The Hectic Glow: Dante's Inferno

The Hectic Glow

Decay and disease are often beautiful, like the pearly tear of the shellfish and the hectic glow of consumption

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We're not quite as good as decay and disease, but we do thrive on consumption

By Divine Miss Bee and Pimppeter2

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All art, regardless of form, serves a similar purpose: to teach, inspire, and entertain. Occasionally, significant pieces rise above and achieve new and outstanding successes in one of these fields. If they can stand the test of time, most become remembered as "classics". And each genre has them, whether it be your must-see movies, must-read books, or must-play games. As industries expand and fresh ideas run short, it's been a trend in all artistic media to attempt at taking a success from one medium, and perverting it in attempt to accomplish similar goals in another. Lamentably, this often goes hand in hand with simultaneous neglect of the differences in experience between contrasting forms of art.

Books made into movies. Movies made into games. Games based off movies based off books. It's no wonder then that, for the most part, these abominations are almost universally despised. Therefore, there wasn't a gamer alive who, upon hearing about EA's Dante's Inferno, wasn't immediately skeptical about it being based off of a literary classic with a similar name. Nor was there a single gamer surprised that the 'creative liberties' taken often bastardized the source material.

When I finally got my long-overdue chance at being sent to hell, I found myself asking not only if sticking closer to the source material (Dante Alighieri's poetic epic of similar name) would have made a better videogame, but also if it was worthy of being made into one in the first place. However, that would have required me to actually take the time to read the book, which I'm clearly too busy being handsome to do. Luckily, I found this local fan (and friend?) of mine who had already done so, and was willing to put up with me long enough to get to the bottom of this, in her peculiar all-lowercase trademark fashion.

Without further ado...the Divine Miss Bee!

(:

Divine Miss Bee

.


...i type this way because i speak softly. jerk.

*ahem*

written in the fourteenth century, the inferno is an epic poem by dante alighieri. for those of you not up on your italian, "inferno" means "hell," and that's exactly where dante is taking us. the inferno serves primarily as an extended metaphor for the recognition of sin in oneself and in others, so throughout the nine circles of hell, dante comes face-to-face with stark, unsubtle portrayals of the kinds of sins that sent men in the 1300's running home to mother and that men of the 2000's see on MTV.

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yay! there's debauchery here!

it intends to be fairly straightforward: dante is accosted by three beasts that represent the trials of aging that drive men to sin. bailed out by long-dead roman poet virgil, who will act as his guide, on a journey through hell to purgatory and hopefully paradise. yes, it's a trilogy. those were in vogue in the 1300's and even had today's disregard for quality. good to know we come by it honestly.

wait, no, that's not straightforward. that's actually pretty fucked up. why, virgil, do we go down to hell just to get back up to heaven? why does it make sense to be a guide that doesn't keep dante out of the path of danger and temptation? and for the sake of all that is good in the world, why is this written in verse? verse is for poetry, for works of great genius that call for a medium that breaks the barrier between words and music in the mind of the reader. it seems like, rather than evoking transcendental images of beauty and horror, dante's goal in using poetry is more to veil his criticism of the church than to explore his and everyone else's sins...

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less talking, more fancy text!

...probably shouldn't look too closely at that. imagine someone picking up a "j-14" in 400 years and proclaiming that it's a great work of 21st century literature that espoused to the letter the values of the time. though to be fair, way too many of us care what justin beiber's new haircut looks like. the trend of picking up anything old and venerating it as a symbol of higher thought from ancient times is laughably silly. being old doesn't make something a classic. my granddad's pretty old, and his only impressive moment was feeding salmon to oprah on live TV (true story, by the way).

literature back then is about the same as "litter-ature" now. some works were meant to educate, some to entertain, and some to baffle the next generations. I feel dante is of the third class, a sort of 13-th century troll. u mad, pope?

As a video game, it is logical to assume Dante's Inferno's main purpose is to entertain, though the way it goes about this utterly defies that. The game starts with a weak story, more often than not lacking any sort of depth. The game sets up with a strong narrative, but fails to properly expand it through the next ten to fifteen hours of gameplay.

Promised divine forgiveness by those farther from God then John Wayne Gacy Jr, Dante starts the game liberating heathens from their families, houses, and lives at the behest of the Catholic Church during the Great Crusades. After forcefully saving one of the godless natives from her virginity in Acre, Dante is stabbed and killed by an Assassin (which isn't Altair, so he's barely worth a mention). Face to face with Death himself, it is revealed to a laughably confused Dante that his cold blooded minority-murder isn't actually enough to absolve him of all the sins he has committed before and after the war. Unable to accept the truth, Dante decides it's better to kill Death himself steal his weapon in a classic example of "because apparently you can just do that."

