Dante’s Inferno tries desperately to claw some ground back through a slew of upgradable features and in-game treats – and some of them even work too. Our favourite upgrades are the Beatrice Stones you can find scattered through Hell, which have fallen from Beatrice’s cross and which can be used to automatically absolve some souls – allowing you to skip the QTEs. It’s their function, not the idea, which makes them a favourite though.
You have to love the irony there, that a really annoying feature is introduced which you can only avoid by playing the game so thoroughly that you find hidden items.
Absolution and damnation are two of the main feature in Dante’s Inferno and basically allow Dante to pass judgement on the souls and demons he comes across in hell. This is despite the fact that he himself is more damned than the Colorado river.
Judgement can be handed out in different ways too. Dante can either absolve or damn demons in combat, making it basically another type of quicktime- or button mash-driven finishing move, or he can stumble across named souls that are mentioned in the actual Divine Comedy. People such as Pontius Pilate. When this happens you’re given a brief summary about how they came to end up on the ethereal naughty step before you’re presented with a binary choice that’s as crudely presented as BioShock’s harvest/free choice.
I always thought there'd be mushrooms in Hell
Whichever choice you make, you’re then treated to another quick mini-game or button-mashing event and then you get a bunch of souls. It seems Dante is, as well as an oddly damned man of God, also capable of trading souls in for more advanced combat moves. We wonder why Jesus didn’t do that. Probably because it sounds really stupid and out of place with the divine setting.
One of the actually interesting things about Dante’s Inferno is the fact that Dante’s available upgrades are divided into two distinct paths – Holy and Unholy, which you’re able to progress through at the same time. When you damn someone to Hell (um, again?) you’re bestowed with Unholy points, while forgiveness nets you Holy points – though apparently regardless of the judgement passed by God and the sin committed.
It’s a real shame that the binary Holy/Unholy choice has been so simplified, as it actually has the potential to be a genuine ethical dilemma for players. Imagine if you came across an unfortunately damned soul that would have been forgiven by any rational mind and that Unholy points came from forgiving damned souls and therefore contradicting God’s rule. That’d definitely make for some compelling conundrums, but as it is what you’re really doing is just deciding which upgrade you want most.
It's hard to be scared when you defeat Death in the tutorial...
Certain parts of Dante’s adventure allow him to make use of more extreme tactics than just swinging his scythe or blasting things with magic and holiness via his cross. Beast taming is the most notable example of this and basically involves defeating a mini-boss atop a giant monster, and then taking the reins for yourself. Well, by ‘reins’ we actually mean ‘stick your scythe in the monster’s head’, which apparently confers about the same level of control.
Slightly interesting is the way that the block and dodge systems have been implemented, with left trigger for the former and the right thumbstick for the latter. Dante’s actually quite bad at blocking most of the time, taking just a second too long to raise his guard, and only protecting himself from whatever he is looking at. This isn’t always the enemy, since there’s no lock-on or aiming system to speak of.
Dodging is therefore a lot more useful a tactic for Dante to avoid attacks, which is handy as a flick of the right thumbstick is enough to send him darting near-instantly to safety and out of trouble. It can take a bit of time to get used to, and there’s always the sneaking suspicion that the stick would be better suited controlling the occasionally unreliable camera, but more often than not it plays into Dante’s advantage and makes an excellent addition to his repertoire.