A Journey Through Dante's Inferno
This video has been sponsored by Keeps. (sinister music playing) (grunt) Dante’s Inferno [chuckle] is a game that never fails to get my blood boiling! Now this might sound like I hate the game itself, but that's really not the case: Visceral Games’ 2010 video game adaptation of the first part of Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy has always been one of my favorite guilty pleasure titles that, while being aware of its many shortcomings, I unironically enjoy and relish to revisit quite regularly. The reason it gets my blood boiling is that it’s (hesitantly inhales) next to impossible to discuss Dante’s Inferno without being constantly reminded of two very...
aggravating things: Firstly, the history of Visceral Games: a studio that has repeatedly developed amazing games that feel great to play and attempted to elevate genre conventions to new heights, only to be run in the ground by publishers, repeatedly. And hard. like how Electronic Arts pasteurized the wonderful Dead Space franchise into a half-baked Call of Duty knock-off and then canned it when people lost interest; (gunfire) -[Enemy] Backup! I need backup! - or how EA seriously did Dante’s Inferno dirty with their juvenile marketing stunts, how the Amy Henning-written-and-directed Star Wars adventure was smothered in the crib in 2017 by EA as well until Visceral eventually got closed down in 2017 by EA as well of course because Electronic Arts concluded that people don’t... want single player games anymore... *long sigh* - 's just sad bro! - And secondly, it keeps reminding me how utterly incapable we used to be, and still are, in so many ways, of discussing video games.
Something that Dante’s Inferno suffered horribly from, because it’s painfully hard to find any contemporary criticism of the game that tries to evaluate it... on its own terms- -something that is in no small but not exclusive part also thanks to Electronic Fucking Arts and their unbelievable tone-deafness in how they spread the word about it. Of course I don’t want to spend an entire video focusing on my wrath over the atrocious state of video game discourse and marketing around the early 2010’s. (If only someone had gathered an angry mob to protest the problems with video game journalism back then, aye?) (scoffs) No, if you know me a bit, you know that I’m here to tell you what I love about the game and what makes it worth your time! (dramatic music flare-up) Before 2021, the 700th anniversary of Dante Aligheri’s death, is finished, I want to tell you why I think this game is, in many ways, an underrated and mistreated hack and slay horror gem, a highly creative, epic mythological spectacle that still positively SLAPS. (pure carnage) And also why Dante’s Inferno is actually a pretty genius adaptation into a Video Game by putting a handful of genuinely clever twists on the 700 year old text it emulates; twists that certainly got some literary nerds quite huff and puff about it at the time.
Iroically, wonderfully in tune with the effect the original work had in its time. Alterations and changes that become sublime, once you look at them not as inaccuracies, but as deliberate commentary, subtextual statements on the Inferno, realized in a way only interactive fiction is able to do. If this is you, if you feel like the floor’s breaking loose beneath your feet, then let me be your Virgil on your journey through the nine layers of the Infernal Underworld. Bbefore we go on, I'm glad to announce that Keeps has decided to sponsor this video, so let me show you what Keeps has to offer for you! About 2 thirds of men will experience some form of male pattern baldness by the time they're 35 -- and maybe the Shadow Man look would suit you great but if you feel like you'd rather do what you can to prevent losing your hair, the best time to act is... now, like, while you there's still hair left... Enter our sponsor Keeps: It's a subscription-service that provides you with licensed doctor reviews of your information online, straight from home, to distinguish the perfect hair loss treatment plan for you - and then your treatment is shipped directly to your door every 3 months. Keeps' treatments are fully FDA approved medications for hair-loss – and they're affordable generic versions.
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to get 50% off your first order. That's K-E-E-P-S dot com slash ragnarrox (with double r) So, thanks a lot again, and now, I hope you enjoy the rest of the video! (dramatic choir, fire crackling) As Dante Aligheri awoke one morning from uneasy dreams, he found himself transformed by Visceral Studios into a HORRIBLE crusader. *sniff* Well ok, this is not actually how the story begins. The tale of Dante’s Inferno - The Video Game, doesn’t start with a bastardized Kafka quote, but with the famous opening line of the first of the three chapters of the Divine Comedy (Longfellow translation). I’ve played this game many times and probably replayed the first hours more than 20 times by now, and I found the entire opening segment more fascinating each time I went through it. (frantic fighting sounds) In many ways it’s a microcosm of what the entire game is about, especially regarding how Visceral Studios chose to approach the adaptation of the literary work it’s based on.
See, if they would have chosen to adapt The Inferno as painstakingly close as possible, it would have likely become a- -I hate the term- -walking simulator. Or like a walking-and-talking-simulator. Or like a walking-and-talking-and- hiding-behind-Virgil-simulator. The protagonist Dante, in the original work, was a pilgrim, who found himself in a dark forest at the midway point of his life being called upon by angels to enter the very Gates of Hell, accompanied at all times by the, at the time, long-deceased Roman writer and poet Virgil. Dante is basically being led straight through hell, observing all of its different vividly drawn out layers and their inventive methods of eternal torture, rarely actively intervening, sometimes fainting and skipping to the next layer, and eventually ending up at the transition to the Purgatory, taking with him the deep epiphany that there is no pity to be had for the billions of souls who are damned to horrible eternal suffering down here, since all of this is just and good and the way the Lord wills it! - Aaaaaaamen! - Dante’s Inferno, the Game, on one hand goes to great lengths to adapt and draw out passages of the many-and-varied descriptions of Hell Dante witnesses on his journey with as much accuracy as humanly possible, sometimes going so far that it even feels like things have been added solely to boast closeness to the prose. While on the other hand, in a thousand different ways, the writers took endless liberties by turning the whole thing inside out, rearranging and re-interpreting the source material into a funhouse- mirror reflection of itself.
This goes down to how the whole plot unfolds, its core messages and ideological implications, as well as the interpretation of central characters including the protagonist Dante himself. And you know how it is. Adapt any piece of media into a different medium and anything that’s altered will get people riled up in no time, often just for the audacity of changing stuff in the first place.
But here I am claiming that if you adapt a 700-year-old-text that implies that being gay is a worse sin than committing literal genocide, into a video game of all things, that re-thinking and changing lots of things about it can actually a be Good thing. - Your soul is free! Game-Dante and his very journey is in many ways the complete antithesis to Book-Dante. We start out in the same dark forest the Divine Comedy begins in, which feels like a dutiful nod to the original work, but immediately, we’re being torn out of the illusion that this is going to be a pedantically faithful adaptation. We witness Dante sewing a cross-shaped linen tapestry directly on his chest, like string through his skin and all. (long painful scream, bird wings flapping in the distance) This embroidery bears depictions of, as we find out over the course of the game, his personal history, memories, and especially, the sins he carries with him and has yet to realize.
