There has been drama, there has been uproar… but in the end, the new Dante has come to save the world from… evil rampaging babies, random swear words on the wall, and strange dudes with chainsaws!
A New Dante
So Dante has been redesigned for a new generation… and I would just like to say I am not a part of their target audience with this one. Your main character is Dante, a Nephilim(child of an angel and demon) – something that is forbidden for it tips the balance of power – and, well, an arrogant prig. He’s full of himself and it shows in every bit of his design. He clearly is intended to be sort of a cross between the ‘pretty boy’ archetype and the ‘bad boy’ archetype, which leaves his design feeling very disjointed and kind of awkward. But what really makes him obnoxious in the first half of the game is his complete lack of character. They clearly felt that attitude was a substitute for personality, and unfortunately for Capcom, it just doesn’t quite work that way. The dialog in the first half of this game is, honestly, the worst writing I’ve seen in a video game in my life.
Fortunately, some time after that boss – somewhere around the halfway point – it gets a bit better. Alas, not much better, but enough that the game is no longer painful to play. Dante begins to actually show some signs of real… well… personality. He actually begins to resemble a person as opposed to a vessel for the delivery of swears.
His interactions with Kat, particularly, are actually interesting and show some signs of character development. On the other side, she is actually a unique character – one with some measure of depth. Credit where credit is due, they did manage to create one unique character among the masses within this game.
The game’s villains, as well as the main character’s brother, are as predictable and one-dimensional as they come. And for most of them, that ‘one dimension’ either involves sex or anger. It’s a sad reflection on the game industry when a company looking at North America from the outside determines that the best way to cater to the American market is to reboot a classic with a cast almost entirely full of characters utterly devoid of any depth and to remove any sense of a real story from it.
The game’s story features a fascist demon lord who has provided ‘peace’ to humanity by taking control of every aspect of society through debt, of all things. Your character, as well as a rebel group known as ‘The Order’ seek to free humanity from his dictatorial rule. What plays out here is essentially a poor parody of every coup d’etat story ever written. A very poor parody. Right down to the twist at the end – predictable. It really is sad how badly predictable the story and the characters are.
A Vision of Hell
If there’s one thing I can’t complain about, it’s the game’s environments. While none of them are what you could call pretty, they are all incredibly fitting. You see, the game takes place mostly in what is called ‘Limbo’. Limbo is a twisted version of reality where the demons actually exist. You see, most demons can’t act physically in the real world so they have to drag a person into Limbo in order for them to kill them.
Virtually every level, save one, takes place in limbo. While the levels follow a similar pattern(you start in the normal world, either enter limbo via a portal or get dragged in by a demon, and then spend the rest of the level in limbo), each one is truly unique in its appearance. Well aside from the fact that they’re all representations of hell, and that there are a lot of reds, blacks, and greens present. But despite this rather limited colour palette, they really manage to make the levels unique and interesting.
Particularly noteworthy are the tv studio and night club levels, which just shine far above any of the other levels in both sound and graphic design. The studio is particularly unique – it features a portion where you are actually inside a tv station’s logo and all of the different components act as platforms and obstacles. But the club, on the other hand, has some of the most imaginative visuals – with the background resonating to the sound of the music. All adds up to create a really unique sensation of being inside the music almost.
Also an asset are the game’s bosses. From an ugly succubus to a giant rampaging baby… this game features some of the most crazy and unexpected boss fights ever. They definitely pulled all the stops on these. There is a nice progression of insanity. The early bosses are quite tame, with the first boss being just a basic hack and slash to teach you how to fight a boss. After that it progresses showing you more and more crazy bosses. One boss is a giant digital head, another is a giant menacing baby…. unfortunately the trend is broken when you reach the second last boss and find… well… The Beast from inFamous 2. Not that this is entirely a bad thing, the Beast was pretty badass, but I think the whole ‘giant charred sky-scraping-crushing demon’ thing is a bit overdone. And I wasn’t really affected in any way by him. He just felt kind of out-of-place to me.
The one flaw is that the minions are so repetitive. There aren’t any ‘unique enemies you’ll only see in x level’ or any specialized minions that only appear once… if it isn’t a boss, you’ll see it again, and again, and again in every level you play until you’re sick of it. The good side is that the ‘until’ part of that statement takes a long time because the enemies are incredibly well designed visually.
