Well I was going to write about my time in the Dragon’s Prophet and Neverwinter Beta until I noticed that I was technically under NDA so I should probably heed the warning until such a time as I am certain I can get away with it. So instead I’ll write about Hell, particularly the game Dante’s Inferno. For some reason its a very interesting game to me. While I’m certainly not religious the mythology behind Christianity is ripe with interesting stuff, most of which was in line with other myths of the ancient world like Egypt, the Mesopotamians and other middle east cultures from the dawn of civilization. Old monsters seemed to mostly be people with bovine features up to and including horns. But before I dig myself a deeper hole angering Christians, I mostly wanted to talk about this game and how it was almost good but ultimately failed to even live up to the very manufactured and fictional hype that EA built around it.
Dante’s Inferno was an entry into the hack and slash brawler sort of genre more in the style of God of War than Devil May Cry or Bayonetta. It took a fairly well known story with the Inferno chapter of Dante’s Divine Comedy which isn’t actually a horrible idea. The Inferno actually makes for a decent video game setting with multiple well defined layers with specific themes that easily translate into a video game, at least most of the time! Making it a hack and slash game works out pretty well for the gruesomeness of Hell. The other 2, much lesser known, chapters of the Divine Comedy (Purgatorio and Paradiso) wouldn’t have really fit the genre. They could have been made into a game though with some work, Purgatorio is defined by harsh and strenuous labor to repent for your various sins in life, so pretty much Mario Party. Paradiso on the other hand has almost no game qualities to it and seems to serve more as a comforting thought or stress free romp through a pleasing environment, so Dead or Alive Volleyball.
Dante’s Inferno starts off blasting out of the gate and maintaining the momentum for the first few levels of hell. The gateway is dark and foreboding with a ride on the river Styx and a fight with King Minos, Judge of the Damned. Then its the games Pièce de résistance with the circle of Lust, symbolized by a massive tornado with people flying around in it surrounding a evil monstrous penis-tower filled with demon babies and she-demons with vagina-penises that lash out at you like clawed tentacles. You are then forced to battle a giant demonic Cleopatra with a serpentine tongue and lapping nipple-mouths that spew forth demon babies as you climb to the top where she then vomits out a mangled demonic Mark Anthony to fight you. (note: I want the previous sentences etched onto my tombstone) Comical that the developers would blow their load on the sex themed level but really after this the rest of the game pales in comparison.
The next several levels have their moments but none as complete or well done as Lust. Gluttony certainly does a good job with giant vomiting mouth monsters and organs everywhere. Then greed which is like a volcano of molten Gold where you fight your half-pig father. Then Anger which has blood everywhere and while it looks like the environment from a Frank Frazetta drawing its just not quite up to snuff. Other than the people there who historically are associated with anger or at least spilled a lot of blood, it needed more. The best part of it is when you ride the giant monster Phlegyas on a rampage through the burning City of Dis. Violence is kind of neat especially the Wood of Suicides but ultimately short and bland. The biggest offender is next with Fraud. It sends you through the Malebolges which represent all the despised forms of Fraud like wizards and evil Popes, but really its just the same room over and over with a arena style challenge that really doesn’t related to the supposed theme of the level. Finally its Treachery, the cold final floor of Hell. Other than the final Boss fight after it all there is to remember is the icy bridge you have to walk across slowly. Fighting Satan is interesting in that it takes a while, is actually pretty challenging for this game which up until now had been pretty easy, also he has a giant hairy cock that flops around the whole fight and is about the size of Dante’s arm.
There’s so much about this game that’s a missed opportunity. EA made a bunch of stuff available for purchase like a bit of DLC, some costumes, and even in game currency if you are too lazy to earn it in game. Such an act on their part does little other than secure a place in Hell for EA’s decision makers. But whatever. Gameplay wise the combat is tragically shallow and Dante’s only weapon is the bone scythe. I suppose you could count the cross as a weapon too but its very limited, and the Spells you get are few and a bit weak. I did like how you had 2 trees to level up to earn new powers, buffs, and stats. Darksiders 2 had a similar one and I liked it there too. Also there’s a pretty impressive number of trinkets to hunt down that give you neat little boosts and what not along with references to historical atrocities, and I live for that sort of thing, I love collecting crap in games. They aren’t quite as neat as the rings in Zelda: Oracle of Ages/Seasons sadly and that’s a blown chance. They could have had some change your appearance and other goofy crap like that. And before you tell me that that would ruin the serious subject matter of the game remember that one of the DLC costumes is a Disco get up (Disco Inferno, get it?)
At best Dante’s Inferno is a mediocre game in pretty much all ways, gameplay, story, and presentation. But its like an underperforming student. I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed because I know they can do better. And I know that because of the Lust level. They took a pretty big risk by showing horrible things and sex organs in this game, also dead evil babies with knife hands that you can cleave in twain. The source material has vivid descriptions of all the levels of hell and there was really no good excuse for not at least matching it and exceeding it to really make players uncomfortable and horrified. That’s why the Inferno is the most well known of the Divine Comedy, eternal and ironic torment is so much easier to wrap your head around than bliss. They were already taking a risk by making a centuries old story about a still practiced mythology and its still believed interpretation of Hell, but they just don’t go to the same length as the real Dante Alighieri. Hell they even missed a great opportunity for Easter eggs by putting well known employees of EA in hidden spots in Greed.
In the end I still like the game to some degree, but I just wish it was more. It’s worth playing as a case study. Analyze this game and study what went wrong and what could have been done differently and better.
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Kimo is a contemptuous old coot. With experience in video games dating back to 1988 and a schizophrenic range of games he boasts an impressive range of knowledge of gamings best, and worst. Dwelling in the desolate wastes of the American Midwest he brings to Z1Gaming a perspective that looks for positive qualities in even the worst games.