In a vividly hand-drawn animated flashback we see violent, frenzied battle scenes of Crusaders clashing with Saladin’s army, prisoners being taken and eventually culminating in an outbreak in the city of Acre. This is where the sequence seamlessly transitions into the first active gameplay scene, where we take direct control of Dante, who... then goes on to slaughter literal SWATHES of under-fed prisoners in the middle of a breakout attempt.
Which...yeah. If I had to write a 5 word review for this game it would be “It is a Video Game.” (duh) The medium is really the message here, and it’s fascinating to me how much of what I used to find odd to irritating about this game, but which I’ve come to admire more and more over time for reasons I’m gonna go into across the length of this video, is wonderfully explained with “it...is a video game.” A very of its time 2010 AAA hi-octane epic action slasher console game.
(slashing and screaming) Because let’s face it, most people at the time hadn’t bought this game because they expected a pensive, contemplative narrative walking simulator. But what was promised was epic, sprawling, mythological hack and slay. Well, here you go. The button prompts tell you what to do, so slaughter away! (fighting, slashing, splashing, dramatic music) Does it feel...good... what you’re doing here? Does it feel right? Not the slightest bit of dissonance over what you’re doing here without questioning it? Mhh yes, a power-fantasy, chopping down waves of half- starved brown people while bearing the great cross of the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon, aka the Knights Templar. Where the original text was, in broad strokes, a pilgrimage in the name of god, that consisted of mostly walking, talking, observing and occasionally asking everyone what’s going in Dante’s home town of Florence (no, like, really, everytime Dante and his mentor and companion Virgil face some potential adversity, he goes - [Jake] Oh yeah? Well me and the lord...
... we got an understanding. - [Elwood] We're on a mission from god. - and the problems just... take care of themselves on their own!) Video Game Dante bears the weight of many-a-sin committed in the name of the Holy Roman Church and fights virtually every step of the way into and down through the entire path of hell. Okay from time to time he also climbs, platforms in vague Prince of Persia fasion and solves the occasional puzzle, but you get my meaning.
His pilgrimage is a gauntlet of adversity, and interestingly, also an introspective journey of realizing the numerous sins he’s committed, without ever understanding he did so. Yeah, the game's story puts a heavy emphasis on the uncountable evils perpetrated under the supposed impunity imbued by powerful leaders of the Holy Roman Church, who instrumentalized armies of faithful warriors into committing the worst atrocities imaginable... in the name of God. And so, after this opening massacre on the shores of Acre, Dante is met with... mh...karmic justice,
in the form of a dagger in the spine, which he nonchalantly pulls out, before he’s immediately greeted by everyone’s favorite Discworld character. - [Death] Dante, your fate is decided! Everlasting damnation for your sins! - [Dante] But that's not possible! The bishop assured us! - [Death] Come! Face eternity! Soon you'll be joined by those whose lives you have ruined, whose souls you have damned! - [Dante] I will not let my sins damn those dear to me! - The Grim Reaper, himself, has come to take Dante’s soul, but our crusader won’t have it. And so he answers him with cold, hard steel. In the first boss battle, we not only get to tear Death himself in two halves while they beg for mercy, - No, no, please! (smack) - we even get to snatch their legendary scythe and make it our new signature instrument of war. (ripping and tearing and screaming) Okay so this *might* be considered an early spoiler, but hey, I’m going through the entire game anyway, so...
I always found it so extremely obvious that, like, Dante of course has died at the point where he’s stabbed in the back by the assassin, but he is absolutely and completely unaware of his demise. And his utter cluelessness about...everything really, is probably my absolute favorite aspect about Dante in this game, as a character. Just like...uhhh...for instance, I will always associate Sam with his catchphrase, - You crack me up, little buddy! (trumpet sting) - Dante, to me, is firmly imprinted with his battery of bewildered facial expressions when shouting He’s really the perfect embodiment of someone who meeeaaans well? But he’s so blind and ignorant, firmly in the grips of a faith-war-machinery that brainwashed him into the perfect TOOL of dogmatic imperialism. The road to hell is paved with good intentions.
And yeah, his entire redemptive arc through hell is really about first realizing, understanding, and eventually accepting the transgressions he’s committed during his lifetime. But at this point in the story, Dante still has both feet firmly planted in the conviction that he successfully defied death. And so he travels back to his hometown of Florence to find his homestead ravaged and his fiancee Beatrice, in good old Gladiator- style, slain right in front of his house. But Beatrice’s soul is not allowed rest.
It emerges from her corpse, and is whisked away into the darkness by none other than Lucifer himself. It Is a Video Game, and here’s Dante’s Damsel in Distress and Casus Belli that lends him the determination to slice and dice every single thing in his path to redeem his lover’s soul from being punished for *his* transgressions. This is actually one of the fiercest criticisms I kept reading, especially from academic circles about Visceral’s adaptation of the Divine Comedy: Quote: And I’m like, I get you, Teodolinda Barolini. That is the initial setup of the game’s narrative. This is what it seems like, to the player, and especially to Dante at this point of the story, but I gotta say for the former president of the Dante Society of America, you’re either not very good, or, more likely, surprisingly uninterested in exploring the game’s subtext or in actually seeing the entire story play out to the end. You probably don’t even believe that something like subtext is a consideration for a sub-par medium such as video games, phhhsh.
See, while your interpretation of the plot is superficially what happens, if you just pay a little bit of attention, it’s next to impossible, over the course of the game, to completely miss out on the fact that Beatrice is way more than just a McGuffin for Dante to hunt after, because she...really has a plan all along. While Dante, well, he’s- - [Dante] I DON'T UNDERSTAND - But for now, let’s dogear this page and come back to it later, and instead continue on Dante’s quest to hell, because, damn, we’re not even IN hell yet. So let’s do some crime, to get there faster! (cannon shot) Dante’s Inferno was initially released on the seventh console generation for the Xbox 360 and the PS3.
