Video games are an evolving medium. It's impossible to deny that as more games come out, other games take inspiration from the titles that came before. Occasionally, there are games where the similarities are numerous enough to be notable, like Visceral Games' Dead Space and Resident Evil 4. I mention this because Visceral's newest game, Dante's Inferno, is incredibly similar to God of War. Everything, from the main character and combat mechanics to the visual style and overall themes feel so much like God of War that it may give players déjà vu. There is essentially no possible way to discuss this game without mentioning God of War, and likewise, there's no way to deny the similarities. Dante's Inferno's biggest challenge isn't just going to be making a good game. It is going to be making a game that's good enough to overcome the constant comparisons to God of War.
Dante's Inferno is based on the first part of Dante Alighieri's "The Divine Comedy," the section titled "Inferno." However, the Dante's Inferno game has almost nothing to do with the poem, other than the names and basic inspiration for the characters and locations. Instead, players take control of Dante, a deadly warrior with a dark past who must enter hell to rescue his love, Beatrice, from being seduced by Lucifer. In order to save her, Dante promptly steals Death's Scythe and begins a one-man war against the circles of hell, trying to battle his way to where Beatrice and Lucifer await. It is a rather unusual reimagining of a poem that originally revolved around Dante and the poet Virgil having a casual stroll through the circles of hell.
The basic gameplay in Dante's Inferno is, as mentioned, very similar to God of War. Dante is a fast-paced warrior who is capable of brutally tearing apart his enemies with his various weapons. In our E3 demo, he had access to two weapons: Death's Scythe and the Holy Cross. Death's Scythe is his primary weapon and is made of bones that can stretch outward, allowing Dante to attack at a greater distance than one would assume from the shape. It can be used as a makeshift grappling hook or just as a weapon to tear enemies asunder. It can also block attacks, and with careful timing on the block, it can even stun enemies for a brief moment. There are various combinations of light and strong attacks that can be worked together to activate different scythe combos. Dante's second weapon is the Holy Cross, which fires cross-shaped blasts of energy at his opponents. They allow Dante to attack at a distance, and the cross can be charged up for more powerful attacks. In the demo, the two weapons could be used together for lengthy combos, such as using the scythe to set up enemies for a point-blank shot of holy power. It also seems as if Dante will gain access to various powerful magic abilities, although we didn't get a good look at them in our brief demo.
In addition to his regular attacks, Dante will also have access to a few environmental weapons that he can use to his advantage. At one point in the demo, Dante was fighting a tremendous demon. After weakening it, Dante could perform a Quick Time Event sequence to scale the beast, kill its rider and begin controlling the beast itself. This allowed him to use the giant demon's abilities to utterly crush all the foes around him. Enemies who could sustain entire combos from Dante were crushed in a single blow by the beast's gigantic fists, and it basically made him a force to be reckoned with. He could then use it to scale a nearby cliff before letting it fall into the eternal river of hellfire below. There was another sequence later where Dante mounted an even larger demon, the guardian of Styx known as Phlegyas, but unfortunately, we didn't get to see much of that in action.
The enemies in Dante's Inferno are all inspired by "The Divine Comedy," although in ways that might not seem entirely clear. In our brief demo, we got to see a few of the game's many deadly enemies, most of whom are symbolic of the sins for which they were sent to hell. For example, one of the most disgusting enemies was the Gluttony Minion, a giant, obese, naked woman who attacks Dante by attempting to vomit on him and devour him whole. It was truly disgusting to watch Dante try to take down this monster, and we were promised other monstrosities in the wings. It's not always for major sins that get you sent to hell, though. Dante will also have to fight enemies like the unbaptized babies, who died and grew blades for arms and a taste for human blood in the afterlife.
As you can tell, "inspired" is used loosely here. The bosses are also major characters from "Inferno," such as King Minos, the guardian of the second circle of hell. Minos appears here in an exceedingly violent boss fight where he attempts to skewer Dante with his snake-like tails. This boss fight was fairly standard, with Dante having to expose his opponent's weak points and slowly whittle down his health while avoiding his barrage of attacks. Once Dante had done enough damage, a QTE became accessible where Dante could use his chain-scythe to pull Minos' face into a spiked wheel, brutally tearing apart the foe's head.
It isn't just enemies who appear in Dante's Inferno, however. As in the poem, Dante's guide is the poet Virgil, although we only got a few glimpses of him in the demo. Dante will also encounter other notable figures inspired by characters from "Inferno." At one point, our demo leapt ahead to the fifth circle of hell, Anger. While here, Dante encounters Filippo Argenti, who is a minor character in the poem who is torn apart in the River Styx. In the game, Dante has the choice of absolving or punishing Argenti, and either choice will activate a mini-game where Dante has perform his chosen action onto the damned soul. In our demo, we saw the "punish" action, where Dante brutally stabbed Argenti with his holy cross. The absolve/punish mechanic looks to exist as a way to upgrade your weapons and abilities, although we did not get a very good look at it.Dante's Inferno is a God of War clone through and through, and there is no real way to get around that. Everything we saw in the demo could be traced back to Kratos in some way, up to and including the ability to ride a gigantic monster and control it. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, as Visceral's Dead Space was an excellent game despite being Resident Evil 4 through and through, but it's impossible to deny the connections. The real question about the game is if it is going to live up to the high standards set by God of War. What we've seen so far looks brutal and violent enough to please Kratos' fans, but we'll have to wait and see if the gameplay can live up to that same high standard. The mechanics and gameplay all look familiar and well-polished, but the devil is in the details. Hopefully, Visceral Games can pull off the same quality that they did with Dead Space.
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