A lot of these action RPGs try to give you nonsensical weapons that have niche uses that just plain don’t work…. not this game. You have all of your major bases covered by these weapons: Rebellion gives you your short-range, quick combat; Eryx gives you brutal close-quarters heavy hitting; Osiris gives you swift, light option for dealing with multiple targets; Arbiter gives you mid-range, slow and heavy axes; and Aquila gives you the longer mid-range crowd-combat with light, quick hits. Switching between these weapons is quick, requires no menus, and incredibly fluid. And, just as important, you were introduced to these weapons in a logical way that made it very easy to learn them.
Each one of these primary weapons has its own distinct niche and all of these niches are actually useful in everyday combat. I particularly enjoyed the two ‘heavenly’ weapons Osiris and Aquila. Osiris is just exciting because I’ve always found scythe-combat to be so interesting and fun in these styles of games. It is so satisfying to reap through hordes of foes with a scythe – as long as it isn’t sluggish. As to Aquila… well… it just reminded me so much of the chakram in Kingdoms of Amalur, except taken to an extreme because of just how incredibly well-done DMC’s combat was.
Slaying in Style
DMC has one of the most incredibly engaging and intuitive combat systems I’ve ever played. Something I see all too often in games of this style are combat systems that reward you for accomplishing incredible feats that nobody who hasn’t spent months practicing could ever do. DMC isn’t like that. If you’re even moderately good at these games, you’re likely to start getting A’s and S’s frequently in combat, and final ratings for each mission in that range as well. I ended nearly every mission with a rating of at least an A for style. That, itself, is encouraging. By making the style system forgiving it encourages people to improve, and makes it very engaging for people. There’s nothing fun about being told ‘well you finished the mission, but you sucked!’, but being told when you finished that you got an a? Huge confidence boost.
The style system rewards you for doing intricate and dynamic combos, which are luckily very easy to pull off. Not that the enemies won’t try to stop you, but even if you get hit and lose your combo, it is fairly easy to get right back on and back up to a b or an a in just a few short combos. And best of all, aerial combat is designed in such a way that it is actually accessible. One problem I often find with these style of games is that they expect you to be able to pull off ridiculous aerial combat techniques but they make these techniques unresponsive and awkward. DMC has managed to create an aerial combat system that just makes you feel good. You can tell that was a focus for this game, and they nailed it.
That isn’t to say it is easy. If you go up to the higher difficulties, you will be challenged. There will be moments where you’ll die and sit there thinking ‘how…?’ But when you do die, the checkpoint system is forgiving enough that you don’t really feel punished by it. You can just go right back in and try again – and if you have a certain item you can even continue right where you died. Challenging, but forgiving – just how it should be in a game like this.
For The Red and Blue
The one real combat flaw this game has is that the further you get in the game, the more enemies you run into that limit your options. You keep getting new options, but then the game limits these options by adding enemies in larger and larger numbers that are only vulnerable to either demonic or angelic attacks. This sounds like it could create interesting gameplay, and in a few cases it does, but for the most part it just makes you spam your basic attacks with that weapon. And, for some reason, they really didn’t make much use of that mechanic where it really would have been interesting: Boss fights. It would’ve been awesome for them to make use of the angelic/demonic dichotomy more in the boss fights.
The game has broken itself up into missions that can be replayed to improve your performance, to uncover new secrets, or even just to relive a level you particularly liked. In addition, there are dozens of unlockable secret challenges you can do. These challenges offer unique experiences such as killing enemies only with specific abilities, only while airborne, etc. They add a layer of depth and replayability to the game that merges well with the achievements and the ability to replay levels easily to improve your score.
The game also makes use of an online leaderboard to track scores in levels. By implementing a passive competitive aspect, they will certainly keep people engaged for a much longer time – I mean, to this day the Record of Agarest Zero online stats continue to change, and that is a title that is beyond merely ‘niche’. So for a game like this, achieving perfection will be a goal likely to hook many into long hours of playing this title – not exactly a bad prospect.
It’s hard to ignore the gaping story and character failures this game has in the early portions of the game. There were several points where I was tempted to put it down because it was just that unpleasant. But the engaging and dynamic combat and the incredibly unique aesthetic helped pull me through, and there is a light at the end of the tunnel: Once you get past a certain point, things get better. The latter half of the game is a fantastic experience that surpasses the lack of interesting characters and allows you to indulge in combat and action that is truly, utterly S-S-Sensational.