If you want to acquire it these days, your only options are to find a physical copy from a reseller, with prices in recent years rapidly soaring thanks to increased scalper scum activity. If you own an Xbox 360 copy, the Xbox One luckily added this game as a backwards compatible title, so you can play it on an Xbone. It’s also available digitally in the Xbox Store for around 15 US-Dollars and luckily playable both on the Xbox One as well as the Series S and X, according to my research. But these versions are really nothing but expensive emulation, if we're completely honest. So if you already own it, and you’re in possession of a somewhat capable mid-range PC, there’s really no reason not to get the most out of it. I don’t really see any “purism” argument for a 3D game that natively runs in 720p, when amping its rendering up to 1080p or hey, even up to 8K resolutions if you have the technical means, and add features like Anisotropic Filtering and Antialiasing, right? And would you look at that? That’s exactly what the RPSC3 Playstation 3 emulator allows you to do! The footage you see in this video was recorded with this emulator on 7-year-old PC hardware.
It runs smoothly, start to finish, and is a real treat for the eyes. I truly never get tired of the leap in visual fidelity, amped-up resolution, a bit of advanced smoothing, and texture filtering emulators can bring to 3D games from the PS2-and-upwards eras. So for anyone interested in running their legally owned copy with an emulator, I’ve provided a document with how to get it set up and running in the RPSC3 PS3 emulator for yourself. You’ll, as always, find the link in the description of this video.
And if you don’t own the game but still want to emulate it... Hey, it’s factually not illegal to go and emulate it. I’ve actually added a paragraph on the legal status of emulation and quote unquote video game preservation piracy in the emulation-document if you’re interested, and the money you’d spend buying it goes either to resellers or to EA, the ones who ran Visceral Games in the ground in the first place (and who are planning to get big- time into NFT gaming now *ugh*).
So the people who made the game itself won’t ever see a nickel of it, anyways. - [Wally] You don't know how *empowering* it is to be able to say to yourself: Yes, I *am* a despicable, filthy, villainous pirate deserving blame and censure but THAT pirate is who I want to be! - So might think twice if you want to put your money in their pockets, just saying Iiiiii’m not a cop. (screaming and loud "being-dragged-to-hell" sounds) Aw crap. (sinister music, fire crackling) So with Beatrice, and now even myself dragged away to hell, Dante has really no more excuses not to surge straight after us. He makes his way to the chapel on the little foothill behind the graveyard, where Beatrice’s soul appears to him once more, lamenting how Dante has betrayed her trust by breaking his sacred promise to stay faithful to her during his time in the Crusades. He though has no fucking clue what she’s talking about.
He believes himself free of guilt as he always, as it turns out, acted under a blanket absolution passed on to the crusaders by the Archbishop. At this point in the story, we don’t find out exactly what he did, but it dawns on him that it really might have been his actions that condemned her to hell. So, Dante takes up her holy cross and vows to not give in until her soul is freed. In contrast to the poem, where Beatrice merely appears to him as an angel before the gates of hell, informing him that he has a holy quest to traverse the underworld ordained by God, himself, Game-Dante’s journey is far more Orphean in nature. I’ve always quite enjoyed this twist to be honest.
The game also consciously acknowledges this a little bit later. Like, that’s it’s a conscious riff on the Orpheus myth, not that, like, I enjoy it. They couldn’t have known that ahead of time now, could they? At this moment, the ground shatters and breaks apart, swallowed up by the fiery pits of hell unveiling the gates to the underworld beyond. This is one of my favorite moments in the game, honestly.
It’s just breathtakingly staged and directed, and a perfect example for two of my favorite aspects of this take on the Divine Comedy: Spectacle and Music! Dante’s Inferno is probably one of the coolest depictions of hell in a video game, up there with Bayonetta and Doom 3. Especially in the first half, the game keeps bombarding players with an abundance of sprawling creativity and epic setpieces. And it’s accompanied by one of the most impressive video game soundtracks I’ve come across. Interestingly though, it’s a score that I rarely feel like listening to outside of playing the game itself, because it so perfectly works in tandem with what’s unfolding on screen, moment by moment. Much of this gargantuan pandemonium we witness on screen is so tightly interwoven with the intense and bombastic orchestration that it almost makes the music an integral, diegetic element of the play.
An epic opera unfolding before our eyes as we’re watching and playing it as the audience. This interplay between bombast- orchestration, epic renditions of Hell, cinematic, interactive camerawork, and the hyperkinetic, over the top hack and slay action that still smacks... –it keeps having me coming back again and again. After fighting our way down, we eventually arrive at the gates of hell themselves, which... alright let me be nitpicky here: With all the alibi “I’ve-done-my-homework" fanservice elements the developers put all over the game, I was a bit sad that it didn’t feature the iconic “Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter” quote that’s embossed into the stone frame of the gates in the poem. But hey, shoganai.
Then again this famous expression in essence embodies the central idea of the book, really: that You Should Not Wish for things to improve for the people stuck down here, because everything happening in hell is already in accord with God’s perfect plan, which is righteous and good. We had that. And this notion, as I already hinted at, was drastically subverted by the game adaptation. Again, more on that later, but when I’m starting to overthink things like this, I wonder if they might have even omitted it for that very reason. I wouldn’t put it past Visceral; this game certainly gets far less credit for clever subtext than it deserves in many areas. Anyway, the gates themselves are sealed, but luckily we encounter Virgil.
In the Divine Comedy, Virgin is Dante’s constant companion and guide. He really is essentially his skeleton-key: completely leading him by the hand, deflecting nearly all adversity, and at the same time serving as the main vessel for exposition. Tour-guide and bodyguard in one. In the game, his role is rather limited to mostly the latter function. Dante fights his way down the layers of Hell on his own, while we regularly encounter Virgil standing in front of new areas to give us a little sermon on what part of hell we’re about to enter and who’s being tortured here for what reason most of the time.
And I’m definitely not the only one who finds his rather reserved involvement in the journey a bit disappointing, given how central of a role he played in the original text. Like, placing the Roman writer and poet Virgil in his own poem was definitely a form of wish fulfilment for Dante Aligheri, himself a great admirer of his work and fame, and with the, Divine Comedy he basically wrote fanfiction about Virgil being his sidekick and great admirer. But it makes me think: how could he have been involved in this sprawling hack and slash type gameplay as more than just a hotspot-tour-guide? I mean...Dante and Virgil in Co-Op Mode, Double Dragon’ing their way through the Nine Circles of Hell? That could have been pretty awesome...hmmm. Anyway, Virgil agrees to guide us on our journey in return for the favor to, should we manage to reach our goal, convince Beatrice to put in a good word for him in Heaven.
