Dante's Inferno: Hands-On With Dark Forest DLC

We find our way through the dark forest in our hands-on look at this week's Dante's Inferno DLC.

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Before Dante Alighieri becomes the butt-kicking hero on a nine-level tour of hell in EA's recently released action game, he is a crusader trying to make his way back home from the holy war to reunite with his fiancee, Beatrice. That's the simple setting for the first DLC pack for EA's Dante's Inferno, known simply as Dark Forest.

Brains, not brawn, will serve you well in the Dark Forest DLC.
Brains, not brawn, will serve you well in the Dark Forest DLC.

Essentially a prequel to the events of the game, the DLC pack's title comes from the opening lines of the poem upon which Dante's Inferno is based, "At the midpoint on the journey of life, I found myself in a dark forest. For the clear path was lost..." The theme of being lost in the woods is one that will play out often in this quick DLC adventure, as we found out after getting an early look at the DLC this week.

The DLC opens in a forest clearing, where Dante is immediately beset upon by hell's minions--including a couple of new enemies. First up is the Forest Siren, who can stun Dante temporarily with her seductive moves (you rapidly press the B button on the Xbox 360 controller to come out of the trance). Secondly, there's the death knight, a hulking mass of black armor and sharp-edged swords. Neither pose a particular problem for Dante, and we managed to carve our way through them with relative ease.

While there is some light combat in the Dark Forest DLC, the focus is on three puzzles, each tied to a specific animal that Dante encounters in the epic poem: a leopard, a lion, and a she-wolf. Hot on the heels of the assassin who will eventually murder Beatrice (and thus set off the events of the main plot in the game), your goal will be to solve the puzzles and try to stop the assassin before he can reach Dante's home, however futile a pursuit it turns out to be.

All three of the puzzles in the DLC use teleportation gates as their main motif. In the first puzzle, you are instructed to head through the eastern gates, and a beam of moonlight in each area is emanating from the north. Depending on the camera angle, you'll have to determine which direction is east based on the angle at which the moonbeams are pointing.

The second puzzle also uses moonlight; this time you'll need to turn lion statues placed on metal pedestals to reflect a continuous beam of moonlight so that it points westward throughout all the different gates in this puzzle. Failure will reset you to the beginning of the puzzle, where you'll have to start all over again.

Of course, sometimes there are problems only a scythe or holy cross can solve.
Of course, sometimes there are problems only a scythe or holy cross can solve.

The final puzzle in the DLC has you chasing the assassin through a set of three teleportation gates in a level that also features a shifting beam of moonlight. When you run through the gate at which the moonbeam is facing, you'll teleport through to the other side. There's also a huge column you can use to your advantage here--by using it to block one of the teleportation gates, the assassin will lose the option to escape that way. We won't give away the exact solution here, but suffice it to say that delicate timing and a little sideways thinking will result in Dante's capture of the assassin...only to have him escape into the woods once again and fatefully complete his deadly mission that sets the game's plot spinning.

In all it took us less than an hour to get through the Dark Forest DLC content; considering that the DLC is free for PS3 players as part of the Divine Edition of the game available only in North America, that short length is understandable. The DLC will cost 400 MS points on Xbox 360 and $4.99 in other territories where the Divine Edition is not available. In addition to the playable level, the DLC will include an alternate costume for Dante--a white polyester suit with an open shirt and bell-bottom pants, nicknamed the "disco inferno" armor, which brings up the question: Is there a place in hell for people who love puns?

Look for the Dark Forest DLC this Thursday on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

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