The Divine Comedy, written early in the 14th century by Dante Alighieri, is an epic poem detailing a medieval view of the afterlife. Inferno, the first part of this work, describes the horrifying nature of hell and the punishment that sinners can expect. EA Redwood Shores (the same developers that brought us Dead Space) are crafting a third-person action adventure based on this rich material for a game system near you.
While there are some concerns about a modern gore-soaked interpretation of a literary masterpiece, the descriptive anatomy of the poem lends itself very well to game structure. Dante described hell as nine circles nested within one another – each has a distinct atmosphere and character as well as colourful inhabitants and chilling antagonists. These correlate nicely with levels, monsters and bosses. Incorporate the often grim and visceral visions from Dante’s mind such as rivers of boiling blood, deserts of flaming sand and whip-wielding demons, and you have a lot of material for a potentially excellent game.
You play the role of Dante himself as he seeks to rescue his fiancée’s innocent soul from the clutches of Lucifer, redeeming his own sins in the process. And you are not alone in your quest – Virgil, a Roman poet, will be your guide through the frightening landscape of the underworld.
You will battle your way downwards armed with a supernatural scythe and a holy cross, permitting you to make physical as well as magical attacks – gameplay is a lot like God of War, featuring similar types of attacks, combos, footwork, and quick time events (QTEs). As you descend, the levels of hell correspond to specific sins in increasing order of severity – limbo (for the unbaptised), lust, gluttony, avarice and wastefulness, wrath and sloth, heresy, violence, fraudulence, and finally treachery. Each circle provides challenges and inflicts punishment suiting the wickedness of the damned souls they contain. Many of these souls will beg for your assistance, and will present you with the quandary of either punishing or attempting to absolve them – the morality of your choices here will earn you upgraded attacks and abilities.
Although much of the original material will be included, a good deal of artistic license is used to make things entertaining. The poem focuses on observation and narration – there is little action and Dante is seldom at risk, never coming to harm. This would make for a rather dull gaming experience so the plentiful denizens are unleashed to do their worst to the hero. Major characters and level guardians from the original work will make an appearance, but to keep things fresh and varied there will be many new foes to ensure Dante becomes a permanent resident in the afterlife.
While an ambitious undertaking that is still a year away, Dante’s Inferno has a great deal of potential for an excellent story and satisfying combat in a fearsome, well-realised realm.