Quick poll: Who ever thought that video game developers would draw from early 14th century poetry for their inspiration?Â I’ll be the first to say “Not I”.Â However, the minds at Visceral were sharp enough to realize the potential for a game based on Dante Alighieri’s work and ran with it.Â As paraphrased from an interview we conducted with them about a month ago, “Dante painted an incredibly epic setting for a video game in his poem.”Â They failed to mention that their adaption may have Mr. Alighieri rolling over in his grave.
As most are well aware, Dante’s Inferno is a very, very loose interpretation of the original work.Â In this iteration, Dante is a blood-thirsty Crusader that comes back home only to find his wife, Beatrice, murdered and then dragged to Hell by Lucifer right in front of him.Â Blinded by love, Dante has no problem diving straight into the depths of Hell to rescue her.Â However, it doesn’t take long to figure out that this trip isn’t only about Beatrice; it’s also about Dante atoning for the sins of his past.
Once on his journey, Dante quickly comes across small armies of demon minions.Â Among others, there are unbaptized babies, giant gluttons, winged demons; you get the picture.Â Luckily, Dante is well-equipped with the perfect yin-yang of armaments – Death’s Scythe for close range melee attacks and grabbing, and the Holy Cross for ranged attacks.Â To compliment these two weapons, there are two skill trees that you can upgrade throughout the game.Â The Death Scythe is upgraded by filling in the ‘Unholy Path’; the Holy Cross, obviously the ‘Holy Path’.
There are several opportunities to earn experience for either of the skill trees.Â Most commonly, there are several enemies that you can grab and finish off by either ‘punishing’ or ‘absolving’.Â This is done through the hate-’em or love-’em quick time events that the hack-n-slash genre has become so well-known for.Â Also, there are 27 famous tortured souls hidden throughout the game (notable people that Dante came across in the poem) and Visceral gives the player a Bioshock-esque moral dilemma with each one.Â Either you can punish or absolve these Damned.Â Be aware that if you choose to absolve them, you’re put through a 40 second mini-game that, in my opinion, completely kills the flow of the game.Â If you’re lucky enough to find all three of the Beatrice Stones, you can forego this chore and auto-absolve the Damned.
The best part of Dante’s Inferno is, hands down, the amazing imagery it presents throughout the entire game.Â There are so many moments that make you stop and say “Whoa”.Â A small example was the first time I realized I was climbing on a wall of bodies that were screaming at me.Â My favorite moment was a cut scene that kept panning out further and further to give the player an overwhelming sense of enormity for the rest of the journey.Â A staple of this genre is ‘epic’ scenery and ‘epic’ boss battles.Â Dante’s Inferno definitely delivers on both of these fronts.Â It really is something that you have to see first-hand to fully appreciate.
Unfortunately, Dante’s Inferno isn’t without fault – not by a long shot.Â The problem that I experienced the most often dealt with the fixed camera.Â Haven’t we come far enough along in video game history to be able to control our own camera by now?Â Is that just a privilege that I haven’t earned?Â Whatever the answer is, Dante often took the elevator to the bottom of Hell because the camera too-regularly made it frustratingly hard to judge the jumps.Â It seemed as if the developers knew that this would be the case because you never spawn too far back after you die.Â One puzzle that comes immediately to mind takes place in Gluttony.Â In this instance, the camera is fixed in such a way that Dante is no bigger than a speck on the screen.Â It took me way too many tries to pass this section just because of misjudged jumps.Â This is the type of cardinal sin that belongs in one of the lower circles of Video Game Hell.Â (See what I did there?)
Another pitfall of Dante’s Inferno is that the combat seems somewhat uninspired.Â Sure, the skill trees give enough combos and maneuvers, and there are a decent amount of magic spells to learn.Â However, it’s tough to shake the feeling that spamming the light attack button (X) and the Holy Cross button (B) may be effective enough to get you through any situation.
Ultimately, the biggest problem with Dante’s Inferno is the game’s length.Â I’d estimate that an average gamer will finish a normal playthrough in 10-14 hours.Â Nowadays, that just doesn’t seem like long enough of a campaign.Â On the flip side, maybe it’s a good thing; maybe it would’ve outstayed it’s welcome if it were too much longer.Â Without wishing to spoil anything, beating the game will unlock a few extras that may keep you interested enough to give it another play.
The bottom line on Dante’s Inferno is that it really is an enjoyable title in the “turn off your brain and kill everything on the screen” type of way.Â As stated above, the visuals are incredible.Â I’d go so far to say that some of the imagery from the game may be what people who’ve played it think of when Hell is mentioned.Â They did a fantastic job giving each circle it’s own personality and unique feel.Â The story isn’t mind-bogglingly good, but definitely entertaining.Â But, again, my biggest concern is the duration of Dante’s Inferno, which is why it will make a good vacation and new experience, but most likely won’t become a staple in your game library.