Because he’s had the bad luck of... having been born before Christianity was even invented, so he never had a chance to be baptized, and according to the God’s infallibly fair laws of Hell, every unbaptized soul ends up in the 1st Circle of Hell, Limbo, our first stop after the big plunge we take beyond the Gates. So yeah, Limbo is the place where everyone who was not baptized, and even everyone who could never even possibly have had the chance to be baptized in their lifetime, ends up. As punishment. For being born in the wrong time, circumstances or...body. Like, even babies who died before they could have been baptized, yeah even stillborn babies.
They all end up in hell. And incidentally, they’re also one of the more unnerving enemies we meet down here. Makes sense though; seriously, who can fault them for being severely pissed off? The first area we make our way across is the river Acheron, which separates the Underworld from the World of the Living. All souls destined to go further down the hellscape than Limbo have to cross on their journey to their respective destinations on a great ferry captained by the mythological figure of Charon. To anyone who’s a bit confused by this, yes, this is completely true to the original text: Many elements in Aligheri’s depiction of Hell are a mash-up of various mythological inspirations, predominantly Greek and Roman, interspersed with ideas and concepts from actual Christian mythology, to form the strange pastiche of Dante’s 9 Circles of Hell.
As I said, this is Christian fanfiction. (Wilhelm Scream) I absolutely love those panoramic wide angle shots with gaping mouths aggressively vomiting an endless waterfall of screaming souls plunging into nothingness. Hordes of lost souls who have abandoned all hope, waiting in line to board the vessel that brings them to their final and eternal destination. I distinctly remember how the book described Dante’s first distinctive acoustic impression when entering hell, which was the sound of one shapeless, neverending blend of millions and billions of souls perpetually screaming in agony. And the wailing walls, as I call them, -the Damned Climb as the game calls them- these scalable webs made of lattices and constantly screaming souls writhing in eternal torment; it’s such an astoundingly cool way of realizing the images those words put in my mind when I read the Divine Comedy in school for the first time. Never get tired of this.
But yeah, in the poem, Charon is an old ferryman on a rather small boat similar to more classic depictions from Greek mythology. Though he initially refuses them passage, when Virgil goes - We're on a mission from god. - he relents and just takes them across. In the GAME...
- [Charon the Boat] Through me the way to everlasting pain! well, in the game as you can see the ferryman actually is the very ferry itself! (some mumble about it being "kinda werid") and, since he also denies us access, albeait in a somewhat more brusk fashion, plus we don’t have Virgil to solve our problems for us, we have to fight our way atop to the poop deck (heh) and then capture and take control of a giant minotaur and fucking TEAR THE BOATMAN’S HEAD OFF AND TOSS IT IN THE WATER. I don’t think Dante is yet aware that Violence is its own layer of hell. Later down the line. And after a frenetic hijacking sequence, we arrive on the shores of the underworld not gently but rather while tearing the place apart in the process of landing.
So yeah technically it is only now that we truly enter Limbo. Limbo, from the Latin word Limbus, meaning border, is one of the places where Aligheri placed a lot of characters that he... was an ardent fan of. Because luckily for his narrative cohesion, many of his personal historic idols were, of course, unbaptized, like Homer, Horace, Ovid and Lucan, all esteemed Greek and Roman poets who rejoice when they spot him and are ecstatic to welcome the great writer Dante into their esteemed literary company.
They basically don’t stop blowing smoke up his ass for his incredible writing skills for a good while. This scene has sadly not been adapted, but Visceral themselves took the opportunity of Limbo to include characters that underlined their own take on the Inferno just as well. And that’s a great opportunity to talk about one of the game’s central and most interesting mechanics, the Punish-or-Absolve binary branching: On our journey, we regularly encounter lonely lost souls that the game prompts us to, much in line with the Creed of the Holy Crusaders, judge, jury and execute in one fell swoop. For instance the first one we encounter before the gates to the river Acheron is Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor who presided over the trial and execution of Jesus Christ.
Or not too long after that, aboard Charon’s ferry, we find, as I already teased it, Orpheus, the Greek mythological figure, whose journey into the underworld to rescue his lover, Euridyce, is in many ways so strikingly similar to Dante’s in this game. And we are given the choice to either Absolve or Punish him for his misdeeds of looking back at the edge of the underworld which accidentally condemned his lover to eternal damnation. When we chose punish, Dante shoves a blade into their throats which dissolves them and apparently condemns them to eternal suffering, while absolving makes us play this little minigame where we have to press the controller buttons in the right moments to catch and absolve their sins. The more we get the higher the bonus XP reward. It’s basically a rhythm-game, but... without any music for some reason.
Seriously, it keeps baffling me with the constant gorgeous orchestration of the game that these segments are completely silent all of a sudden. This would have been a perfect opportunity to turn Hell into a regular Project Diva! ♫ Hatsune Miku - Ai Kotoba ♫ But depending on which option we choose, we gain different categories of experience points that fill up either the Holy or the Unholy skill tree. It Is A Video Game. This binary progression system also extends to the combat: weaker minion enemies and larger opponents such as the horned Guardian Demons, once their health is low enough, can be executed with either Punish- or Absolve- Finishing Moves that yields a boost in their respective skill tree.
So depending on how you fare, this progression shapes Dante’s combat and magic abilities into different specializations, which can heavily influence your move- set and your play- and combat style. Generally speaking, Holy Skills focus more on Protection, Binding and emphasizing Beatrice’s Cross. The cross is basically your distance weapon; holding it in front of you like Van Helsing makes it shoot glowing crucifixes at your opponents. The Unholy Skills on the other hand put a stronger emphasis on aggressiveness, carnage, the breaking of cover and stunning enemies in place.
Generally a more.... visceral style of combat. I actually really enjoy this themed progression system, because especially in higher difficulties, where plain button mashing will have you dead in a heartbeat, you have to intuitively learn the combos at your fingertips and use them strategically to persist. Like a good hack and slash game should make you do. And if you enjoy the combat of the game enough for it to keep you going, which is the case for me, this really gives it quite a bit of replay variety. But honestly, I’m quite often a subtext over gameplay kinda guy, and what I find far more interesting about this mechanic is what it...narratively implies, especially in light of the game being an adaptation of the Divine Comedy, in which the protagonist was given no such powers.
But once more, I can only brush on that here and get back to that at a later point, once we’ve explored the story and themes of the game a little more in depth. But yeah, initially I kept wondering why even would Dante, who’s literally going through all nine circles of hell because it turned out he pretty much committed all of them in some form, (pretty impressive actually if you ask me) why would he of all people be granted the power/privilege to judge over people, deciding the fate of their immortal souls, in the first place? It felt weirdly uncalled for? But...the more I thought about it the more it started to make sense in a weird and ironic way: See...technically, this is precisely what Dante Aligheri, the writer of the original story himself, did when he placed Dante, the main character and self-insert, in his story, conjured up his vivid, elaborative picture of eternal damnation and then... Put. Real. Reople. in there! Like he, for instance, as I’ve said, came up with all kinds of justifications for historic and mythological people he personally admired to be down here for the sole sake of telling him what an amazing writer he is.
