When Agony was first announced people took notice because of the promise of true horror, disturbing shock tactics and stalking scares looked set to shake up the horror game industry, but is the new title by MadMind Studio one hell of a game or caught up in it’s own anguish.
The game begins with you taking control of a lost soul, trapped inside a beaten and tired body, you’re only chance of escaping hell is to track down the Red Goddess, in order to do so you’ll have to traverse a variety of locations solving minor puzzles and avoiding a lot of vicious demons, We’ll stop here for a second and warn you that if scary games aren’t really you’re thing, you might want to skip to the score at the bottom of the page, but if you think you’ve for the balls to survive Agony, we’ll start by explaining what isn’t in the game.
Shortly before release it was announced that a few scenes where removed from the game to help get a rating, one was a rape scene, showing actual penetration and the other involved murder of a child, I’m not sure how ‘bad’ these where to actually view, but while very little scares me, I can’t say they’re scenes I’d ever want to think about, let alone experience as some screwed up form of entertainment.
This set the scene very early on, I was expected a completely disturbing journey, and Agony didn’t fail to live up to its own demonic label. ~After a brief introduction, you’re introduced to the demons who hound you for the majority of the game, these beings are unnecessarily naked, in a female form with their assets bouncing around as they caress your face before stabbing you in the heart with their bare hands, there’s nothing ‘sexy’ about them, they’re disturbing, faceless entities which would struggle to turn on even the most sadistic players.
Avoiding them initially is simply a case of moving slowly through the level and moving back to a hiding space if you feel one’s getting a little too close for comfort. If you are seen, they’ll give chase and your only hope is to hide in a corner and hold you’re breath, hoping they move on. It’s a novel idea and gives the ‘Outlast’ cat & mouse vibe, but sadly it’s very rare you’ll be able to hold your breath long enough for them to move back out of range, meaning it’s more likely you’re just delaying the inevitably end.
Thankfully losing you’re ‘life’ doesn’t affect your soul and you have a limited time to find one of the non-aggressive NPC’s who scatter the level’s, hopefully you’ve already removed the masks as you’ve found them, but with a little light analogue stick control you can posses the new body to avoid having to restart from the start of the area, checkpoints where patched in the early patch, but these still feel infrequent and there’s nothing more annoying than when I had to restart an area I’d spent an hour traversing just because my soul couldn’t pass through the same hole my body had squeezed through half a dozen times, meaning I couldn’t reach a new host in time.
I don’t think Agony intentionally tries to be a difficult game, challenging yes, but due to some random enemy placement and stretched checkpoints, it’s difficult in an agonising way. While early review code was plagued with some near game-breaking bugs, I held off until the retail version and early patch was available, the run-down of patch notes basically concludes that things have been made easier, but still there’s a few too many areas which couldn’t be fixed without a complete overhaul.
Graphically it started off quite well, partly because the area was so dark, I was forced to turn up the gamma and close the curtains to see where I was going, texture placement isn’t the best, character detailing could be better and while far from perfect graphics is actually one of the better areas of the game as the dark, grungy feel often adds to the atmosphere, even if characters and animations all could have done with a lot more work.
Sound is one area where things don’t quite fit, voice acting is almost on par with Ride to Hell Retribution (If you don’t know, don’t ask, let’s just say it’s not great) and levels are all over the place, forcing me to regularly tweak my game volume because one second the chatter of the morbid NPC’s was near defending while the second I was hoping to distinguish footsteps from the frequently distracting background music.
After spending a few evenings with Agony, I found myself wondering where the previously mentioned ‘bad’ scenes would have fit in, because there’s just not enough quality of presentation to really deliver much of an experience, It’s as though the developers where relying on scare tactics to make a game, but realized how bad taste these where so just removed them altogether and even possessing demons later in the game, there’s just not enough to make for an exciting or entertaining experience.
If you somehow manage to ignore the design choices, block out the voice acting and find some form of entertainment from the random difficulty spikes, then there’s a very slim chance you might actually find some level of value, but for the vast majority of people titles like OutLast would provide far more incentive to actually pick up the controller.