Ranged attacks are conducted through Beatrice’s cross, which you pick up early on in the game. Combo moves for the cross are considered under the Holy spec, whereas scythe moves are built up in the Unholy spec. You can increase your level in either specialization by either absolving lost souls in Hell for a Holy path or punishing them for the Unholy path. I personally chose to focus on Unholy first given the cheesy bursts of crosses in what appears to be various dance moves in the Holy specialization. However, you’ll have the opportunity to boost both specializations fairly high if you do choose to do so, allowing you to dabble in both forms of fighting style.
Your magic abilities are picked up along the way, and can be boosted in both specializations, as well. There are four to locate, most of which are both incredibly useful in a tight spot and fun to use.
Fighting style can be very versatile considering the abilities and options you have at your disposal. This is important because certain enemies will require heavier attacks, or can only be reached with your ranged attacks. Enemies that swarm you in packs can be easily dealt with with a lunge of spikes from your Righteous Path spell ability or Sins of the Father that shoots crosses at your enemies. I vary my fighting style from sweeping attacks mid-air, to heavy blows from the ground depending on what enemies I’m facing or even what mood I’m in. The versatility is open enough for fighting to never be a bore.
However, you won’t just be fighting as Dante with your scythe and accumulated magic; you’ll also be playing the role of a parasite, riding various demons and beasts to use as your deadly host. You get a chance to hone your ninja skills with swift splicing attacks and darting across the floor, but you can also partake in some brute force battling by taking control over giant beasts.
Although the game has that hack and slash, leaping across walls of corpses to grab ropes made of bone kind of feel, there is also some great variation to gameplay on a wider scale. You’ll find puzzles and contraptions to tinker with that will require some experimentation, thought, and a little bit of death. Some of this variety produces exciting moment-to-moment fun and has you jumping wildly in a timed dance against swinging blades and flying enemies. Or perhaps you’ll be leveraging a door open as it struggles against you while fighting off bullheaded demons. There are even challenges represented as the Malebolge (set in the eighth circle) to put your fighting skills to the test with bonuses at the end of each round. Fighting definitely stays original throughout your expedition of Hell.
Playing through these aspects of gameplay I was reminded of the sort of Prince of Persia fighting as well as distinct platformer qualities of having to make the perfect jump to catch a ledge by the skin of your teeth. What’s particularly interesting about the platform type of gameplay in Dante’s Inferno is the variety of obstacles you’ll be encountering. Ledges won’t be the only barriers to overcome; you’ll have to maintain your step on spinning gears, or time a jump from rotating blocks.
The game, therefore, requires a lot of trial and error. It’s fun to learn from your mistakes each time, both in terms of leaping from falling boulders as well as perfecting a battle scheme. You’re not a badass ex-crusader for just any reason; it’s up to your skills as a gamer to make sure each move is practically flawless. Fortunately, Visceral made a pretty reliable camera focus to ensure obscured views are not a threat to hindering that skill.
Part of what provides the gameplay diversity is the environment itself. Each “map” – or Circle of Hell – is unique from the other. Hell is definitely an interesting and unique place to be traversing in terms of an environment for a video game given its open-ended quality that is just waiting to be visualized. You’re cutting through the stomachs of demons to enter doorways rather than simply opening them, and breaking down statues of demons with glaring eyes and huge axes to help you cross to the next path.
I was happy to see some creativity implemented in the environment, although still not without the feeling of Prince of Persia or God of War. Every new area of Hell I traversed felt very much appropriate to the sin or sinners it meant to represent. The look and feel, and enemies and bosses included in each area were very much their own. Each map introduces very unique new enemies, and bosses are definitely not excluded from this fact. Each boss makes the pace of the game challenging – which is always expected – but also exciting for what more there is to come.
Dante’s Inferno is also rife with collectibles. There’s always an extra ledge to be found with a hidden soul to claim or relic – which, when equipped, modifies your abilities or can give you bonus benefits – to uncover. At the same time, however, the maps aren’t too extensive, but fairly linear. So if you like the idea of exploring to find hidden items, you’ll certainly find it in Dante’s Inferno, but if you’re hesitant to tackle a game that likes to overwhelm you with mystery treasure chests, you wont have to worry with this game.
Beating the game gains you special features (movies, playbacks of cut scenes) and new game modes. One such game mode is Resurrection, which allows you to play the game with all of your accumulated abilities. Conveniently, completion on any difficulty setting also unlocks the Infernal difficulty mode, which should be easier to complete with Resurrection. Gates of Hell, another bonus to beating the game, is Dante’s Inferno’s horde mode and allows you to gain experience points towards building Dante’s abilities.
Considering our copy of Dante’s Inferno is the Divine Edition, you might also like to hear of the extra content included. The Divine Edition comes with the full Divine Comedy poem, soundtrack, concept art, and a rough timeline of Dante’s life. More exciting, however, is the scores of documentaries and shorts available as well as a sketchbook of concept art by visual designer Wayne Barlowe. There are definitely enough extra features to tide your curiosity over in the Divine Edition.
Although the plot and dialogue are lacking, if you’re looking for a game with nice graphics and fun gameplay with versatile moves and abilities that never tire, Dante’s Inferno can certainly offer that much. For a game that boasts a connection to the ancient poem, however, the storyline could have been formulated in a much more entertaining and involving manner.
If you want to discuss what this means for its monetary value, my fast answer is to wait for a sale or rental. Paying $60, I’m sure you will expect to have a good experience on both the gameplay itself as well as the storyline you’re meant to be immersed into. You’ll only get half of that from Dante’s Inferno, so we’re down to $30 value. Put into account that the game didn’t even take me a full 8 hours to finish and you might be down to a $15 value depending on where your loyalties are.
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Dante’s Inferno is an incredibly fun game with exciting and fast-paced gameplay. However, with a dull storyline experience, Visceral gives me no choice but to call the overall experience of the game mediocre. Of course, if you’re looking strictly for the fun of the gameplay, you can be assured that they’ve delivered on that end.
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