He also added historic, as well as mythological figures he personally despised, or ideologically or politically disagreed with in here, condemning them to various circles of hell according to his personal judgement of their sins. Yeah, he even wrote actual, real, at the time, living people that he felt like condemning for personal reasons in here. Kinda like “nah, this guy sucks, you’re damned and you’re gonna spend the rest of your sorry existence in hell, fuck you!” And then, to put the dollop of cream on top of it all, he possessed the hubris and audacity to have his protagonist, Dante, reach the peak of religious enlightenment by coming to the blissful epiphany that, "yep, everything that’s happening down here until the end of time" –The Very People The Writer Dante Placed In Here On His Own Whim– "this is all perfect and fair, just the way it is."
Unquestionable Divine Justice. Abandon Hope, Ye Who I Tossed In Here. So yeah, Aligheri’s Cantons are not an interactive medium and within the range of his three part Comedy, the medium he chose, he absolutely ended up playing the Punish or Absolve game with his choices of which characters he put in hell, purgatory, and heaven. So if you really think about it: Video Game Dante is in so many ways almost the perfect antithesis to this. The game flips the entire central meaning of the Inferno on its head and says “hey, we’re adapting this in an Interactive Medium? Well, then it’s not on Monsignore Alighieri anymore, but on you, the Player, to decide who shall solder and who exult." (begging and slashing) - [Dante] Another wasted soul! - Plus, you get sick new battle combos as a reward! What’s not to love? It’s pretty genius if you ask me.
(hellfire burning) At the end of the plane of Limbo, true to the original text, we encounter Minos, another character from Greek Mythology, former king of Crete, son of the all-humping Zeus and Europa, who, after his death, became judge of the dead in the Underworld. He serves a similar purpose in Alighieri’s poem as he does in the game. Any soul that arrives here after traversing Limbo must stand before his gaze (nostrils?) and confess their sins, after which he wraps his monstrous tail around them and then sends them off to the circle that best befits their transgressions. When Dante steps before him though, he’s first like - YOU. SHALL NOT. PAAAASSS! initially wanting to stop him since he’s a living soul.
- Where are you?! Now, as before, where in the poem, this is again swiftly solved by Virgil stepping in with - [Elwood] Y'see... we're on a mission from god. - which Minos replies “(mumbling) oh, well, okay then if it’s like that then I guess you can pass.” In the VIDEO GAME, Minos is the first major boss battle after the duel with Death in the very beginning. And, honestly, mechanically it’s the first time it really feels like a proper boss battle in that it’s a towering behemoth before you whose attack and behavioral patterns you have to learn, while you use the environment against him to defeat him in a big, gory violence-galore. Once we’ve defeated Minos, we take a scenic stroll past a cliff decorated in a way that would make Vlad Dracul himself feel right at home and then descend into the second layer of hell, Lust -a.k.a. Horny Jail. The place where souls who, you know, engaged in lewdity and such in their lifetime end up.
The sufferers here are being tossed around in a gargantuan, perpetually roaring thunderstorm. Kind of symbolic for how we’ve been tossed around so wildly and uncontrollably by fleshly desires in our mortal days, and now have to experience that for eternity, but like, turned to eleven. (hiimdaisy's "It's symbooolic" chant) (dude smacking into statue) This is definitely a chapter where the video game heavily...
expanded on the events of the poem. In the original work, it, uh, climaxes in Dante being moved by pity for those suffering down here, meeting and talking with the soul of Francesca da Rimini, the real-life daughter of the lord of the province of Ravenna during Dante’s lifetime. Another person who Alighieri pretty much literarily condemned to hell in his work because she had an affair with her husband’s brother, which resulted in her husband killing them both. So she deserves to go to hell, apparently.
Anyway, after this conversation, Dante faints because he’s so moved by her torment and whoops, wakes up in the third circle. In the game, Francesca does appear, but only briefly as one of those characters we can either punish or absolve for their sins. So Absolve it is, of course! But after that, the chapter for our harcore crusader Dante doesn’t end in gentle swooning, napping, and teleporting to the next layer, but we have to climb the Carnal Tower reigned by Cleopatra.
Yep, the Cleopatra, anointed mistress of the Circle of Lust in the game. And you can probably see where this is going: The Lust layer being extended like that was definitely a decision that played into the hands of... the very pubescent marketing and audience targeting of this game as a true adult game for real grown-ups, because Visceral really doesn’t hold back here with over-the-top sexual imagery. Beatrice, with her eternally exposed mommy milkers, begins a slow transformation into a succubus, the circle’s architecture is littered with obviously vaginal and, uh, boobinal shapes all over the place, and the fight with Cleopatra itself is...
just so grotesquely oversexualized. And don’t get me wrong, nothing against a tasteful application of horniness in a depiction of the Underworld to get the, uh, creative(?) juices flowing, but in Dante’s Inferno it often tends to feel like the cheap, exploitative gonzo-porn idea of lust, clearly and obtusely targeted at a rather immature straight male audience. Now, I’m gonna try and give a bit of a lukewarm defense of these choices here, although this is one aspect where I’m always pretty clear on my stance that anybody who finds especially this circle of hell just... tasteless and off-putting, something that would keep them from enjoying the game- –hey, all power to you.
As I mentioned before, the best way I found to enjoy this is like watching a really corny, overblown bad movie. Something like Street Fighter - The Movie (which isn't actually a bad movie, but you know what I mean). To me, the game makes this possible because it has just the necessary amount of self- awareness, especially around here: these segments are simply so ridiculously overblown that I can just enjoy them with a hearty laugh just for how absurdly grotesque they are. And a thing that I’ve kept thinking more and more about in regards to the game’s purposefully provocative nature- -and I’m really completely omitting the absolutely tasteless and childish marketing stunts performed by EA around the launch of the game, trying to judge it as good as I can on its own merit– -you really have to put into perspective how absolutely and unbelievably provocative and scandalous Alighieri’s Inferno was when he released it.
Like, you know the effect when you read a horror story that’s like 150 years old, expecting a good spook, and then the most frightening thing that happens is some dude hearing weird sounds, and it turns out it was a gorilla escaped from the zoo or something. Stuff that barely even raises an eyebrow with modern, overstimulated and completely desensitized readers? The Inferno was released a whole 700 years ago, but its plentiful display of inventive and highly graphic depictions of tortures and torments, start to finish, are something that still gives readers these days pause. Spine-chilling stuff that sticks with you for long after reading it.