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My eyes are up here, asshole.

Immediately after, he heads home to his home and newly cuckolded fiancée back in Italy. Presumably because the Catholic Church had already decided it would be a much better idea to send children instead. But upon his gallant return, he discovers the bodies of his murdered father and Beatrice. It turns out Satan is much better at keeping promises than the Church, and has collected his end of the bargain with Dante's betrothed. In her attempt to protect her unfaithful lover from the hardships of war, she made her own deal with the big guy below. As long as Dante remained faithful to her, he would keep his life. His own perversion proved to be both their downfalls, Satan harvests her soul and drags her to hell, prompting Dante to follow her in a rescue attempt not even Mario would try (bee edit: yes he would. that idiot has been to space twice and to the zero world. going to hell is probably not an issue anymore.)

That's the extent that the game takes it, and rides on that story alone. It's not terribly bad as far as game narratives go, especially the brief moments where the game touches on Dante's past. But it's not enough to string together a decent-length game. There's very little character development or growth until the very end, especially in Dante, who still prefers murdering his way to divine forgiveness than to actually recognize and atone for his sins.

But I can't blame Dante. I mean, boys will be boys, after all.

(:

Divine Miss Bee

.

yes, which is why no self-respecting woman ever bothers with "boys". it's interesting, though, that beatrice is the embodiment of lust and adultery in the book and the victim of it in the game. *insert feminist rant about the sheeple-izing of sexually powerful women when transitioning from literature to more visual media*. i personally never understood what's so bad about people behaving the way they are naturally inclined to do. ideally, wouldn't acting on these instincts, given them by the god who modeled them after himself, bring them closer to him? but that's a topic for another day, don't get me started on organized religion (note: actual plans to make this a topic for another day pending popular demand). guess dante's god prefers we act on our destructive impulses, not our creative ones. maybe it's a job security thing.

okay, that's probably a good stopping point. have i offended the christians enough yet?

dante himself is another surprise, changing from mild-mannered, middle-aged poet tosex-machine crusader. i'm sure they thought it would make for a more action-oriented game and all, but it doesn't take into account two things: one, the whole reason for dante going to hell is to learn the lesson that his age-related indulgences will send him there permanently if he's not careful, and two, the dante in the book was chased into hell by (and i swear i am not making this up) the she-wolf of incontinence. after that, being taken down by a mere assassin seems a little weak, not nearly the badass they intended.

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...rad nauseum. though i'm going to have some nightmares tonight.

so basically, none of the characters in this game resemble their literary equivalent? what about hell itself? i'd assume no designer could resist turning that into an absolute playground of the damned.

One would think so. But they'd be wrong. On his heroic quest to save his lover's soul, Dante will need to fight and follow his way through the nine circles of hell: Limbo, Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Anger, Heresy, Violence, Fraud, and Treachery. A brilliantly simple set up for themed levels, quests, and enemies. Early on, the games does seem like it's going to be taking full advantage of this, but it never quite fully capitalizes on such a simple idea.

The game starts Dante's journey in upper hell. In the beginning stages, lumbering hell spawn can be seen taunting you from afar. This gives hell the illusion of being enormous and sprawling despite the games relative linearity. But the more you progress, the more the game seems content in dragging you from each plot point through similarly shaped caverns and corridors infested with enemies that have already lost any ability to intimidate long ago.

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Dante... I... am your father.

But the linearity wouldn't have been such a problem, had the high quality of level design lasted throughout the game. The first couple of hours and circles include the games most memorable moments., where it'll throw the overly endowed prostitutes of Lust, the disgustingly vile beasts of Gluttony, and enough of Limbo's undead infants to curl your toes and jade any sense of optimism. Unfortunately, the shock and awe of the game's beginning levels don't reappear for the rest of it.

Lower circle enemies revert to unoriginal and cliché'd undead minions we've seen thousands of times before. Which surprisingly enough, is actually a step down from the previously penis-shaped monsters. While that's bad enough on its own, the game runs out of creativity so quickly it reuses enemies out of their situationally appropriate circles. Killing babies goes from horrendous, to humorous, to horribly boring long before the game is near its conclusion.

Hell doesn't change all that much either, save for the handful of infamous faces you'll run into each circle. Which to the game's credit, is pretty interesting. Count Ugolino, Pontius Pilate, and Fredrick II are amongst the many famous faces of hell. Finding them is a bit of a collectable, offering the chance to harvest their soul in an RPG style upgrade system. Cleopatra even shows up, naked and enormous, as one of the games many larger-than-life boss battles.

