Visceral Games has reshaped Dante Alighieri’s classic poem into a relentless third person combat game. In this version of Dante’s Inferno, the protagonist is not a poet, but a veteran of the crusades. I guess a knight has a bit more to offer in the action stakes.
As Dante, your aim is to slice and dice your way through nine levels of hell to liberate your beloved Beatrice from Lucifer’s clutches. With a scythe obtained from Death himself and a glowing crucifix inherited from Beatrice, you’re equipped to deal with anything that gets in your way. As you progress, you’ll have to choose between punishing and absolving the wretches of hell. This will determine whether you accrue holy or unholy points, which can be spent on enhancements. Unfortunately, if you absolve a sinner, you’re plunged into a button matching mini game to capture their souls. This becomes tiresome very early on in the piece.
Upgrading your holy and unholy abilities enables you to face down increasingly lethal foes while also greatly enhancing gameplay variety. For example, a holy ability may allow you to sear your foes with cross shaped projectiles, while an unholy ability may enable you to launch your enemies into the air and cut them to ribbons with your scythe. Having a decent balance of holy and unholy abilities comes in handy, especially later in the game.
The level and character designs in Dante’s Inferno are often genuinely creepy. In the Greed level, you’ll witness souls drowning in molten gold, while in the Sloth level a horrid creature is intent on having you for lunch. The imagery and enemies you face in the Lust level will probably make you wonder whether this Beatrice chick is really worth the effort. Even the supposedly milder Limbo level is nothing short of horrendous. Here we learn the fate awaiting unbaptised babies. Apparently they deserve to languish in Limbo with hooks for hands. They’re none too friendly when you encounter them either. I felt guilty when I received the Bad Nanny achievement for killing 20 unbaptised babies.
Although the graphics may not be as polished as a Darksiders, they serve to create an unsettling atmosphere. I often found myself playing an extra 20 minutes just to see what the next level of hell had in store. As you descend, you’ll discover more about Dante in series of flashbacks. Stylised and evocative, these interludes are closer in spirit to traditional 2D animation than conventional video game cut scenes. They also bring you face to face with the reality of Dante’s less than heroic past. At times, Dante actually seems shocked that he is considered a sinner, which leads me to conclude that he’s not terribly bright.
If you’re looking for originality, look elsewhere. If you’re hoping for a faithful adaptation of the source material, you’ll be sorely disappointed. If you’re after an entertaining game with interesting level design, than Dante’s Inferno is the game for you. You won’t be overwhelmed, but you won’t be bored either.