There are generally two types of people who’ll pick up a frenetic hack-and-slasher like Dante’s Inferno: those who want to be told a story while slaughtering monsters like a wolf among lambs, and those who revel in the pure challenge of tearing apart wave after wave of goons, story be damned. The downloadable Trials of St. Lucia add-on is aimed squarely at that second group, so don’t expect to get a whole new adventure for your 10 bucks. You will, however, get something that in many ways is a lot more interesting.
Trials of St. Lucia brings two important things to Dante’s Inferno, the first being an online two-player mode in which you can square off with a buddy against the hordes of hell in an endless series of arena challenges. For these, Dante is joined by St. Lucia, patron saint of the blind and one of the figures who guides Dante in the original Divine Comedy. Here, she’s been re-envisioned as a sexy angelic warrior who wields a scythe almost exactly like the one Dante stole from Death. She’s not just a re-skin of Dante, though; she’s faster than he is (not surprising), and she’s got her own special moves and combo trees. Also, her distance attacks are more versatile than Dante’s, and after a double jump it’s possible for her to glide for around 10 seconds, blasting enemies from the air.
Lucia’s a lot of fun to play, but I can already sense some of you are wrinkling your noses at the mention of “endless arena challenges.” You shouldn’t, because the “endless” part is down to the other important thing that Trials brings to the game: a level editor and community features that enable players to create, upload and rate their own Trials.
Each “trial” is a series of challenges set in up to six consecutive arenas, which are chosen from a pool of 12 backdrops that range from big, circular arenas to narrow platforms ringed with cliffs. Each of these can hold up to 25 waves of creatures, and each wave can carry its own specific goals. Most of them tend to be about simply carving up every monster that appears, but you might also be tasked with killing a specific monster, or not killing an aggressive “prisoner.” You might have to kill everything within a set time limit, or rack up a certain number of combo hits, or even use explosive zombies as grenades to take out stronger monsters. There’s a surprising amount of variety here, and the individual waves tend to be over so quickly that – in the best trials – the action stays breezy and fun, instead of turning into a difficult slog.
Of course, if difficult slogs are your thing, then there are plenty of trials to accommodate you. Each one carries a medal score, determined by the difficulty and the amount of stuff crammed into each; these range from bronze, which guarantees something easy and short, all the way to platinum, which is better suited to players looking for a lengthy challenge. (And if you're thinking of half-assing your way into the creator community, you should know that you can't upload a trial until it's got enough stuff to qualify for at least a bronze.)
Alternately, you can create your own, which is easy and surprisingly fun, mainly because you can instantly jump into your half-created trial to test it out and see if it’s something people would actually want to play. At the outset, you can determine how many arenas you want your trial to contain, what the difficulty should be and whether you intend it for one or two players. (You can also set whether players can tackle it as Dante, Lucia, two Dantes, two Lucias or one of each.)