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These are the largest breasts you'll see outside of porn

But regardless of if you choose to absolve sinners with your cross or punish them with your scythe, leveling up is so incredibly pointless as you'll use most of the same moves and combos you've become familiar with all thought the game. The game never really takes the moral choice idea anywhere either, making the whole feature pretty pointless alltogether. The game's inability to take advantage of its setting is epitomized in the 8th Circle of Fraud. Instead of doing something clever with trap doors, mazes, and hidden enemies the game opts for a set of unimaginative arena challenges. Together, they make up the lowest point in the entire game. All of this right before the Ninth and final circle, which is supposed to be the climax of the game.

What can I say? I guess they were a little a"fraud" of creativity.

(:

Divine Miss Bee

.


>.< that's just awful.

you realize that this means more "ignoring peter time," yes? ("ignoring peter time" got me through a lot of this with my sanity intact.)

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like the game, the setup of hell in dante's mind is in stratified levels, with the worse sinners appearing the further down you travel. starting with a sort of vestibule of the uncommitted (people who never really did anything at all), it descends into nine circles: virtuous pagans, the lustful, the gluttonous, the greedy, the wrathful, the heretics, the violent, and the fraudulent, ending with the traitors snuggled right up close next to satan himself in the center. to give dante a little credit, he clearly had fun coming up with and describing the punishments and those are fun to read about, but the sanctimonious ass doesn't let me have my hellfire and enjoy it too. he needs to rub a cutesy little moral in my face after every mildly interesting thing. i'm sure this made for a rousing after-school TV special in dante's day, but i'd not turn that into a video game.

see, the way i would have pictured a good game version of the inferno would be a fallout-style wasteland with an emphasis on exploration. it'd even be a good way to stay true to the book-make virgil a sort of guide figure, set objectives based on what you should be learning from that circle, and put horrific punishments everywhere you look. but based on the "unskippable" video alone, i'm guessing it was a little different.

Hey, I'll have you know that I'm very punny! Speaking of...

When it boils down to it, Hell just isn't all that fun a place to visit. Dante's Inferno is just another unimaginative hack-and-slash. At this point so far after release, most readers have already stumbled across the plethora of comparisons to the God of War franchise (bee edit: i move that we add a tenth circle of hell for god of war clone developers. may they be curse to play the same game forever, but it's only good once). With fewer puzzles and less gratifying combat, the game struggles to come up with even relatively fun game play to accompany a decent story.

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What would Jesus do?

If Dante's Inferno has failed to entertain, it didn't do much in the way of inspiring or teaching either. The game ended on a real sour note, and looking back, the fun bits are overwhelmingly drowned by the hours of monotony. However, I did learn one thing: as an amateur poet myself, if I ever got the bright idea to try and retake the holy land, I'd surely meet my doom and take my loved ones with me. Which isn't a bad way to go, but if real hell exists and is anything like Dante's, I plan to live a very long life.

Luckily, only Bee's ever had to put up with my horrid attempts being a poet, and I thank her for that alone. But also for the hard work and great effort she's put into this project. Bee, you're a joy to have around, a smart woman, and an excellent writer and editor. If you're willing to put up with more of my attempts at getting into your pants, I'm willing to try another hand at The Hectic Glow sometime.

(:

Divine Miss Bee

.

working with you wasn't that bad, though your tendency to want to show off and surprise me with your work at the last second drives me insane. protip: surprising your editor with raw copy at the last minute is incredibly frustrating. and wait, you were trying to get into my pants? did it work?

but seriously, hell is not a fun place. there is insipid social commentary in every circle, and the book seems to serve more as an overexcited dressing-down of the day's celebrities than anything resembling a "classic" (the fact that I was taught this book in an AP english literature class while the much more realistic morals of robert a. heinlein were purely recreational is a travesty). It's something of a 14th-century "daily mail:" popes rotting with the adulterers, kings toiling in fields and eating shit, beautiful women burning forever for inciting the lusts of men (sorry about that, men). dante seems like a little kid in a candy store, if kids were more prone to outbursts of gory poetry. so to that end, i have prepared my own little poem for dante, as an answer to his.

Dante, where in Hell did you take us?
I'm sure you were only trying to make us
Think about our sins and wish to repent,
But I'm ten minutes in, and no offense meant,
It's really boring in Hell.

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That was a long read! >.>'

Well done. It was fun shifting between the two writing styles. And yes, that game is awful as my best friend can confirm. Nice review :D

Wow that was so good. You guys are funny and extremely well prepared. good job.

