Infernal Hells: A review of the game Dante’s Inferno
Dante’s Inferno is a brilliant game which dutifully recreates the first book of Dante Alighieri’s classic ‘The Divine Comedy’. It takes the Italian poet’s vision of hell to a new level, and here’s how…
Released back in 2010, Dante’s Inferno is based on the first book of the Divine Comedy, ‘Inferno.’ This story sees the poet Dante caught at a crossroads in his life, likely contemplating suicide, and as a result being drawn into the world of hell, with a spirit guide, the historic Greek poet Virgil, to show him the truth of the afterlife, and what the fate is of those who commit sinful acts.
The game differs in that, instead of placing the Divine Comedy in the historical context of the Medieval Florentine Wars (where Dante fought on the side of the Guelphs against the Holy Roman Empire), it places Dante as a crusader a couple of centuries earlier, fighting against Saladin for the Holy Land. This is the same historical setting as the first Assassin’s Creed game, and I cannot but help feel that it has been chosen because, not only is Florentine politics complex and little-known by most, but the age of the Third Crusade is familiar ground for many of us, and it forms a better backdrop upon which we can understand the symbolism of hell as Dante intended it.
Let’s start with Dante’s character, as this is something I love about the game. For years, we have been spoon-fed images of what a gothic horror game protagonist should look like. The notable example is Capcom’s Dante, who appears complete with tight leather clothing and magnificently conditioned hair, and the word bishōnen springs to mind. But this Dante is a little more honest in look. He is not trying to look cool, and is a fairly normal, yet obviously strong, man.
It is interesting to note that Capcom’s reboot of Devil May Cry in 2013 featured a suspiciously similar (at least in face shape) Dante to the one in this game!
Secondly, once Dante loses his love, Beatrice, and descends into Hell, he meets the second most important person in the Divine Comedy, the poet Virgil. Throughout the game, Virgil fulfils the exact same role as he does in the book. He is naught but a shade, and guides Dante through the unsavoury circles of Hell, both advising him and providing occasional conversation.
Third, throughout the game you get the chance to meet other shades, and, just as in the book, the shades are of famous people who have not been completely virtuous in life, so people like Pontius Pilate, Boudicca and Attila the Hun. Here, you have the option of absolving them or condemning them further, which works like the Renegade and Paragon meters in Mass Effect – holy and unholy actions power up different attacks and special moves. You can also absolve or punish your enemies.
The game adds a spin on the original story by making saving Beatrice Dante’s main motivation. Interestingly, Beatrice is saved before the end of the game, leaving Dante to go on and fight Satan alone. Of course, he has to do so, since the exit from Hell is reached by breaking through an ice field in which Satan is trapped. The ending battle is nothing short of epic.
Fourth, the scenery! It’s hard to get so far without giving it much of a mention. But if you have read the Divine Comedy, the images are as visceral as a Hieronmyus Bosch painting. The game makes good on this, not just resorting to your typical gothic-horror game fare, but providing a window into the original literature that really kicked off the whole religious-gothic genre that exists to this day. From the boiling rivers of blood where sinners are submerged sometimes up to their eyeballs, to the bodies stuck upside down in baptismal fonts with their feet on fire, to the tempestuous winds of Lust, and the giants outside the gates of the City of Dis, this game gets it right.
With all the hellish scenes of torture and misery, I find it’s a weird game to play during the Easter period, that’s for sure! But weirdly it fitted, at least with Christian mentality, in part because the Divine Comedy itself takes place on Good Friday, and my speed-run of the game became a sort of mad dash for salvation, which made it incredibly fun!
Another nice thing about this game is that the difficulty settings and the ease of use of the controls make it great for those who are not as strong when it comes to third-person action-adventure games. I tend to prefer strategy games of the turn-based nature, so it was pleasing to find this game was doable, and nicely challenging.
So, for anyone who is interested in cool old literature and enjoys games where you get to battle demons, give this one a shot!
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