For about five bucks, a Dante's Inferno player can have the most powerful Dante in the video games.
The Dark Forest add-on pack for Dante's Inferno, released at the beginning of this month, is a an uncommon piece of single-player-oriented downloadable content. As aggressive as publishers have been to issue DLC for big console games lately, they seem more interested in selling multiplayer content - new maps, mostly. That makes Dark Forest feel just a little more experimental, in line with new Assassin's Creed II and Heavy Rain content that offer a little something extra for those of us who prefer solo gaming. But what kind of add-on does a single-player game need?
Dark Forest offers a brief combat-heavy level set in a... dark forest. The events in this level occur just before Dante discovers the death of his beloved Beatrice and descends to hell, therefore before 95% of the main game. Those who purchase Dark Forest also get an alternate "disco" costume for Dante.
Maximum Inferno: The Dante you play in Dark Forest has every one of his upgradable abilities unlocked. For someone like me who finished the game without unlocking all of Dante's impressive powers, this is a nice way to see every move the game enables. The Dark Forest team raised the difficulty of its combat challenges to match, making the battles in the forest feel super-heroic.
Obligatory Puzzle Stuff: Since Zelda, and even before then, many games have presented a good balance of combat and puzzles. But sometimes combat can feel unending; sometimes puzzles can feel gratuitous. The Dark Forest combat is good, but the puzzles are too much. And there are only about two of them. Mazes and block-pushing are the sort of thing that already feels random in a game like Dante's Inferno. They feel even more unnecessary in a brief forest episode, separated from a multi-hour journey through hell. The inclusion of puzzles like this, puzzles that seem included out of a fidelity to formula highlight one aspect of video games over another, reminding the player that game design involves occasionally-annoying obstacles being thrown at a player to slow their advance at the cost of a sense of enjoyed immersion in a fictional world.
No Good Point: Setting an expansion level within the narrative of the game to which it appends itself implies that the level will add to the main game's narrative. While it is clear where in the Dante's Inferno timeline it should be placed, this DLC adds nothing to our knowledge of the game's characters. Because it is set outside of hell it also fails to add to our appreciation of Dante's Inferno's best attribute, its incredible rendition of the Underworld. To put it another way, when I play as Dante, I'd rather be in Hell.
Dante's Inferno: Dark Forest provides the same joy an unlock-all-powers cheat code might have elicited in an era of less expensive methods for players to tweak their video games. If you can stand that price, it is fun to control Dante at his most mighty. If not, you're not missing an important chapter to this adventure.
Dante's Inferno: Dark Forest was developed and published by EA for the PS3 and Xbox 360 on March 3. Retails for $US4.99. (It is also free with the PS3's Divine Edition of the game, which is how I accessed it.) A Divine Edition copy of the game was given to us by the publisher for reviewing purposes. Played through Dark Forest in a little under an hour. This DLC is accessed from the game's main menu and does not require completion of the game's campaign. It offers a pair of Achievements/Trophies. [Note: The screenshot atop this review is from the main game, not the DLC.]
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