Two months after Dante’s Inferno took gamers through the epic poem (with more than a dash of creative license), EA's hit gets its second playable character in The Trials of St. Lucia expansion. Typically portrayed in religious iconography as a young woman holding her detached eyeballs on a platter, Lucia is one of three blessed women who guide Dante throughout the original epic poem in this new co-op content (priced at 800 Microsoft Points, or $9.99).
Lucy, You’ve Got Some ‘Splaining To Do…
In Visceral Games’ version, St. Lucia uses her sightless sockets to shoot beams at her enemies. Other than this, and the ability to glide for long distances, her style is almost identical to Dante’s -- right down to the lady-sized scythe. She’s a bit quicker and more agile than the knight, but for these gains she must sacrifice. The Patron Saint of Lasers can’t deal as much damage: her eyes pack the punch of a rogue paddleball. The ability to fly around the battlefield adds a new element of strategy, and a swooping attack from the air makes you feel Lucia's delicious combination of grace and power. She’s a captivating religious figure and a stylish game character, but she may not differentiate herself enough from Dante for everyone's taste.
St. Lucia is only playable in the trials mode. It would’ve been nice to be able to join up with a friend online and work through the story mode together now that the game has a new playable character. Instead, your co-op experience is relegated to these too-brief trials. Were they deeper, maybe this would’ve held my attention for longer, but after a while, they all began to blur together.
A Theory of Intelligent Design
These new trials are similar to those you face in the final portion of the single player game: kill a certain amount of enemies, with stipulations, in an arena setting. The game’s developers have built their own single player and co-op trials for you to take a stab at, requiring you to play as various combinations of Dante and/or St. Lucia. In addition, there are plenty of trials designed by the community for you to choose from. Many of these are impossible, sadistic ventures, or grabs at easy points -- but a community rating system theoretically keeps this in line.
If you want to create your own trials to share with the community, you can do so with the provided tools. Unfortunately, the tools are simply menus that let you select from pre-set elements. There’s not much creative control here: pick the trial type (draining health, time limit, etc.), location, and enemies; set a few parameters, and you’re off and absolving. You’re also saddled with a strict budget, meaning you’re limited in terms of how much you want to add to your trial. If you put in a health fountain, you may need to delete an enemy, and so on. Did I mention that you can’t control where any of these appear on the map? If I’m forced to choose between pre-selected items, I should at least be free to place them where I want. That said, there are plenty of variables, enough so that I haven't played the same trial twice. Whether they differ enough from each other to remain interesting is a question answered only by individual taste and dedication to the nuances of hack and slash.
There’s plenty of other good DLC waiting to fill up your hard drive. If you love Dante’s Inferno, especially the final portion, you’ll enjoy this expansion. Otherwise, skip it: this one’s for the orthodox only.