So you just have to extrapolate how incredibly appalling and distressing it was on its audience at the time. Especially as it was not written in Latin, but in Italian- -deliberately made to be populistic, read and spread among the common folk. So if you want to adapt this work in tone and texture, especially when it comes to the effect it had on its contemporary audiences, but for a modern, carnally overstimulated audience, you absolutely have to go all out. Which is precisely what Visceral attempted to do. And while it, of course, didn’t manage to have a comparable cultural impact as the original, at leeeaast they’ve managed to establish unforgettable impressions, such as Cleopatra’s Unbaptized- Baby-Secreting Honkers and dangling from Lucifer’s Giant Interactive Phallus, (censor beep) as frequently mentioned memorable moments whenever the game is brought up. That is something, at least, isn't it? (fire swooshing) When Andrei Tarkovsky- -and no, I’m not gonna compare this game to Stalker here, no worries.
Even I’ve got some pride... although, if you think about the ephemeral nature of The Zone, a place where the laws of nature are fundamentally rescinded to a quasi-mythological, preternatural state, the journey the three deuteragonists undertake to find their true inner selves, in essence, is extremely similar to the journey Dante undert- (beep) (beep) When Andrei Tarkovsky released his adaptation of Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris, a lot of viewers and critics showed disappointment with how arduously slow the first third of the movie felt, to which Tarkovsky commented that he made the first hour boring on purpose in order to get the idiots out of the theatre before getting to the good stuff. Dante’s Inferno suffers a bit from the opposite problem, and that’s not entirely the game’s own fault. See, we’ve only made it through 2 circles of hell so far and there are still 7 left to descend through, but, in many ways, the opening 2-3 hours are so intensely opulent with rich and sensory- overloading impressions– -in short, the game set the bar so high in the first quarter that it noticeably struggles to surpass itself the further we progress.
The fact that some of the conceptually most, um, tantalizing and eye-catching parts of hell are front... or well, top-loaded if you will, by the source material itself doesn’t really help. It feels a bit like the game has unloaded the lion’s share of its creative juices in an intense sprint up front.
Like the game blew its load at the Lust layer, nyeh, heh. Especially towards the lower layers, it starts feeling like the creative batteries were a bit depleted. But we’ll get to that. The fact that this feeling unquestionably arises here and there when playing through the story is a shame, because most of the segments we traverse are still awesome.
The problem is just that they now compete with a precedent established by earlier sequences of the very game itself. The third layer is a fantastic example. Right here at the entrance to the Circle of Gluttony, where Cerberus, the three-headed hound of the Greek Underworld guards the entrance. In the original poem, this road-block is once again promptly solved by God-Mode-Virgil who tosses some dirt into its mouths.
While in the game Cerberus is more like a giant, snarling, three-headed worm. Maybe symbolizing tapeworms who cause endless hunger in the people subjected to the gluttony layer? Your guess is as good as mine. And of course we’re also on our own, so we have to fling the dirt into Cerberus’ mouths ourselves and then rodeo each head individually in a frenetic quick time sequence that culminates in a trinity of violent decapitations. It’s a pretty cool boss fight that opens the path to the rest of the layer. Gluttony is comprised of bubbling lakes filled with screaming souls perpetually drowning and being digested in bile.
Sufferers in this layer are punished for living in ridiculous abundance and excess, especially at the expense of others. We’re traversing putridly organic architecture that makes us feel like we’re passing through the innards of a vast creature, ridden with worms and constantly plagued by acid rains, and we fight giant, blobbish glutton creatures with hungrily chomping mouths for hands and feet. It’s easily one of the most gnarly and conceptually impressive circles, even if the glutton- enemy-type certainly has a bit of unnecessary fatphobia baked into its design. It’s... It is what it is. Like Sartre famously said: "Hell is other people being fatphobic."
Down here, we learn how Beatrice and Dante’s father Alighiero passed away, which is revealed to be by the hands of the same assassin that stabbed Dante back in Acre, who- –dun dun duuun– -turns out to be the husband of the captive prisoner Dante is also revealed to have slept with for a favor. It keeps fascinating me how firmly convinced Dante was of his own righteousness and innocence, despite having repeatedly betrayed his betrothed and his conviction in so many clear and obvious ways. But hey, that’s what we’re down here for, so onwards the road goes. But hey, that’s what we’re down here for, so onwards the road goes. We eventually reach the fourth circle of hell, Greed, which harbors spendthrifts and money-hoarders. This place is guarded by the Roman god of the Underworld, Pluto, blocking our path once more.
The Greed-layer consists of lakes and waterfalls of molten gold in which sinners are being cooked alive. The passages, themselves, contain some of the most annoying time-critical puzzles, featuring mechanical contraptions, with demons storming at us while we try to figure out the solutions. When met with Pluto, once again, in the book, Virgil simply exclaims that - [Elwood] We're on a mission from god. - and the Underworld-guardian immediately falls over and makes way, while in the game, we have to solve another somewhat contrived puzzle that technically spans across the entire layer and results in a hi-octane Minotaur-hijacking and climbing session to ultimately... tear the place apart.
Yeah, violence is always the best solution, isn’t it? After overcoming Pluto’s roadblock, the circle culminates in a plot-twisty boss fight with none other than the deformed soul of Dante’s own father. He’s down here for his excessive greed, wealth hoarding and power mongering during his lifetime, and Dante slowly but surely comes to some fundamental revelations about his own past and self. This is another place where the game clearly, not just nudges but firmly punches in your face that the central notion of Dante’s introspective journey is understanding that the better man is the man who can earnestly reflect on his own flaws, accept his mistakes, repent and become a better person for it. Which is ultimately the very thing that grants Dante the privilege to absolve his father. Because his motivation for the crusade through hell is not selfish, but purely altruistic in nature. (ethereal swooshing) The fifth layer, Anger, brings some very interesting alterations to the source material that feel more like extensions to the story to make it work better in this hack and slay narrative epic format.
