Written by Phil Bruton Friday, 12 November 2010 05:00
“Abandon all hope, ye who enter here”
Dante's Inferno is the video game imagining of the first part of the famous poem, “The Divine Comedy” by Dante Alighieri. Inferno is the story of Dante's trek through the nine circles of hell, guided by the poet Virgil. The game version of this poem takes some liberties with the story, as it adds a reason as to why Dante descended into hell.
Dante is a Templar Knight General during the Third Crusade. He is ordered with the safety of Saracen prisoners, when they are brutally slaughtered under his watch. He is then tasked with the retrieval of a holy relic from the Saracen leader, Saladin. While on his way to gather the relic, Dante is stabbed in the back by an invader. He then encounters Death, who sentences him to hell for his sins, even though Dante was under the impression that his sins were forgiven, as told to him by a Bishop during the crusade. Dante resists Death, kills him and takes his Scythe as his own. Dante then leaves the crusade, stitching a cloth cross to his chest, as a constant reminder of his sins. When he returns home, he finds his Father (Alighiero) and his wife (Beatrice) murdered. Beatrice appears before Dante, who is then taken to hell by Lucifer. Dante curses Lucifer and vows to protect Beatrice forever, when a crack opens in the ground and allows Dante access to hell. It is here that Dante meets Virgil, who will be his tour guide through the nine circles. Virgil shows up from time to time to give Dante a lesson about the current circle that he's about to encounter.
The trip through hell is one heck of a ride. All the nine circles are wonderfully crafted and they're all very different from one another. Whether it's the molten gold river of Greed or the suicide forest of Violence, it all works very well. My only complaint is that the 9th circle (Treachery) is essentially just a short path to the final boss and it's not as fleshed out as well as the others. Thankfully the 8th circle (Fraud) more than makes up for this with the 10 trials of the Malebolge. The game does come off as a little dark (Hey, it's about hell, what do you expect?), but each level doesn't feel like a dungeon. Each of the circles have their own feel, not only visually, but audibly. Wails and moans are very prevalent through each level, as well as Lucifer's taunts. Each cutscene is expertly voiced, with the actors all sounding right for their parts. I've played many games where the audio and mouth movements don't sync, but that's not an issue here. You feel that it's the character delivering the line and it works. Graphically, as I said before, each of the circles has their own (some have multiple) theme. These come through in the graphic styling in each. The creatures that are encountered are nothing like what I've seen before in games, whether it's the large bulbous gluttons (guess what level they're introduced) or the unbaptized babies (no, not kidding) they're all well animated and very different from each other. Dante himself looks great in motion and all his different attacks and spells are very fluid and attractive to look at.
Dante's Inferno will draw ire as a God of War clone. These days, what action/adventure game can escape this comparison? Dante's Inferno does enough differently that I believe that it can be compared, but it still stands well enough on it's own. Dante has a specific move set when you first start the game; his attacks are limited and you don't have magic (yet). As you gain souls throughout the game (currency to buy new skills), Dante gets to make a choice. Do you want to be a crusader for good or a zealot of evil? This choice that you make through the game is how you'll decide where to spend your hard earned souls. In the game you're going to run into the “damned” souls, I encountered Pontius Pilate for example. When you meet one of these souls, you have the choice to either punish (evil) or absolve (good) their soul. Doing this gains you experience on your chosen path, eventually gaining you levels and unlocking new skills. I suggest that you choose a side early and stick with it throughout, there isn't a wrong choice as the ending to the game is the same whether you're good or evil. You will miss on some achievement/trophies by punishing certain souls though. There are other “collectibles” to be found through the game, such as relics, which Dante can level up and they grant him special bonuses. Dante unfortunately doesn't change weapons at all in the game, but the different magic skills that you pick up do help break that monotony.
Dante's Inferno isn't a masterpiece of modern gaming, but it is a very enjoyable romp through the nine circles of hell. Each level is crafted with love (or is it hate?) and they don't feel like any others in the game. Dante is a great protagonist and you truly feel like a part of the story as you descend into hell. The ending is probably what you'd expect, but that was the only time that I was even partially disappointed within the game. The ride that you get to take, following the advice of Virgil and looking over the shoulder of Dante is well worth the price of admission. I suggest this at the price point of $20 or lower, or equivalent to 400 Goozex points.
Trophy Hunter Addendum
This is one of the easiest Platinum Trophies that you're going to find and the quest to get it is actually enjoyable. The best part about this, is that you can play through the game on Easy (Classic) and you'll be able to gain all the trophies. There are no difficulty trophies for Dante's Inferno, which is great for Trophy Hunters. I suggest that you grab a guide for the collectibles (Coins, Souls, Beatrice Stones and Relics). The bosses are fairly easy to handle, especially once your combat cross is fully upgraded. Holy is the path that you'll want to max out first, then work on the Evil path. I had both paths maxed out about halfway through my second playthrough. Be sure once you beat the game to play the resurrection mode and load up your save file from your almost maxed character. It's much easier (and more enjoyable) when you can blow through the game and not have to worry about collectibles! The Platinum took me roughly 10 hours to complete and it never felt like a grind. Good luck!