The Beautiful Horror of Dante’s Inferno

Thanks to the brilliance of the X-Box One’s Backwards Compatibility initiative I’ve been able to experience some wonderful games that I missed on original release due to bowing out of the console gaming arena for a few years.

The most recent of these I’ve enjoyed is Dante’s Inferno, a graphic, brutal and incredibly fun interpretation of the first part of Italian poet Dante Alighieri‘s epic poem The Divine Comedy.

If you are not aware, Inferno tells the story of Dante’s journey through the Nine Circles of Hell. On his way he witnesses all kinds of demons, devils and torments. Absolutely perfect themes for an action/horror video game!

Originally released in 2010, Dante’s Inferno was developed by Visceral Games, the studio who had two years earlier released another horror classic, Dead Space. Dante is much more action oriented than Dead Space with the horror of the game coming from the ghastly surroundings and terrifying enemies Dante encounters rather than atmosphere and suspense.

Our damned hero, Dante.

Indeed, Visceral have created a wonderfully realized version of Hell with suffering and woe everywhere you look. Sinners are impaled on spikes, trapped wailing behind walls or being boiled in literal oceans of blood. Fire and brimstone rains down and depaire is thick in the air.

Or at least it would be if Dante wasn’t such a badass. Rather than the historical poet he is known as, Visceral has reimagined Dante as a Templar Knight who is off fighting in the Crusades. Having committed numerous atrocities during the course of the war, Dante is finally stabbed in the back by an enemy soldier. With this Death appears to Dante, condemning him to Hell. However, Dante refuses to accept his fate and instead swears to redeem himself. Then, he kills Death and steal his gigantic scythe. Great start, mate.

Upon arriving home Dante finds his love, Beatrice, slain by an assassin. Her spirit appears to him, saying she knew he would return to her and not to fear her death. At that moment Lucifer appears and steals Beatrice away to Hell so that he may torment her in place of Dante. Of course, Dante isn’t too happy about this so follows Lucifer to Hell with the intention of saving Beatrice’s soul. Thus, the game begins.

The depiction of Hell is beautifully horrific

As soon as your gain control of Dante you realise that he is going to be quite the match for the forces of the Underworld. Still armed with Death’s giant scythe, as well as a Holy Cross, Dante starts out the game with quite the arsenal of moves. From stabbing and trusting blows, to sweeps and crushing moves, the scythe allows Dante to almost clear the battlefield all by itself. However, the Holy Cross allows for some fun ranged attacks as well as blast attacks that will send enemies flying. Both weapons can be upgraded over the course of the game, giving Dante access to more powerful moves, combos and abilities.

Upgrades are acquired using souls; basically the in-game currency. Souls can be attained in one of several ways; killing enemies is the most common but you will also encounter Damned through your adventures. These are notable sinners who have been sent to Hell for some great slight against God and you have the choice of punishing them for their sins, which effectively kills them again, or absolving them and granting them entry to Heaven. Either method will grant you souls, but punishing the Damned will give you “evil” souls while absolution will grant you “Holy” souls. Each of these can be used to upgrade your scythe and Holy Cross abilities respectively, so there is a bit of tactical decision making to be done here depending on how you like to play or what abilities you feel you’ll need.

Once you’ve bought some of the higher tier abilities combat becomes an absolute joy as you dart around the field smashing, slashing and raining Holy Light down on your foes. Once you get into the swing of it, the combat system is extremely fluid and you’ll be pulling off moves, countering and coming in for big attacks all over the place. It’s a lot of fun!

Dante slices through a horde of demons

The real star of the game though is Hell itself. As I mentioned earlier, Visceral have created a truly wonderful – if horrific – world to explore. It’s gross and vile, but in a way that is fun and intriguing. Your morbid curiosity will always want to know what new horror is behind the next corner.

The levels are huge, too, and have some brilliant set pieces. Crossing the river Styx is no easy matter of hopping on a boat. No, here Charon, the ferryman, is the boat and after defeating the hoard of demons that awaits you on the other side of the River you ensure Charon will not give you any further trouble…by ripping his head off.

