Visceral Games’ choice of source material, Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy, seemed like an odd choice for an action game to me. A lengthy poem that focused on a Poet wandering through the multiple layers of hell, lead by a dead Roman poet, chronicling all the terrible things he witnessed did not sound like the sort of thing that would seem appropriate for a hack slash adventure game. Maybe I was just lacking imagination. Even now, after playing through the game, I am still left wondering just how suitable the poem is as source material for a video game.
The game itself wound up being criticised for it’s similarities to Sony’s God of War series. It’s one thing to be influenced by someone else’s work, but another thing entirely to copy wholesale. Having said that, this was not my only issue with the game. A reliance on cheap deaths, often dying simply because the game provided no hint that a one hit death was coming your way as well as awkward platforming, hampered my experience with the game considerably.
After playing through Dark Forest, I am reconsidering my stance on Dante’s Inferno’s awful platforming sections because, as annoying as they could be, they added considerable length to the game. The simple act of dying multiple times on the same acrobatic puzzle, or simply falling to your death because the ground beneath your feet collapsed without even the vaguest hint that it would happen, actually kept me playing the game. But what does this have to do with Dark Forest? Simply put, there are no jumping sections, there are no cheap deaths. Subsequently it lasts anything from 5 to 10 minutes on the standard difficulty, and at 400 Microsoft Points (about £3.40 or so), it does not exactly scream value for money.
The premise of this DLC is taken from a direct quotation from the poem:
“At the midpoint of the journey of life I found myself in a dark forest where the clear path was lost”
While the original text is clearly metaphorical, the designers have literally placed Dante in the middle of a dark forest with no idea where to go. I do not mean to sound snobbish, and I probably will, but this blatant disregard for the source material gets on my nerves a little. I’m sure that Visceral Games understand the metaphor, but the whole time I played through this add-on I could not help but think “it’s not supposed to be a literal forest, it is supposed to be despair!”.
Having said that it would make a rather poor action adventure game if this expansion had a middle aged Dante sitting around in his pants feeling sorry for himself, and it’s not like the actual game has a long history of being faithful to the source material either.
Ignoring that minor gripe, in terms of gameplay Dark Forest is pretty much exactly the same as the disk game. It takes place after the introduction level, but before Dante makes it home to find Beatrice Murdered. If you have already completed the game then some of the mysteries in this expansion will seem pointless to you, seeing as you have already beaten it and know what’s going to happen. Enemies are mostly reskinned versions of enemies from the main game, and the path you follow through the forest is entirely linear. There are two major puzzles in this expansion, both requiring that you to be familiar with the points on a compass in order to navigate your way through a labyrinthine of portals as you pursue a mysterious figure. If you accidentally go through the wrong portal you are transported back to the start and must try again.
At first the puzzles seem a little obtuse, with a vague hint as to what you have to do. However, once you figure it out – particularly at the final section – it becomes incredibly easy. Between puzzles you fight off hordes of enemies which rarely prove to be much of a challenge. It is worth noting that I maxed out my character during my play through, and as such I was able to access all of my upgraded abilities from the start of this add-on. I assume that those of you that have not fully upgraded Dante will be able to use the experience gained from this DLC to boost his abilities.
And that is it. Once the short puzzles are solved, and the mystery figure is caught up with, it’s all over. You can play through the chapter again at any point in time directly from the main menu on different difficulties, but there is no real incentive to play again, save for an achievement that you are awarded if you make it through the dark forest without getting lost.
Also included in this piece of DLC is a new costume for Dante, called Disco Inferno, which appears to blend John Travolta from Saturday Night Fever with Marvel Comics’ Luke Cage Power Man. It is an amusing enough distraction, but that’s all it is; a distraction, and seems a little out of place considering the serious tone of the rest of the game.
Graphics: 4/5 The graphics are in exactly the same style as the main game. The design of the dark forest itself is linear and, as the title suggests, dark. This is not exactly a problem, but it’s also not exactly ambitious.
Sound: 4/5 There are a number of cut scenes in this add-on with new dialogue included. The quality of voice acting is on par with the main game. The same can be said of the sound effects and music.
Gameplay: 3/5 While I had previously thought that Dante’s Inferno would have been a better game without the irritating platforming sections, and the numerous cheap deaths, it actually just leaves a fairly generic action game. Kudos should be given for the compass based light puzzles, which are enjoyable enough and don’t stick around to outstay their welcome.
Longevity: 1/5 Considering that Capcom recently released two large expansions for Resident Evil 5, Lost in Nightmares and Desperate Escape, with each of them costing the same price as The Dark Forest, I can’t really recommend this DLC. My first play through took 20 or so minutes, as I struggled to figure out what was required of me with the final section of the game. Once I had figured that out, I went straight into my second play through and completed it within 5 minutes.
Overall: 2 deadly sins out of 5. While the expansion is competent, and provides an experience in line with what we expected of the main game, it is incredibly short considering the price. When compared to what some other studios are doing for a similar price: i.e. Capcom, it becomes difficult to justify purchasing this add on.
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