The lights are on
Receiving Dante’s Inferno from GameFly.com far from its release date, I am well aware that most things to be noted about this game have most likely already been said. Having said that, my current boredom ( and qualms with this game, for that matter ) keep me from passing over this review. So I’ll do my best to spare you from a Dante’s Inferno review clone, though Visceral Games didn’t spare us from a shameless God of War rip off!
Visceral’s Representation of Hell:
Moving on, I’ll begin with the level design, or rather, the interpretation of Hell from the game’s source material of the same name. Now, I was right along with the majority in thinking, “a classic poem as video game source material!?” and “but, but... Dante was a poet not a crusader!” However, I do also admit that the following thought also passed through my mind; “Traversing the nine levels of Hell? Sign me up.” Needless to say, I started off with quite the mixed bag.
Without spoiling anything more than what the back of the box and the first five minutes of gameplay will tell you, the story does not take its sweet time getting to the good stuff. You realize early on, as Dante chooses to ignore the simple fact of his own death and instead decides to slay Death himself, that you aren’t in for a walk in the park. Within minutes of booting up your console and inserting the disc, you will already be greeted at Hell’s welcoming gates as their esteemed guest. Or something like it, anyway.
As you descend through the cavernous maw of Hell, there will be few signs of hope or encouragement urging you along. The levels are dimly, yet adequately, lit. The colors are primarily the grays of shadow and rock, and the red flames of fire pits or enemy attacks, with the only pure whites coming from Dante’s garbs and scythe, or blasted forth from his absolving cross weapon. You, perhaps more than Dante himself, will feel isolated, as well as damned, on your gloom filled journey.
The enemies you will be up against range from grotesque gluttons, who spew forth harmful vomit and excrement (depending on where you stand from them; gross!), to un-baptized spider babies. To be more specific on the latter, the babies' arms have all been replaced by razor sharp blades, confining them to scrambling along on all fours. It must have been some labor for those poor mothers. Limbo, the level in which the un-baptized baby enemies first appear, brought me joy to play, knowing that someone, a concerned mother or religious fanatic perhaps, was enraged at the same sight.
As noted prior, like with Limbo and the un-baptized babies, the enemies appear in the logical circle of hell to which they would be confined. While a pretty obvious and necessary thing for the developers to have done, had the enemies been introduced in a haphazard fashion I would have been sorely disappointed. Thus, you will encounter “spider-babies” in Limbo, behemoth gourmands in Gluttony, carnal succubae in Lust, etcetera, etcetera. The only problem with this is, as the game progresses and the less singularly sin-specific circles of Hell unfold, prior enemies are simply recycled. An example of this is, during the end of the game, an entire circle of hell is devoted to ten identical arena battles with different goals for each. I would have much preferred that segment as an optional arena side game accessible from the main menu, like the God of War arena. ( Doh! Now I’m encouraging the God of War rip offs! )
For the most part, I was pleased with the presentation of the game, with segments such as the boiling river of blood to be remembered for some time after returning the game to GameFly. On to the game play!
This is the part of the review where a well versed gamer cannot possibly go without reference to the God of War series. The replicant nature of this game has been amply stated, and is by no means a secret at this point in time, yet I feel like I must make some small mention. For, if all game developers virtually stole the mechanics of another game, just to slap on levels and a plot, we would have lost the brilliance and originality we have come to love in video games. That’s my two cents, anyways. ( But REALLY, how was some form of legal action avoided?... If I were a developer of God of War, I'd be troubled by this. )
To expound on that thought, I’ll go into slight detail of Dante’s shameless Kratos copying. Not only is the combat virtually copied, Dante’s weapon of choice is practically the same as well. You see, Kratos, of the God of War series, wields the Blades of Chaos; blades fashioned to his arm by chains, allowing him to swing them a varying range of distances manually. Now, Dante wields a scythe. How can the developer make a scythe stretch to reach enemies in both the close, mid and far range, like Kratos? Simple! Give the scythe an expandable and retractable vertebrae shaft! Why didn’t I think of that? I tease; I actually found it to be quite awesome.
Okay, honestly. I can deal with the combat mechanics being taken and slightly tweaked. They were amazing in God of War so they will be here too, right? Sure. My problem is that the developers seemed to trace over every single aspect of God of War when making this game. The magic system, the wall scaling, the puzzle solving, the door-opening for God’s sake- just play it. You’ll see. It was totally unnecessary for certain parts to be similar to God of War. Now that that is out of my system, I can move on to praise the game for what I actually enjoyed in it.
A feature, not stolen directly from God of War, was the skill tree. You can earn souls in various ways throughout the game ( substantially from slaying enemies ) that you can spend on active or passive abilities in both the Holy or Unholy spectrum, depending on which crusader Dante you prefer to play as. What I enjoyed more than the crisp, fast paced action, was judging the souls of historic people, the most notable of which being Pontius Pilate, the man who condemned Christ to death. Choosing to condemn or absolve the souls adds respective Holy or Unholy points. These choices can make the difference between what achievements you unlock, to what magic and weapons you will prefer to use, allowing some depth to supplementary replays.
Just one note to make on the above mentioned skill path: Reading a prior review here on GameInformer, I read that choosing Holy or Unholy is rather equally balanced. I happen to disagree with that statement. User Craigaleg says, in his review (which I much enjoyed reading), “The great thing is that one side is not necessarily better than the other, allowing you to customize based on personal preference.” Craig, I found, going full Unholy, that the last boss was a little too difficult. After struggling with it for a while, I went over to YouTube. What I saw there was a full Holy Dante do what I had not been able to do with ease.
To my knowledge ( I only played the game through once, so I can only speak surely for the Unholy skill tree ), the Holy path has access to heals and protective spells, as well as a strength boost in the weapon that is the final bosses’ weakness, whereas the Unholy side has upgrades in attack magic and scythe skills. I found no problem until the very last fight in the game, which is primarily why I was so caught off guard. This is just a point I am making; feel free to play the game as you choose. You will find that if you cannot defeat the final boss, dropping the difficulty to the equivalent of “easy” on the fly will not rob you of a beaten game achievement, and there is no “normal difficulty beaten game” achievement to be had, anyway.
In closing, this game is worthy for the sheer fact that it was modeled after a poem and wasn’t an utter failure. I for one was shocked. If you enjoy Dante’s Inferno, go play its replica work, God of War, and enjoy it better!
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