Both in the poem, as well as in the game, the first half consists of ascending the Tower of Wrath. In the poem they meet Phlegyas, another ferryman who in this case, transports souls across the River Styx. The two traverse the river on his boat and at this point, Alighieri included one of those writerly judgment calls I talked about earlier: He included Filippo Argenti, a contemporary Florentine politician and rival of the Aligheri family who publicly opposed Dante’s return from exile. Not hard to guess that the writer wasn't very fond of him, and so he put him down here in hell among those drowning in the River Styx for eternity. During their traversal, Filippo boards the ferry and challenges Dante, to which he responds by pushing him back into the river while cursing him, which...
results in Argenti being torn into pieces by the other wrathful. Filippo Argenti also appears in the game as one of the souls we can appropriately decide to punish or absolve. It’s up to you.
- Noooo! - Here in the game as well, we cross the river Styx, albeit on a floating platform that takes us to the opposing bank, which, upon landing, is revealed to be the head of Phlegyas, in this iteration of the story embodied by a massive fiery demon. Who, of course, have to defeat and outsmart in a confrontation. And once we’ve defeated him, we actually hijack him. We take control over him similar to the how it works with the minotaurs before, just several levels more colossal, and on his head, we violently force our entry into the City of Dis, which in the poem is the area that contains all the three last layers of hell. I’m a bit sad that this segment was cut somewhat short in the game.
A bridge collapses under our feet and Dante successively “wingsuits” far down into the next layer. This could have culminated in a grand and amazing Kaiju battle- -alla Godzilla vs. Gigan or something– -all the mechanics for this were already in place, but the game chose to cut these segments short instead. Oh well.
The encounter in the City of Dis in the poem is very different, and it’s equally a bit sad that none of those events have been adapted in the game. As the duo arrives at the city, the gates are barred to them, and the inhabitants threaten them with the petrifying gaze of Medusa. Could have also been a cool boss battle. This is the only time where a simple - [Elwood] We're on a mission from god.
doesn’t immediately Deus- Ex-Virgila the problem. In this case, it requires the intervention of an angel to come down from heaven and to dizz the citizens of Dis into submission, so that Dante can continue on his divine journey. The strong divergence of game story and source material continues through the sixth circle, Heresy, up until the seventh layer of Violence, where it gets a bit more interesting again. In the poem, heresy is an ideologically really pivotal layer, because the sin of worshipping other, quote unquote “false” gods and idols was a much more weighty transgression back in the times when the Divine Comedy was conceived, compared to today. These days, almost anyone’s knee jerk response to “Oh so people down here are being tortured because they were aware of the Catholic Church existence but chose a different path or no faith at all?” is gonna be blanket absolution.
- SO DELIGHTFUL! - The layer itself, true to the source material, is a network of burning tombs. Here, they're arranged in the probably most metroidvania-style level in the entire game. I mean, not really metroidvania. Mostly in that it involves mechanisms in dead ends that clear the path in places we’ve been to so far, so like this is not a 3D Symphony of the Night all of a sudden.
But considering that the game so far has almost exclusively been structured linearly forward or downward, it is a noticeable shake-up. So much so that you can feel how QA had to step in during testing and urge the developers to prompt some pop-ups here and there that indicate that the way forward for once is to actually go back. (giant metallic cogs and wheels spinning) One of the most common criticisms I hear pointed out when it comes to Dante’s Inferno, aside from the constant claims that it’s similar to God of War and therefore somehow bad, which is about as valid criticism as saying like, Star Wars: Dark Forces is a bad video game because it’s like Doom- -it’s just an asinine way of rating video games, especially when we’re considering how the God of War series was built at least as strongly upon the foundations laid by Devil May Cry- -ironically another title inspired by the Divine Comedy.
This avenue of criticism can seriously go fuck right off. Anyway I’m getting horribly distracted down here. It’s like the further down I climb the ladder of hell the more my mind starts wandering into places... Umm, so yeah what I was saying, right; one of the most common valid criticisms I hear pointed out when it comes to Dante’s Inferno is that the last, [thinking noise] I’d say the last quarter or so of the game is where it starts getting a bit out of breath, creatively, and I totally get where people are coming from. There’s really very little I can do to refute that, especially the 8th layer- –we’ll get there soon– -which absolutely feels like a creative cop-out. At this point the game’s issues with pacing in the last circles comes at least in part from the original poem’s structure and the order in which Alighieri arranged the circles and their content himself.
The 7th Circle of Hell, Violence, is separated into 3 individual sub-layers, while the 8th layer, Fraud, is split into no less than 10 different trenches, all dedicated to different manifestations of the sin of Fraud, which seriously scrambles the so far rather neatly spaced out one-circle-per-sin rhythm and the audience expectation that was set up by it. In the game, the 7th Circle, Violence, still manages to boast some really interesting interpretations of the source material. The first section is dedicated to those who committed violence against others, meaning murderers, serial killers and leaders who made their armies commit atrocities and genocide.
In the poem this layer is guarded by the giant minotaur of Knossos, which the duo evades by Virgil insulting the half-bull-half-man, which in turn makes it madly thrash around, giving them the opportunity to sneak past. Oddly enough, in the game, this section was not turned into a super-epic violent mega-battle with a skyscraper-sized minotaur that you then, I don't know, disembowel with god-knows-what hellish device you turned against it or whatever, but it’s rather focused on dexterity and wit. The minotaur itself only appears as a giant statue that we have to trick into chopping our path free for us with its massive battle-axe. After that, we, quite symbolically, traverse rivers of blood, with inhabitants of this layer drowning over and over again in it for all eternity, until we reach the second plateau: The Forest of Suicides, where those who commit violence against themselves get punished, and just like in the poem, grow into trees whose leaves then get eaten by harpies, causing them great pain, until they of course instantly regrow. A positively Promethean punishment.
Down here, Dante is surprised to encounter his own mother, as he had always believed that she’d perished from an illness, but, as it turns out, she took her own life because of his father’s cruelty. (crows cawing) This is once again a complete deviation from book-Dante’s tale. But hey, luckily, we wield the power of forgiveness in the form of Beatrice’s cross and can absolve her post-haste, - [Mom] My soul... belongs to you! - after which we march on towards the third plateau of Circle 7: The Abominable Sands. Now, the Circle of Violence is one where it gets ideologically really questionable.
See, the hierarchy of the layers is composed in a way that the worse the sin you’ve committed, the deeper down in the pit you end up. Which means that Alighieri consciously placed the circles and their sub-layers in the order of his personal judgment of the severity of each crime. See, the Circle of Violence is a very fascinating microcosm for the problems with this, because according to Alighieri, for instance, murdering, killing, and even committing large-scale genocide... all of this is less bad than taking your own life. Because suicide is violence against yourself, and according to scripture, that’s the gift God in his graceful infallibility bestowed on you and thereby destroying this is indirect violence against God himself, and therefore...worse than the holocaust.
