When Dante’s Inferno was released a number of critics criticised the game for not doing anything new or original. Some would call it an outright God of War clone and nothing more. The first piece of downloadable content, The Dark Forest, was incredibly short, over priced, and lacked any real replay value. Judging from this latest add on, The Trials of St Lucia, the developers over at Visceral Games have taken that criticism to heart and have attempted something new in the third person hack and slash genre by releasing a fairly expansive level editor.
While I concede that level editors themselves are nothing new (just look at Sony’s Little Big Planet), it is less common to see this particular genre of game with a level editor. Chuck in the fact that it includes two player co-op challenges, and you have yourself a fairly attractive package… So long as the community rises to the challenge.
To those that are not up on their Saint knowledge, St Lucia was a woman who had her eyes plucked out for refusing the advances of her pagan suitor. Rather than marry a non Christian, she laid down her life and endured terrible agony before eventually dying on account of her stubbornness.
According to the developers, St Lucia is mentioned several times in The Devine Comedy, and is said to be watching over Dante as he traverses the inferno. Those that have completed the game may recall a section in the game where “the wisdom of St Lucia” informs you that you have completed a puzzle and must head back the way you came. At the time this seemed like a pretty poor excuse for some bad level design, but perhaps Visceral Games were attempting to lay the foundations for this expansion.
Much like the game’s representation of Dante Alighieri, in some ways St Lucia is not exactly what you would imagine a saint to be like. Glowing bright blue, with gigantic wings, St Lucia is the second playable character introduced in this expansion. You can either complete single player challenges as Lucia, or you can join Dante in co-op challenges.
In a somewhat strange move, Lucia is only playable in specific Lucia challenges, and co-op challenges that state that the second player must play as Lucia. I say this is a strange move because, in terms of combat, Lucia is just a reskinned version of Dante: she has all the same moves, combos, and abilities. So, does it matter who you play as? As far as I can tell there is no real advantage or disadvantage to playing as either character, so it is a minor gripe.
The main meat of this add-on is the ability to create your own combat challenges, upload them online, and play through other users challenges. Depending on how long they are and how many enemies populate each wave, your challenge will be awarded a medal ranking. Basic challenges are awarded Bronze medals, while harder challenges will be given Silver, Gold, and Platinum medals. When a player completes the challenge they earn that medal, as well as points, which then earns them a position on the global leader board.
Creating a combat challenge is simple. Firstly you must choose the arena in which your challenge will take place. The arenas that are available are pretty much all locations lifted from the main game. Each arena has a set number of things that can be placed in there, including enemies, heath/mana stations, and environmental hazards.
Weaker enemies take up the least amount of space, while the stronger enemies, health stations, and environmental hazards take up the most space, so you will not be able to fill a wave with dozens of the hardest enemies in the game. Once an enemy is placed in the arena you can choose how tough a challenge they will be. As well as choosing how aggressive they are, you can dictate how much health they have, and how much health/magic they drop once they are defeated.
As well as editing the enemies and environment, you can also select the main objective of the wave. Objectives range from kill everyone within a set amount of time, to defeating a specific enemy, to performing a predetermined combo. To sum it all up, this add-on allows you to create your own challenges, much like the challenges that Dante must complete towards the end of the game in order to save Beatrice.
A complaint often made about those challenges was that they were practically impossible to those that had not spent time upgrading their holy abilities. Perhaps in response to this criticism the creator has been given direct control of how powered up Dante and Lucia will be, choosing how many lives they are allowed as well as the abilities they will have access to. So if you cannot beat a challenge because you do not have certain abilities, take it up with the creator, not the developers.
Speaking of the developers, Visceral Games have produced 40 challenges for players to work through, and the community has already uploaded a ton of challenges. After playing through a challenge you are given the opportunity to rate it and add it to your favourites should you so wish.
As you can imagine, once these tools got in to the hands of the gamers, it quickly descended into the realms of achievement boosting. For instance the first challenge I played, which was also the highest rated challenge, was called “easy 666 combo challenge”, which had Dante face off against wave after wave of weak mindless foes.
To the uninitiated one of the more challenging achievements in the game demanded that you perform a combo of at least 666 hits. Within a few minutes I had already racked up a combo of over 1,000. When playing the main game itself I never actually got a combo higher than about 190.
It is nice to know that, when given the keys to the empire, the first thing we gamers do is cheat the system.
Graphics: 4/5 The graphics themselves are exactly the same as the main game. The arenas are all based on existing in game locations. The design of Lucia is a little generic; she glows bright white and blue, and has gigantic wings, and she acts as little more than a reskinned Dante.
Sound: 3/5 The music is suitably hellish, and the sound effects are particularly gruesome. There really is not much to say about the voice acting, because there isn’t any.
Gameplay: 4/5 Including co-op in this expansion is a welcome addition, although it would have been nice if they had offered split screen co-op. Unfortunately co-op is restricted to the specific co-op challenges, rather than just letting you and a teammate work together whenever you like. The actual challenge creation system is easy to pick up and use. While it is not particularly in depth, there is scope to create a wide variety of challenges, although most gamers tend to be making achievement/trophy boosting challenges, or levels that are filled with the seductive enemies that moan as if they are experiencing an orgasm every time they get hit.
Longevity: 5/5 The potential is there to create an infinite number of challenges, so long as the community engages with them. Visceral Games have uploaded 40 challenges themselves, and so far the community has provided a ton of different levels… although most of them are filthy, smutty things filled with phallic imagery.
Overall 3.5 plucked eyeballs out of 5. Given the chance, The Trials of St Lucia is actually very good. There is scope here to make a long lasting varied set of combat challenges for owners of Dante’s Inferno, as the tools are all there. As things stand, however, you will have to wade through a sea of achievement/trophy boosting challenges in order to find some of the better content.
The Trials of St Lucia is available to download off of the Xbox Live Marketplace for 800 Microsoft Points (about £6.80) and on the Playstation Store for £7.99