Review: Dante’s Inferno

Dante’s Inferno Review

Visceral Games

Electronic Arts

2010

What determines good or evil? Is it our choices and actions, how we live our life, what we stand for, or is it what we believe? Judeo-Christian theology teaches us that in death a soul can be judged and spend the rest of eternity in Heaven with the pious and just; or suffering in Hell with sinners and the evil of the earthly world. Visceral Studios’ “Dante’s Inferno” tells the journey of a crusader’s corruption as he traverses the depths of Hell seeking to redeem the murdered soul of his beloved Beatrice. While the game draws from the literary tale of warning, this experience is more memorable than any tome of morality.

You play as Dante, a crusader and warrior who has betrayed the trust and love of his wife Beatrice while occupying and brutalizing the denizens of a city in the Holy Land. Dante is then killed, though defeats Death, returns home to find his family and beloved to be murdered. Dante pursues Beatrice’s soul into hell as Lucifer lures you into his domain. Beatrice beseeches for a guide to help you in your journey and his name is Virgil. Virgil will provide you with information as to where you are, who is here and why these souls are condemned.

The gameplay is “hack-n-slash” format and plays quite similarly as the “God of War” franchise. What “GoW” has done in the past, “DI” does better, making attacks across the board simple to execute and finely tuned. The overall difficulty is challenging and as your characters attributes increase. Dante becomes more powerful and efficient and makes short work of enemies.

“Dante’s Inferno” applies some RPG elements by having two skill trees and items or relics to level up. As you destroy enemies, you have the choice to “Punish”, “Absolve” or slay them. Punishing earns you “Unholy” experience while Absolving earns Holy and slaying them earns neither kind of experience. There are certain items that will give a percentage increase to either experience and there are achievements/trophies tied to reaching the max level or both trees. When you kill an enemy you also collect “souls” and those serve as the currency for upgrading attacks. You will only be able to upgrade attacks or use certain relics/items if you have unlocked a higher level of either skill branch. Maxing out either branch will not effect the ending to the game though what will be effected will be what kind of basic attacks are more powerful; the “Unholy” branch makes your basic scythe attacks stronger while the “Holy” branch will strengthen your Cross (ranged) attacks.

DI is one of the more visually appealing games available currently. Other games have rendered cities and beautiful landscapes though what Visceral was able to do in creating a visually stunning but truly gruesome and hellish world is something to behold. Though “hack-n-slash” games are linear, Dante’s delivers the scope that you are only experiencing one small segment of the Circles of Hell. Each Circle is represented by a Cardinal sin feels disconnected and expansive because there each area feels completely contained with a sky, land and unique environment. Each sin has its own scourge and motif. Anger is volcanic, Gluttony is bloody and digestive and there are plenty of caverns and caves afoot.

Visceral Games delivers the cut-scenes in three fashions: gameplay, cinematic and animation. Boss fight finales use the in-game engine to render cuts scenes whereas more memorable or important scenes are done using the cinematic engine which is quite polished and refined; and Dante’s flashbacks are done in animation. Each scene is spread out and unobtrusive and adds depth to the characters and story.

For the most part, the sound is forgettable. There’s a constant wailing of the damned in every region paired with the constant grunts of Dante’s attacks. There is an orchestral background at certain points though, this isn’t a game that makes you want to run out and buy the soundtrack. The voice acting for the cut scenes is well done and you can tell that Visceral took the game seriously and makes the player hope that each actor returns in the sequel.

Overall, Dante’s Inferno is a great game and worthwhile experience. The combat and gameplay are fun, the cut-scenes are well made and the environments are some of the most memorable and awe-inspiring this generation. What makes this game unique is the setting, both in time and location. This isn’t a mediocre action platformer, but a serious story and that deserves respect on it’s own for a medium starving for respect and validation. The game ends on a cliffhanger though I don’t know where Visceral expects to take the sequel, or for how long. Luckily the universe and story are contained and deep enough so this game won’t get turned into an annual release or cheap cash-in series.

OFR Rating: 4 out of 5 – Let’s Get It.