The new expansion to Dante's Inferno was partially developed by me. And one of you — one of you how can't appreciate sublime game design — gave my contribution one out of five stars.
Dante's Inferno: The Trials of St. Lucia is a downloadable expansion of the EA Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 Dante's Inferno game. It adds co-operative multiplayer to the God of War-esque action game design. More significantly, it adds user-driven level creation. The entire affair, a side mode to the game's core storyline campaign. comprises arena challenges that pit Dante and/or a second character (Dante #2 or newcomer Lucia) against waves of enemies. EA's developers have created 40 such trials for consumers to play. The rest are being made by St. Lucia players like me, for better or for one-star worse.
Dante Alighieri Had Nothing To Do With This: The world of this expansion has minimal reverence for the classics. The game developers' aspirations to make an interactive descendant to a literary masterpiece are obliterated by gamers' aspirations to win a popularity contest by making Trials that will get high peer-review ratings because they guarantee you'll get a platinum medal really fast. The language of poetry is out; the language of e-mail spam is in. Sure, the EA designers created some possibly respectable trials such as "Wrath" and "The Man with the Glowing Rod" and, well… okay, they made a trial called "Two Temptresses One Glutton" and one called "Dude, Where's My Scythe?" But EA was topped in its efforts to assemble and offer demon-wave challenges of no redeeming literary merit by the amateur creators of "QUICK and EASY PLATINUM", "Easy Silver For Trophy" and "Dante Platinum 15 sec waves." Those three gamer-uploaded challenges were the top three most-popular trials, of hundreds made, as of this morning.
Why is this wild behavior happening? Because the Trials of St. Lucia turns Dante's Inferno: The Game into a ranked sport. There is a leaderboard. Rankings. You gain points and medals for clearing trials (killing waves of enemies in arenas), more points with multipliers for completing trials repeatedly, and/or you can just snap these trials together using the game's editing tools to offer your own classics. (I recommend Johns Hell, which I played through this morning with its creator, John.) All of this is a superb baring of gamers' id and a hilarious depiction of what Dante's gamers lust for — platinum medals! P.S. They also like making levels that include those female Dante's Inferno enemies who moan sexually while they fight.
Co-Op Is Good!: Everything is better in co-op, except, arguably, New Super Mario Bros. That law applies here. In the Trials of St. Lucia, you are either Dante or new flight-ready character Lucia (she's can shoot beams of energy!). You're maxed out with every power made for the characters. And, if you can find someone to play with — a trial in and of itself on the PS3 where public co-op games rarely pop up and you just have to host one and cross your fingers for a visitor — you will have a blast. You might wish the camera could zoom out so you could see what your buddy is doing, but you can hear the crunch of demon bone just fine and that's clue enough as to what must be done next. It would have been nice if there were some co-op maneuvers, but there is plenty of pleasure in helping each other race to annihilate demon babies before the clock runs out in a timed challenge or to see if, together, you can survive some four-star gauntlet some other dude created.
Not Enough Lego Pieces: The Trials of St. Lucia theoretically opens up Dante's Inferno combat level design to all of us. But all we've got to work with are a bunch of arenas, some traps, a couple-dozen enemy types, some sliders that manipulate enemy toughness and health — i.e. all the basics we could demand. But… it adds up to a lot of same-y gameplay.
My level, Anti-Peace, was one-starred because it sucks, but I was trying to create a minimalist masterpiece (I guess you need to devote more than five minutes of level-creation effort for that). I put one weak enemy on a platform of hell, surrounded by giant worms that could eat the player. Then I added enough enemies in subsequent levels to qualify for the minimal-challenge-level needed to upload the thing. I could have done way better, but I still would have merely made a beat-em-up gauntlet. That's all we can make, showing that St. Lucia scratches at mere potential. In an era of LittleBigPlanet being turned into a mystery game or WWE Smackdown Vs. Raw 2010 being morphed into the high drama of wrestlers wrestling over what their favorite color is (an epic user-made WWE scenario designed and uploaded by yours truly) more variety in the creation options would have been great.
Dante's Inferno: The Trials of St. Lucia isn't the thing to get because you are dying to play Dante's Inferno action as St. Lucia. It's worth getting if you'd like to be ranked in this sort of gameplay, if you agree that co-op is better (no you can't co-op the main story campaign), and if you, like me, are amused by the creations of your fellow gamers. It's not the classics. But it may well be better for it.
Dante's Inferno: The Trials of St. Lucia was developed by EA's Visceral Games and published by EA for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 on April 29. Retails for $9.99 USD. A copy of the game was given to us by the publisher for reviewing purposes. Played solo challenges; made one. Played co-op challenges. Climbed three notches higher in the rankings than PS3 user BrokObama.
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