Dante's Inferno: Trials of St. Lucia DLC Hands-On

Creation and cooperation are the hallmarks of this upcoming downloadable content for EA's action game.


After finishing his tour of the nine circles of hell, you'd think that Dante, the poet-warrior who stars in EA's recently released action game Dante's Inferno, might want to take a rest, but as the saying goes, there is no rest for the wicked. In the upcoming Trials of St. Lucia downloadable content, Dante will once again be thrown into the fire, taking on wave after wave of hell's most horrible concoctions. Only this time, he'll have help. With the debut of the titular St. Lucia--an angelic, winged warrior who is a formidable fighter up close and at range--the Trials DLC will include co-op play as Dante and Lucia team up in a series of challenges created by EA developers and, eventually, the fans themselves. We recently tried out both the cooperative play and creation tools in the Trials of St. Lucia DLC during a visit to EA's Redwood Shores campus.

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So, who is St. Lucia? She's the patron saint of the blind in Christian faith--a woman who, according to hagiographic texts, refused to marry a pagan suitor and subsequently was punished by having her eyes gouged out. In the game, however, Lucy (as she's colloquially known) is pure butt-kicker, from the point of her deadly scythe (this one presumably not stolen from Death) to the tips of her massive wings that allow her to briefly glide in the air. Though not as powerful as Dante in terms of melee combat, Lucia's ability to fly and to shoot formidable blasts of energy out of her eyeless sockets make her an effective ranged combatant.

Together, in co-op play, Dante and Lucy make a formidable pair throughout the more than 40 challenges that will be packed in with the Trials DLC. All are created by EA developers, many of whom worked on the original game, and these challenges offer a number of different play modes that weren't found in the original game. Of course, you can play through levels that will require you to kill everything onscreen, but there's more to do, including challenges that will test your reflexes and your discretion. For instance, one mode requires you to rack up a melee combo of a certain number of hits, and another asks you to kill only the monsters that have a mark above their head. Other modes include a "don't kill the prisoner" mode, where you're trying to save the life of a non-player character while destroying all the rest of hell's minions onscreen.

During the challenges you'll revisit some of the areas you encountered while touring the nine levels of hell from the original game, but there will be a handful of new levels, as well as two enemies you'll encounter that weren't in the original game--the Forest Siren and the Death Knight (both from the Dark Forest DLC released in early March). You'll be able to use all of this content and more to create challenges of your own using the built-in editor that will come with the Trials DLC.

The basics of challenge creation are straightforward: Choose a level; the number of waves you want in that level; the enemies, traps, and aids that will appear in each wave; and the type of mode rules you want each wave to follow. You can add up to six levels in a challenge, and as many as 12 waves per level. That can result in some lengthy challenges, especially when you start tossing in lots of enemies and conditions per wave. There are some restrictions in place, however, to prevent you from clogging the screen with blade babies. Each wave you create has an allotted budget that is slowly filled up with each enemy, trap, or aid you add. Once you've reached the maximum, you won't be able to add anything else to your challenge wave without first taking something away. In addition, any enemy, trap, or aid you add to your level must be placed in one of several predetermined spots on the level map.

Those restrictions aside, the creation tools have some flexibility for those who want to dive deeper into making their challenges more difficult. For instance, you can tweak the toughness and health level of any individual enemy. You can micromanage traps too, including the timing of when a trap springs and how much damage it causes when it strikes the player, among other variables. Before you save and publish your challenge, you'll be able to test it thoroughly thanks to easy-to-use testing tools that will let you play entire levels, single waves, or the entire challenge at any point.You can use these tools to create up to 100 challenges that you can then upload and share with other Trials players.

All challenges are rated for difficulty through an algorithm running under the hood that calculates things like the number of waves, different modes used, difficulty of enemies, and so on. The more difficult a challenge, the more points you'll earn for completing it, and all points you earn will go toward your online leaderboard score. You can even earn point multipliers by beating challenges five, 10, or more times. Those point milestones, as they're known in the game, are incentives to keep you coming back to play challenges over again, and a five-star rating system will let you rate the challenges of others.

As for our created challenge level, we were able to cobble together a series of challenges using both Lucy and Dante (you can create solo or cooperative levels and can combine Dante with Lucy, Dante with another Dante, or put two Lucys together). We tossed in a number of different modes, including one mode where the goal was to use only melee attacks against all enemies onscreen. However, because we tossed in some hell minions as enemies (who are impervious to physical attacks until you hit them with holy energy), we quickly discovered that we had broken our own level's rules. A quick edit or two was all that was needed to fix the problem, and before long we had a completed challenge that we affectionately dubbed "Hell-o World." Yes, we're probably going to hell for that pun.

You too will have your chance at eternal damnation and challenge creation when the Trials of St. Lucia DLC is released for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 on April 29.

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