Two Brains Review: Dante’s Inferno

Everyone knows the old saying – “Two heads are better than one.”  For the most part, it’s true.  Get more people thinking about something, and everyone benefits – you get more and different opinions that might help you shape the way you think about… well, anything.  It’s with this mindset that we go into our Two Brains review, where Molotov Cupcake and Snarkasaur have had a meeting of the minds to discuss Dante’s Inferno for the both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.
Molotov Cupcake: Dante’s Inferno is quite the interesting beast. Even though it’s been compared to God of War more times than I can count, it’s certainly made a name for itself and has stood on its own two feet as a separate monster. Though the two games are most certainly similar, there’s certainly no rule that stipulates you must enjoy either one or the other, though it wlll be overlooked for that very reason.

Snarkasaur: I enjoy them both, and possibly enjoyed Dante so much simply because it’s so similar to God of War, a series that I happen to have fanboy associations with.

Molotov Cupcake: I do as well. I’ve followed the series since its inception, and I’m always ready to get my hands on anything related to the Almighty Kratos. Unfortunately, as excited as I was for this game’s release, I don’t feel as though it truly lived up to my expectations. While it retains most of what I love about the God of War series, I felt that much of the finesse was sacrificed for some mediocre platforming and shallow branching paths.

Snarkasaur: It certainly had its issues.  I wouldn’t call it as polished certainly, but I think its aesthetic lends the game enough that I was able to overlook its foibles.  But I think it’s also important, despite its similarities, to look at it as its own game!  And in that I think it succeeds, if not as well as games of similar nature.

Molotov Cupcake: I agree — it should be judged on its own merits, but despite mowing through the unbaptized babies, taking down gelatinous gluttony monsters, and terrifyingly oversized bosses, I still was left feeling quite underwhelmed. The satisfaction I get from a hit connecting with a victim in similar games is far beyond what I felt with Dante’s Inferno. Plugging away at the same enemies who come in waves over and over that take far too many hits to die (even on Zealot) ceased to be fun for me and much more of a nuisance. I found myself putting the game away in favor of something that offered a little more payoff from time to time.

Snarkasaur: Odd.  I never had the impression that things weren’t dying for me.  I think maybe that might be due to our differing specialization paths though.  You went Unholy, if I’m not mistaken?

Molotov Cupcake: I actually struck a balance between Holy and Unholy as much as I could, eventually opting for Holy as I vastly preferred the ranged attacks just to keep the hordes of monsters off of me. I much enjoyed attacking from a distance, as I found that the dodging and my play style preference didn’t mesh too well. Maybe I had just gotten spoiled with Bayonetta’s fast-paced and unforgiving battles, so it felt much slower to me, but even in comparison to similar games in that vein, I just began to feel bogged down. Coupled with some truly uninteresting rope swinging and platforming, I was just disenchanted throughout most of the game. But there were parts I genuinely did enjoy, such as the ability to save wretched souls or to damn them. I felt like I was given a real choice about who to become, except for the awful absolving minigame, which felt way too out of place.

Snarkasaur: I went Holy the whole way through and even played on a higher difficulty, and it certainly does seem that the game is easier.  I think the Scythe as a main weapon is probably a flawed concept.  There’s a reason other designers have used it as a secondary one often enough.  Then again, maybe Visceral just didn’t program it quite right. You’re right about the platforming. For the most part it was dreadful, though after a playthrough or two it did become bearable. The absolving minigame was beyond dreadful. As soon as I got the ability to auto absolve, I chose it no contest even with the diminished souls that it returned.

Molotov Cupcake: Perhaps they were looking to inject a little diversity into what is otherwise cookie cutter gameplay made unique only through some of the fantastic boss battles. At least from the very beginning, you’re treated to some truly epic encounters. Obtaining your primary weapon (Death’s scythe) is an adventure in and of itself, and the boss battles were what kept me playing to see what would come up next — the same reason I fervently followed the developer diaries released on Xbox Live. It’s engaging to see what will be tossed at you next and I can definitely appreciate the game for that.

Snarkasaur: Yes I think the draw of the game is definitely the aesthetic, of which the boss battles are part of that.  We’ve seen Hell plenty in games, but never depicted in this uber-Christian sense. Though on that note, I did have some issues with the way they chose to hand us these seven circles of hell.  My main beef with the different levels and even with the boss battles were the continuity between them.  I suppose I wanted less violence and more of the other sins.  I expected to be given decisions about Lust or Greed or Gluttony in these places, instead of just Violence on every one.

Molotov Cupcake: I definitely agree. It did seem as though Violence took center stage. It would have been refreshing to see the other sins depicted as thoroughly as Violence, even if it meant breaking the “mold” of the genre, which I didn’t honestly expect, but each sin should have been treated differently. Since so many creative liberties were taken with the epic anyway, it would have been great to see more freedom given to explore the damned souls and to get better insight into what kind of torture they’re really receiving and gameplay to match each circle’s “personality.”

Snarkasaur: Right, and as far as the story went, I certainly didn’t have any issues there.  I liked their choices for bosses, and despite the minimum interaction, I enjoyed meeting the historical and mythical dudes and duddettes from the original poem.  I did take issue with the romance between Beatrice and Dante, but mainly because I know a little history about the actual Dante and how he loved a woman named Beatrice, but never even had a relationship with her.  I suppose I’d have liked to see him have a different motivation for his quest.

Molotov Cupcake: Romance subplots are simple, though, and something players can relate to. I know I appreciate them. Still, a little variety never hurt anyone. I suppose that’s my main complaint with the game — not enough variety and too much sameness for my tastes. As someone who willingly slogs through value titles and “bad” games, I can’t say I don’t appreciate games despite how similar they are to what I’ve seen in the past, but I do notice and treasure when they do something the same, but on the level of what I’ve seen before or better. I didn’t get that with this game. There were some truly great moments and the marketing (as scattershot as it was) certainly got my hype train rolling. I’m saddened to say that it didn’t strike the chord in me that I thought it would. But that’s definitely not to say it’s a bad game, or even close to one. Perhaps it just wasn’t for me — or I’ve just been spoiled by Kratos and the anticipation of that series’ final chapter.

Snarkasaur: I suppose we’ll have to differ on that point.  I do like video games probably way too much and tend to give them the benefit of the doubt in most cases, but I know when I’m engaged and when I’m just playing it for the sake of playing it.  I enjoyed my jaunt through hell, particularly because its depiction was the best representation, physically, that I think I’ve ever seen of the shadowy realm in a video game or even movie.  Combat and story aside, players have to appreciate the way this game looks.

Molotov Cupcake: I most certainly appreciate its look, and the work that went into lovingly recreating what Alighieri depicted in his masterpiece. Perhaps in the future, I’ll find much more to like, or even through another installment (do they have it in them to tempt fate with a sequel?). I suppose I am giving it the benefit of the doubt, however, in the fact that I will award this game a 7.5, simply because Hell has never looked so good. If this were any other location, I’d not be so kind.

Snarkasaur: A sequel certainly seems possible, though I find it an odd choice given the lack of violent images in purgatory and paradise.  I suppose its feasible Dante will decide that angels and spirits all need a good scything as well.  They’ve taken enough liberties, why not just go crazy!  As for my personal rating, I’m definitely not going to over-value the game, but my 8.5 /10 at least shows that I enjoyed the “hell” out of it.

Molotov Cupcake: And that’s all EA wanted, I’m sure. They’ve had some fun with their puns, now.

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