When I was younger I barely knew anything of Dante’s Inferno other than that some of my friends were required to read it for a literature class and it sounded like it had a cool name. I knew the epic poem described the nine circles of Hell and thought ‘Boy, I bet that’d make a good game’. Then in 2010 Visceral Games came around and put out a loosely-Inferno based game titled Dante’s Inferno.
The story of Dante’s Inferno (herein ‘Dante’s Inferno’ will refer to the game, not the poem) is a loose retelling of the poem, using the standard ‘save the damsel in distress’ plot. You play as Dante, a templar type crusader who finds his wife Beatrice murdered and attempts to save her soul as it is dragged through Hell. It’s a decent enough framework to craft an interactive plot from a poem that’s basically about a guy wandering through Hell and taking in the sights, but to any gamer it’s nothing more than another ‘Your Princess is in Another Castle’. In fact, my last review (Shadows of the Damned) has near the same exact plotline and didn’t rely on the name or settings from a classic piece of literature (yes, there is a difference between inspired by and modeled after). The story is even further muddled by characters that aren’t very deep, even Dante himself is portrayed very simply in most of his journey through hell and we only get a sense of who he really is by cartoon-style cutscenes depicting his past and how each circle of hell applies to something he’s done in life. But even showing us his background doesn’t give us his attitude or style, it’s just another story tacked on to a lifeless character and works only to save the game from having a truely boring hero.
Any PlayStation owner who has seen any speck of gameplay from Dante’s Inferno knows the gameplay looks similar to the God of War (GoW) games… because it is. Almost every major piece of gameplay in this game is a slightly-modified copy of the GoW series from the quick time events to the experience/ life/ mana orbs. The only difference? Dante’s Inferno doesn’t have the polish over the gameplay to prevent the game from simply seeming cheap in certain areas. Enemies you fight are annoyingly difficult only because of their attack patterns. For instance, the standard enemy type has a basic attack where they jump up and swing down at you…. pause… and swing back upwards. It doesn’t seem like much, but that pause throws off the entire concept of a smooth combo system like GoW’s. It’s just annoying to block an attack and have to continue to hold block for another 2 seconds waiting for that same enemy to finish his attack animation, especially when surrounded by several other enemies. It’s even worse when you successfully block and unblock to attack only to be struck by the upswing.
The big difference to the gameplay in Dante’s Inferno is the inclusion of two skill trees: Holy and Unholy. Instead of all experience going into one large bucket, you gain Holy experience for good things (like absolving enemies) or Unholy experience for bad things (like punishing enemies) and spend them in the appropriate tree for upgrades and new abilities. It’s interesting that some abilities in the Holy tree require purchases in the Unholy tree and vice versa. The skill tree is nice but the idea is flawed. If someone wants to be completely Holy, they need to unlock items in Unholy which common logic denotes as the opposite. It’s like playing a game where to be nice to someone, you need to first be mean to them to be nice. Like playing Fable and only being able to give your wife a gift after smacking her. It leads the player to wonder, what’s the point of a ‘good vs bad’ tree when good relies on bad? The whole point of having two opposing sides is to force the player to choose one with differing consequences on one against the others. And in this case, Dante’s Inferno shows no consequences on choosing one against the other other than altering your play style, which a simple single talent tree could handle. It just reeks as a way for the game to tout a whole ‘karma’ system that, in the end, seems tacked on without being completely thought through.
Dante’s Inferno has a pretty standard look technically and is generally solid. For a game based in the circles of Hell, it does the atmosphere quite well and the technology powers a diverse art style. There are thousands of tortured souls found in the architechture and throughout the machinery and it’s rare you’ll see the same model multiple times (certain models are re-used). However, the camera is annoyingly bad in some scenarios and you’ll be fighting enemies in a corner sometimes behind something and can’t see what’s happening. It seems like some of the ‘protection walls’ (invisible walls placed to prevent the player from falling off the level) aren’t refined enough. Some areas you couldn’t fall off the level if you tried and others you’ll easily run off a ledge after the camera flips through a doorway too slowly. In fact, during one boss battle I found myself stuck in a corner in a circular arena being beaten mercilessly.
Dante’s Inferno isn’t essentially a bad game, it’s just a very derivative copy of God of War with little going for it other than a well done art style realized through the technology. The game is worth playing if you are a fan of God of War but waiting for another installment or are interested to see what Hell looks like (for better or worse).
- Consistently unique visuals
- Decently solid implementation of gameplay for the genre
- Derivative of God of War
- Good vs Evil system with no in-game consequences
- Dante is a dull character
- Unnecessary nudity for females… and demon(s)