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Dante's Inferno is... good!

Brad Gallaway's picture

Etrian Odyssey III Screenshot

I haven't talked about Etrian Odyssey III for a while, but I'm still playing. I've been putting in a few hours each night while in bed, and if nothing else, this game delivers an extremely healthy amount of content. I thought for sure I'd have polished it off by now, but I'm still chipping away. I'm not complaining though, the game is quite entertaining.

While I'm quite glad to have secured an early copy, one of the downsides of reviewing games before release is that there is often little or no information available online . After all, how can someone write an FAQ before the game's even released? It's true that there are some walkthroughs out that are based on the Japanese version, but sometimes things change, or it can be hard to figure out the finer details with differences in translation.

Anyway, my point in bringing this up is that now that I'm more than halfway and have finally figured out most of the tricks up the game's sleeve, I'm sorely tempted to go back to the beginning and rebuild my characters from scratch.

*** Spoiler Alert!

For those of you who intend to play and buy the game (which should be all of you, really) know that there comes a point at which your characters are able to add a sub-class. For example, a starting party might be Gladiator, Monk, Hoplite, Arbalist, Zodiac. After the choice is available, some of those classes might be more attractive as a sub-class instead. The Gladiator can become a Gladiator/Hoplite, and the Monk can become a Monk/Zodiac, for example. I did not know this at the beginning of the game, and if I had, I believe it would have changed which characters I picked.

This is important to know because characters only gain one skill point per level, and earning a level is serious business in Etrian. It takes a long time, and every little bit counts. It's certainly possible to re-configure a character (and the game goes out of its way to provide the player options) but it's infinitely better to start off properly and craft them the way you want from the get-go. I'm somewhere in the ballpark of 30-ish hours last I checked, and that's too much time to just call a wash. I'm pressing on, but the perfectionist inside me is screaming.

One other thing to know—there are two special classes available only after a certain plot point. Things may change if I get a little further, but as of right now, it appears that only one is accessible per playthrough. The Yggdroid can be selected if you choose to protect, and the Samurai (pretty sure it's a Samurai, though I may be getting the name wrong) opens up if you choose to attack. You'll know what I mean when you get there.

I've only had the Yggdroid on my team, but so far it seems extremely similar to a Hexer from Etrian Odyssey II. This certainly isn't a bad thing, but I'm noticing that it takes a heck of a lot of experience points in order to get all of its systems running properly.

My advice to anyone would be to retire a high-level character (at least 40 or so) before having the ‘droid join your team. I took one on too early, and it was extremely rough going since it was both fragile and weak at the start. It's becoming a killing machine now, but it took quite a bit of effort and patience. I would do it differently next time around.

*** End Spoiler Alert!

Our recent podcast featured a new segment where one of the critics suggest a game they like, and then the rest of the crew plays it to see what they think. The two games selected were Too Human (Tim's pick) and any of the Dynasty Warriors games (Chi's pick).

As I mentioned earlier, I did actually complete Too Human and even went so far as to write a full review. It hasn't gone live yet, but it will shortly. As far as Dynasty Warriors, I ended up going with Dynasty Warriors 6 on the 360. Not to spoil the podcast or anything, but let's just say that... I didn't finish it.

Dante's Inferno Screenshot

After doing my due diligence for the show (and noticing that there's a much-needed lull in current releases) I went to my "play this later" stack and selected Dante's Inferno. An infamous title for several reasons, I think it's fair to say that I didn't expect anything more than a poorly-conceived God of War clone, but the reality is that it's a much better game than I could have guessed.

To be certain, it draws heavy inspiration from Kratos. That is not in dispute. However, in an odd turn of events, God of War III actually sucked a fat one (yes, that's a scientific term) so my recent hack-and-slash jones went unsatisfied. By comparison, Dante's knows exactly what it's trying to do and does it in very polished fashion.

Aside from the smooth mechanics, one of the things I appreciate most about it is the attention to detail and the imagination on display in each of the hellish realms. The imagery is fantastic, with many interesting interpretations of the underworld and plenty of classic iconography.

In terms of its treatment of the source material, I certainly admit that I was highly dubious (to say the least) of developers appropriating a literary classic, but after having seen the way it was used, I think it was done very smartly.

To start with, I'd be willing to bet that out of everyone who's played the game, only a fraction of a fraction of a fraction have actually read The Inferno. I certainly haven't. I haven't even talked to or heard of anyone who has. However, I don't think the pertinent question is how faithful the game is to literature, as so many in the press seemed to insist.

To me, inspiration can be drawn from any source, so for the developers to say that their muse was Aligheri's work is certainly fair enough. The real litmus test in my mind is whether or not the game holds up on its own, and it certainly does. The story of Dante's personal failings and his quest to rescue Beatrice would be more than satisfactory for any random brand-new IP, so I don't see much need to compare it 1-to-1 to the book. It's perfectly obvious that the developers aren't being slavishly faithful, so why all the consternation?

Another thing I appreciate is that there's almost no dead space or fat that needs trimming. I've long been a fan of any game that knows what it's about, gets to it, and then ends with dignity. I'm estimating that this playthrough will take me between 5 and 6 hours, and that strikes me as being perfect for something so action-heavy. Anything more would be needless repetition, and that's never welcome.

