulty later in the game might have helped.
Hack, Slash and repeat
Most aspects of combat are very enjoyable, including some epic boss battles which rival some of the best from God of War. When you’re not brutalizing, you’ll explore and engage in simple problem-solving or taking part in one of the big set pieces, such as riding a titan through the City of Dis. The lateral moments aren’t usually that great as they tend to be very simplified, painfully long-winded, and dull. I do love a good puzzle, but compared to games like Soul Reaver, which had various dynamics to make puzzles enjoyable, Dante’s Inferno resorts to typical drag block, jump here, run through a slowly closing gate and so on. It’s nothing truly bad, but extremely dull compared to the remainder of the game.
Otherwise, there’s quick time events, beast riding and other things God of War did, but Visceral Games added their own touch of magic to it.
The Big pain?
Now I come to what is Dante’s Inferno‘s biggest problem – The third act.
It’s undeniable that when you come across a major plot point towards the end of the game, things get a little “uninspired”. It’s clear the developers ran out of time or just couldn’t be bothered to flesh out the later circles. Thus, we get repeated enemies from earlier stages with nothing new for the lower circles of Hell (except for some Templar Zombies). There are still some great visuals and interesting concepts for boss battles and set pieces, but they take a back seat as everything goes on auto-pilot. There’s very little happening in the 7th circle of Hell where Thieves and Con artists go. It’s just a boring mash-up of mindless chores. Sort of how God of War, towards the end, decided to throw in “kill as many enemies, quickly” events for no good reason.
There are still some good moments as stated, including a scene with Dante’s mother which is sad, but even the epic fight with Satan is just …. Meh. Then we get the “twist” at the end and everything seems all fine. It would’ve been great if there were multiple endings or just a better end-boss. The game’s third act just show signs that developers didn’t have enough time to make it stronger.
The Perfect Journey through Hell?
Dante’s Inferno is still a very enjoyable game with some interesting mechanics for the hack-and-slash genre and with some impressive visuals (for the most part). But then it’s let down by a dull third act, a weak twist, and an epic battle with Satan that’s just okay. Still though, it’s worth checking out!
While God of War gained more attention and a bigger fan base. Dante's Inferno is still a hack and slash worth checking out and has some awesome visuals and boss battles to make the journey through Hell worth while
- Awesome visuals
- Great sound design
- Engaging combat mechanics
- Dynamic skill tree branches
- Story is a little weak
- The third act gets lazy in many ways
- Exploration is a little dull
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