As one would probably expect from a game about Hell -and, if you’ve played Dead Space, from Visceral themselves – Dante’s Inferno is very violent. It may not be Mortal Kombat 10 levels of gore, but it certainly has its moments. Just check out this little video of how Dante dispatches King Minos, the Judge of the Damned…

Ouch…

Dante’s Inferno is certainly not for the faint of heart. However, the violence never feels over excessive. It is appropriate here as Dante is a dark game dealing with dark subject matter. While Dante is on a journey of (hopeful) redemption the game constantly asks if he is actually worth saving. Dante’s sins are laid bare as the game’s story moves on and the question of just how far one can go before they are beyond redeeming is a consistent theme. Even Lucifer suggests that Dante is more evil than he as all Lucifer did was stand up for what he believed in, whereas Dante has slaughtered hundreds, if not thousands.

Dante’s Inferno is a dark, morbid, gruesome journey through Hell, but for those who are not turned off by its imagery it is a lot of fun. The story – while some criticism was leveled at it for its departure from the source material, especially in regards to Beatrice – is much deeper and thought provoking that one may at first give it credit for.

Dante’s in-game story is told via some wonderful 2D animation.

Upon release the game received some criticism from reviewers for being too similar to God of War in regards to its combat. I’ve never played the God of War games so I can not comment on that myself, but I think that passing on Dante due to this is to give the game a great disservice. After all, Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor combined the exploration of Assassin’s Creed with the combat of the Batman: Arkham series and was one of the most well recieved games of 2014. It doesn’t matter if games borrow ideas, it’s what they do with them that counts.

Dante’s Inferno is a a wonderfully entertaining title for which the only true criticism I have is that the last Circle of Hell unfortunately amounts to not much more than several challenge rooms. However, that one flaw is surrounded by one of the best action games I’ve played in recent memory and it certainly deserves its second life on X Box’s backwards compatibility service.

I Bought Myself an 8Bitdo Mini Controller

As you may have gathered if you’ve looked through the blog at all, I’m something of a retro game fan. I grew up playing the Sega Master System and Mega Drive and had a Dreamcast before Sega moved to being a third party developer. I even owned a Saturn and Game Gear in there somewhere.

Still being a big Sega fan I love being able to replay these games, but it can be a little hard or inconvenient to do so. The original hardware is tricky to get to work perfectly on modern TVs (remember, this tech is 30 odd years old) and original games can go for insane prices. While it can be easy enough to set up an emulator on a PC, a PC isn’t really something you can just whip out for a quick game of Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine.

Continue reading “I Bought Myself an 8Bitdo Mini Controller”

Finally, After 20 Odd Years, I’ve Completed Shenmue!

For those who may not be aware, Shenmue is a game originally released for the Sega Dreamcast in 1999. An early example of an open world game, it was incredibly innovative for its time. Recently, Shenmue creator Yu Suzuki announced that the long awaited Shenmue III was finally being developed. To celebrate, the original two games have been re-released on modern consoles and PC.

I played Shenmue for the first time when it originally came out on the Dreamcast, but 14-year old me was never able to get past the early parts of the game’s closing act. Hopefully, with age and wisdom, the re-release would afford me the chance to finally see the game’s end.

Continue reading “Finally, After 20 Odd Years, I’ve Completed Shenmue!”

What Could Sonic Mania’s Success Mean For Modern Sonic?

Sonic Mania was a huge success when it came out, and the recent release of Sonic Mania Plus has been just as successful. Indeed, the “main” Sonic game to have been released just after Mania, Sonic Forces, has been all but completely overshadowed by the reaction to Sonic Mania.

If you’re reading this you probably have a bit of an idea of the story behind Sonic Mania and its Plus expansion, but if you don’t check out the below video from DidYouKnowGaming.

So, Sonic Mania was made by fans. Hugely talented fans who had years of experience developing 2D Sonic games and were hired by SEGA, sure, but fans nonetheless. The irony that the “highest rated Sonic game in 25 years” – a line SEGA itself has been using in its promotion of the game – was made by fans has not been lost on the wider Sonic community.

Continue reading “What Could Sonic Mania’s Success Mean For Modern Sonic?”

Moving From Single Issue Comics To Collected Editions

Recently I had let go of my first love; comic books. I had been reading comics pretty much continuously for 24 years, most of that with a monthly standing order at my local comic store. Comics were my favourite hobby, my addiction. When something is that big a part of your life for that long a time it is very hard to let go. However, I was not prepared to give up on the comic book medium completely. No, siree! If monthly comics were no longer practical, then I was going to do the next best thing; I was going to move to collected editions!

However, it was not just a quick switch. I had to prepare! Remember, this was a 24 year habit I was moving away from. Certain “i”s had to be crossed and “t”s needed to be dotted. Here’s what I did to ready myself for the big change.

Continue reading “Moving From Single Issue Comics To Collected Editions”