Finally (and I admit it's really odd to call out) but I'm totally in love with a particular animation sequence. When Dante charges up his crucifix for a power blast, there's just something visually powerful—almost arresting—about it. He crouches back, winds up, and a giant explosion of photons slams into whatever's approaching. I've seen the animation a thousand times, but it never gets old. I don't subscribe to any particular religion so I don't have a special reverence for all of the Christian elements, but seeing this character charge through the gates of hell and blast everything in sight with pure, holy light has a certain potency about it… in terms of pure visuals, it really works. He's kicking ass for the Lord.

... and on that note, I should probably be getting back to it. Beatrice still needs saving, after all.

Category Tags
Platform(s): Xbox 360   PS3   PSP  
Developer(s): Visceral Games  
Series: Dante's Inferno  
Genre(s): Super Powers  

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will have to check out

will have to check out Dante's Inferno now! I tried the demo last month and guiltily loved the art, cut scenes, over the top catholic ass-kicking vibe.

Another thing I appreciate

Another thing I appreciate is that there's almost no dead space or fat that needs trimming. I've long been a fan of any game that knows what it's about, gets to it, and then ends with dignity. I'm estimating that this playthrough will take me between 5 and 6 hours, and that strikes me as being perfect for something so action-heavy. Anything more would be needless repetition, and that's never welcome.

Hate to be the one breaking it to ya, but the game quickly deteriorates as it progresses. It might all be variety and fun now, but Visceral soon run out of ideas and begin to fall back on repetitive design and a general laziness that I've never been a fan of.

You'll soon realise why God of War III is rightly held in higher regard. ;o)

Crofto wrote: Hate to be

Crofto wrote:

Hate to be the one breaking it to ya, but the game quickly deteriorates as it progresses. It might all be variety and fun now, but Visceral soon run out of ideas and begin to fall back on repetitive design and a general laziness that I've never been a fan of.

You'll soon realise why God of War III is rightly held in higher regard. ;o)

Yeah, the last part is quite an insult to the player. Still though, Dante's Inferno is a nice ride of a game and in some ways I too liked it more than GoW3.

Hey folks, thanks for your

Hey folks, thanks for your comments.

I finished the game up a couple of days ago, and I have to admit that I never felt like it started to get lazy or repetitive. I mean, the entire game is over in six hours, so that's barely even enough time to start to get boring.

That said, I do want to better understand what you're saying and if you could elaborate on your comments on little bit, that would be great. The most common element people seem to dislike were the ‘trials’ at the end of the game. Near the end, anyway.
Personally, I saw that trials area as more of Beatrice punishing/testing Dante rather than it being an actual ‘area’ of hell. I mean, she basically says (right before) that she's going to punish and kill him.

Other than that particular section, were there any other parts that stood out as being lazy or especially repetitive?

(and btw, Dante>>>GoW3) ; )

Brad Gallaway wrote: That

Brad Gallaway wrote:

That said, I do want to better understand what you're saying and if you could elaborate on your comments on little bit, that would be great. The most common element people seem to dislike were the ‘trials’ at the end of the game. Near the end, anyway.
Personally, I saw that trials area as more of Beatrice punishing/testing Dante rather than it being an actual ‘area’ of hell. I mean, she basically says (right before) that she's going to punish and kill him.

Other than that particular section, were there any other parts that stood out as being lazy or especially repetitive?

I've played the game quite a long ago, but yet, the trials at the end were what I (and the other guy presumably) was talking about.

It's quite evident that they rushed that part, probably to go on market before GoW3.

Too bad, because if they had put the same time and effort in that last part, probably what is a very good title could've become an istant classic.

Also, to put the trials right before the end, I'm not sure it was a good choice. Usually in all entertainment products, the weakest parts are placed in the middle, and rightly so. Placing them in the end leaves a bitter taste after finishing the game, also because the ending isn't anything so memorable.

This said, IMHO the GoW franchise had its peak with the first title, which was over the top in every aspect, and had a phenomenal final part (the "giant" fight with Ares, and the section where Kratos has to protect his family come to mind). GoW2, as I've read somewhere else, starts with a bang and goes downhill from there. GoW3 has its moments (I liked the "finish him" parts very much), but overall it feels quite repetitive. Can't say anything about the portable versions, as I didn't play them.

Personally, my order of preference would be GoW1 - Dante - GoW3 - GoW2.

Talking more in general, I've been lately thinking that many games, and especially AAA titles, have this "construction kit" feel about them, that makes them quite boring, especially if you're a long time gamer.

By "construction kit" feel I mean that while you can appreciate the effort put in the presentation and the game mechanics, you can also feel a soul-less execution, because you don't see anything that deviates from the monotonous path "go forward" "watch cutscene" "go more forward" "watch other cutscene" and so on until the end. You can feel the game was mostly a "factory" product, which gave top priority to things such as revenues, marketing, production values and so on.

I talk about "construction kit" feel because the feeling I have when I play such games, is that the developers were like, "ok we have the game mechanics, the graphics and sound engine, let's design some levels then let's get our pay". No soul, no genius, no inventive, just pure work.

Other games succeed in conveying an artistic vision, or message, that goes beyond the simple "go forward" scheme. Other than the first GoW, the first Prince of Persia comes to mind. The sequels all were superior technically and gameplay-wise, but they never achieved the same organic quality as the first one (due to Jordan Mechner leaving the development team, I guess, and same thing can be thought about Jaffe leaving the GoW team).

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