Ever wanted to take a walk through hell? Just for shits and giggles, see what all the fuss is about? Well Agony is the game for you! On paper the game sounds amazing for people like me, who like their games ultra violent. So I was pumped for Agony. I was advised by the PR team to never EVER play this game around a child as it was so hardcore. Imagine my heartache when the game didn’t deliver.
The player starts as a lost soul who has found themselves trapped in Hell with no memory. The player then learns that the character was a leader of an ancient land, and made some sort of deal with the Red Goddess. You learn that the Red Goddess is a powerful demon, the creator of Hell and is worshipped as a God by those trapped in hell.
The player learns that the character can return to the land of the living by reaching the lair of the Red Goddess. This then becomes your main objective in Agony. Agony’s plot is revealed by interacting with other lost souls in Hell. Some of these NPCs blame the character for them ending up with Hell. His actions while alive are allegedly the reason many of them are in Hell.
Agony plays very similarly to other games in the survival horror franchise. It reminds me very much of Alien: Isolation in that the player can hide and control their breathing. Unfortunately the demons that you must avoid do not move in random patterns like in Alien but instead patrol set routes meaning they are, for the most part, easy to predict.
Agony adds in a puzzle element to the game. These come in many varieties, such as finding skulls to complete a collection or finding a sigil and painting it where necessary. The puzzles seem somewhat challenging, until you take a step back and then they you realise that they aren’t really all that challenging at all.
In terms of setting the mood Agony does a good job. For the first 20 minutes or so. When you first enter the world everything appears truly vulgar. The blood on the walls and floor. The eeriness. The screams of the damned. They all shock your body and make you feel revolted. However, with every inch of Hell dripped in blood this very quickly loses it’s shock factor. There are still elements that shock you, such as the scene where a fellow lost soul was fixing a hole in the wall using live deformed babies and rocks.
Yet after that gross scene you turn around and it’s more of “There’s some blood on the wall”, “There’s a scream of pain”. The shock moments become so far and few between that the game becomes more of a walking simulator. Now I have nothing against walking simulators, but this meant to be a Hell based survival horror. I shouldn’t be able to walk through Hell in such a nonchalant manner.
Agony also has a weird save mechanic which is my main complaint with the game. You save the game by interacting with these strange mirrors doted around the world. Once you have activated the mirror you then have 3 deaths before the mirror deactivates. After 3 deaths the mirror deactivates and you return to wherever you previous save was.
The game counters this by offering a mechanic where, after death, you can momentarily travel around as some sort of astral being. Since the PC is already dead you can possess the martyrs in the area and continue from there. If you can find someone to possess you return the mirror. All credit to the development team for trying something new, but it isn’t clearly explained in the game and I feel that is it’s major downfall. Was it properly explained I would have enjoyed this mechanic.
Graphically I feel like Agony does an okay job. Visually it looks grotesque, even if the effect does wear off after a little while. The game itself isn’t the best looking game in the world. The textures on the wall look very flat and don’t seem to pop off the wall the way that they should. I understand that the game was funded via Kickstarter, and so the game may not have the budget that AAA titles have but still. It’s a shame as it would’ve been nice to see the game fully funded so it can be on par with other titles, but this wouldn’t have taken away from the games core problems.
Overall Agony isn’t a game I would recommend to people. One paper it seems like such a great idea. Yet Agony is so grotesque that it, in a strange way, stops being grotesque. Which is a shame, because this could have been something great. However a strange save mechanic that wasn’t properly explained, a rather lackluster plot and rather predictable enemies let it down.
Agony is a game that on paper should have worked. However in reality it did not. Game mechanics not being properly explained, the game being so grotesque that it eventually becomes the norm and a rather forgettable story.