And it gets better: the third plateau of Violence, the Abominable, or Burning Sands, is where people who committed what’s understood as violence against God himself are condemned to forever march on scorching hot sands and perpetually get showered by rains of fire. This includes things like sodomy, entailing things like... being not heterosexual and not cisgender.
Because that’s supposedly violating God’s perfect idea of the traditional family yadda yadda and of course deserves eternal flames. Just...byoootiful. So yeah, according to The Inferno, being gay is literally a worse sin than the holocaust itself. Values! But hey, disclaimer: please mind that Aligheri’s interpretation of scripture in The Inferno was even repeatedly refuted by the Catholic Church itself being like “hey wait, listen, being queer is not worse than mass murder, okay.
We want to make that abundantly clear. We do not stand for this! Like, it still deserves hell, but maybe a higher circle or something I don't know." And it’s here, where I really appreciate the game at least attempting to “subvert” the ideological rigidness of the original work and adding this element of “well in the game it’s actually up to you who actually deserves to be down here.”
Dante’s internal development over the course of the poem starts out with him being initially appalled and filled with pity at the sight of the cruel punishments inflicted on people, feeling remorse for their suffering- -empathy!- -but he gradually turns into someone who vehemently nods along and wholeheartedly agrees with the pain, with every hellish form of torture perpetrated, because of how incredibly just and fair this entire sadistic pandemonium really is, firmly convinced that every single soul down here truly deserves every last iota of the abuse inflicted on them for the rest of time. Or rather until Judgment Day, when, it turns out, most tortures just become even worse and then really for eternity. This whole notion of divine punishment, often merely for ways in which people are just different from the norm, branded as “sins” people have to be punished for, is something I’ve always abhorred with a passion: punishment as a negative incentive to prevent people from “doing bad things” to begin with is a practice that’s been proven again and again to not just be incredibly inefficient but also to just...make people worse. And many of the alleged “sinful acts,” like for instance the puritanical notion that Lust in any form corrupts some kind of heavenly, blessed virginity, blegh; ♫ It's A Sin! ♫ they’re oppressive teachings through-and-through which lastingly have rendered people and entire cultures miserable, regressive, and morally tyrannized.
It’s horseshit dogmatic control. I could go on, but the gist is: I find the whole concept of hell and eternal damnation as a boogeyman tale to scare believers and acolytes into subservience over what the Catholic Church considers “evil,” not just comically evil in and of itself, but considering how much palpable damage it has caused, culturally and, in billions of cases, individually, over millennia, incredibly sad and disheartening. And these notions are still painfully pervasive to this day, baked deep into every facet of our modern Christian-informed culture and by extension all over the world.
*heavy sigh* So in conclusion, I think a religious adherence to the underlying ideological message of the original work is not just unnecessary for me to enjoy this adaptation, giving me the option to go “Waitaminute holmes, what are you in for? Sodomy? Aw fucking hell off to a better life with you! Be Gay, Do Crimes, Smoke Weed, Occupy Heaven.” is an incredibly satisfying middle finger to the toxic ideas purported in the original work. ♫ Yo Rag got somethin' to say: F*ck the INQUISITION! ♫ Because if we go by the moral conclusions of the original text, the idea that all and every punishment inflicted down in these 9 circles of Hell are the epitome of perfect righteous justice- –that everything happening here is exactly as it should be... the very act of absolving people, and thereby denying them the punishment they are supposed to receive in the eyes of God, is an act of blasphemous rebellion. And that, my friends, puts an entirely different twist on the ostensibly shallow binary game mechanic of “hey let’s have Dante absolve or punish people to get XP and fill up an Evil and Good Skill Tree”. (chorus of voices screaming) But ultimately it’s the 8th circle, Malegbogle, the evil ditches, where the pretense really starts to fall flat.
The problems for Visceral came with the poem having Dante and Virgil traverse 10 circular trenches surrounding a deep well in this circle, each of which is dedicated to a different variation of the, um, Umbrella-sin of Fraud. Panderers and seducers are being forced to march, single file, around the circumference of the trench, being constantly lashed by horned demons in the first Boglia; Flatterers in the second are submerged in a river of shit and piss, yeah; Simoniacs, meaning those who sell church goods (or offices) for their own profit, in the third, are hung upside down with their feet on fire while having to read baptismal texts cut into the rocks in front of them. Many more different types of Fraud are being put on display here, like thieves, hypocrites, grafters, deceivers, promoters of scandal and schism and so on, each receiving a punishment that Alighieri found befitting for them. There’s also one of my favorite... unwittingly funny moments in the entire poem, which takes place in the 4th boglia, dedicated to “Astrologers, Seers and Sorcerers”; people who attempted to pervert god’s laws to divine the future.
Their punishment is having their heads twisted around 180 degrees, exorcist style, and having to forever walk in a circle while not being able to look straight ahead. And it’s here where Dante completely loses it, which always makes me cackle. He’s witnessed incomparable suffering, people eternally boiled alive in pitch or liquid metal, people being burned by acid rain, skin torn off and decomposed in bile for eternity, and so many more. Yet when he comes across the sorcerers having to walk with their heads turned around he feels like he can’t take it anymore, because for some reason this is beyond cruel to him. Like, tiny mini tangent, I promise, but I distinctly remember how my literature teacher in school could not stop laughing about this when we went through the 8th circle; like he literally had tears in his eyes about Dante just losing it completely here. *incoherent mumble/chuckle* Anyway, you can see how this circle, even though it felt like we’re already way way down near the end, would demand easily half the effort the game took so far in asset creation by the developers if it were to be realized in the same sprawling splendor as the circles we’ve encountered before.
And the end-result, no matter how much I twist and turn it, is a cop-out. In this adaptation, the Malebogles have been replaced with 10 little arena fights with a deep abyss surrounding them, which is, I suppose, representing the well. Each section starts with a short, introductory narration by Beatrice, summarizing the corresponding “sin” in a single sentence with a camera pan of a mere statue that’s meant to represent it, then we have to platform our way across to the arena itself, and then face a gameplay challenge that has absolutely no ludonarrative connection with the events at hand.
This can be something like “Get a Combo of 100 successive hits” or “kill 5 enemies exclusively with Air Attacks” or other achievement-like gameplay challenges in order to beat the plateau and advance. This is followed up by a short vertical climbing section to the next layer, save point, health and mana pool and then the next arena awaits. It’s very disjointed and immersion breaking, if you think that Beatrice now cares about us getting in a few achievements before the finale. Some of these ar