Oh boy... okay, I'm going to be a little snobbish here. This is going to come off as bitchy. Warning you now. But, I kind of like epic poetry, so I'm going to be overly defensive of it. I realize that puts me in a very small group, but we exist.

meganmeave:
Oh boy... okay, I'm going to be a little snobbish here. This is going to come off as bitchy.

dear one, i'd never see you as bitchy. and, most of my inferno-hate comes for the sake of comedy. i'm more indifferent to the inferno. maybe it is the english translation,but i feel that dante wrote himself a playground and stuck to the seesaw.

meganmeave:
The Divine Comedy was written in verse because that was the way people wrote in that day. The modern novel, as we know it, wasn't really en vogue then, in fact, it hadn't even really been established as a mainstream medium in that day. Also, in the original Italian, the Divine Comedy has a great deal of alliteration and beautiful rhyme. It was not written in verse simply to be in verse. It is written in verse because it is meant to be pleasant to hear. I believe it does this quite well. But whenever you have something that's in translation, especially poetry, it loses something along the way.
No, being old does not make something a classic. Being part of the 1% or less of the culture that people still enjoy over 700 years later, that makes something a classic. It's unfortunate that The Divine Comedy doesn't do it for you, but it does for many people.

that's an interesting thing i didn't know. maybe it's because to me, english is not pleasant to hear, so when i see english poetry, i immediately dismiss it. well, i never pretended to be impartial.

meganmeave:
Now, on another note, I like me some Heinlein, but I wouldn't exactly hold his morals up as something to hew to. After all, he has a very disturbing theme in Stranger in a Strange Land that rape, is a woman's fault. Rape being the fault of a woman, is an idea that crops up in at least two of his books.

a few off-color jokes here and there doesn't make him one to blame women for rape. in fact, he had a deep belief in the strength of women, and tended to put strong female characters into typical "feminine" situations to draw contrast between their abilities and what they were told they were capable of. he was as much a sexist as any man who uses free love to his advantage, but he definitely valued the participation of women in the act, not their submission to it.

meganmeave:
My real issue is that you want to discount The Divine Comedy's cultural importance simply because you aren't fond of it. I hate Ulysses. I think it's crap. But, I do recognize its cultural significance and value to a considerable number of people who love literature.

the significance of the divine comedy was lost on me the first time, yes. even still, i don't understand religious fanfiction as a genre. i honestly can't see anyone in dante's time using this as anything but a laugh.

meganmeave:
I read a fair share of epic poetry in college, and I would suggest, if you don't like The Divine Comedy, that you try something that was written originally in English, simply because it will allow for the original author's intended delivery. I might start with Paradise Lost by Milton, although be forewarned, just like other epic authors he drew on formats and forms of previous epic authors when he penned it. There are still going to be social commentaries woven into the narrative. However, it certainly sounds better to listen to. At least better than any epic poetry in translation I have heard.

you're right-i adored 'paradise lost.' and it certainly does sit better with me thatn anny epic poem i found before or since. i'd not explored the possibility that this was because it's not a translation. i've just always found it more relatable. that's what makes things timeless to me-if it has relevance today. milton explored relgious ideas not in a way that was meant to cause fear or derision in the reader, but in a way born out of curiosity, which makes more sense to me when talking about divinity.

That was a very amusing comparison that summed up even better how shitty the game was.
You are better at comparing and contrasting then a Cracked Article which is a triumph.
Or does cracked really do list based humor... well you could do better then them for sure.
Either way I would love to read more for you.
Keep it coming!

This was quite the good read and the comparisons were very fair. Having read the entire Divine Comedy i was able to point out all the flaws in the game's adaptation. I expect more from you two..if Bee's sanity can handle it.

I have removed my words from this site.

Redlin5:
That was a long read! >.>'

Well done. It was fun shifting between the two writing styles. And yes, that game is awful as my best friend can confirm. Nice review :D

Thanks broham *fistbump*

Viking Incognito:
Wow that was so good. You guys are funny and extremely well prepared. good job.

Thanks for commenting! About that little thing we discussed... I'm going to be a little crazy busy at work for the next couple of weeks. So I'll get back to you when things have died down.

DeadpanLunatic:
I never understood why people treat it like serious high-class literature, when effectively this is about a grown man writing a glorified piece of religious fancfiction about himself.

...leave it to a more experienced reviewer to make the point i was trying to make in about ten seconds. thank you for this comment, i think people will understand me better now.

DeadpanLunatic:
I was also a bit confused by the fact that Bee played the hate-filled, foul-mouthed cynic while Peter took the role of the straight man.

sometimes we have fun. :) besides, it was kind of nice to not be the innocent little sweetheart everyone was expecting.

 

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