Agony to play?
“Agony” has been in a sort of development hell for a number of years, with several different concepts being shown off that looked like almost completely different games. Is the finished product hellish or heavenly? Read on to find out!
Agony’s storyline is quite confusing, and is mostly exposed through a number of collectibles you pick up along the way and some FMW interspersed in the levels (complete with headache-inducing levels of tearing), but basically you have ended up in hell. Oops.
Conveniently all your memories have been stripped away as you step through the gates. It is at this point you remember something about the Red Goddess, and go off through hell to try and find her and hopefully find your salvation…
Unfortunately, being in hell appears to have stripped you of any physical prowess. You move slowly (you have a pathetically poor sprint), and can’t make any physical attacks. In fact, if you spot an enemy, you have only three options: run, hide or stealth. The first option rarely works as you are so slow, the second only works when you are close enough to a hiding spot, and the third is pretty hit-and-miss. There’s no detection meter or any way of working out whether your approach is any good, so you end up with plenty of trial-and-error. This would be fine, but the game isn’t particularly good with checkpointing.
Early in the game you gain the ability to possess other creatures, but this process isn’t tutorialised, can be finicky, and is no guarantee of success. Failure leads to a frustratingly long load and a slow walk back to wherever you were.
Hell is also pretty dull, filled with mazes which are too hard (and not fun) to make your way through, fetch quests and dark areas which the torches you can pick up fail to light up spectacularly. You have a power which lets you see the way forwards, but this unfortunately gets confused very easily. Verticality. No chance.
Multiple objectives. It won’t even bother trying. The game also presents you with a number of sigil puzzles, all of which were confusing beyond mention and had me turning to YouTube to solve. There seemed to be absolutely no logic to them whatsoever. Agony could have been a depraved version of ‘Journey’, but instead gets you stuck doing basic MMO tasks in a single-player horror game, which takes away from any sense of actual horror.
You’ll quickly grow bored at the slow pace, and frustrated by the enemies, rather than scared of them. If you can be bothered, Agony runs at about 6-8 hours, and whilst there are multiple endings, you’d have to be pretty hardcore to want to bother.
Agony has some pretty fantastic (and exceptionally gross) visual design. Hell is full of blood, pulsating walkways and wretched souls tearing out their hair and flesh. It takes inspiration from many sources, both literary and film, but still presents a pretty coherent and uniformly awful take on the underworld. The monsters though are somewhat more childish, taking the form of various boob and vagina creatures, as if titillation and revulsion are acceptable to go hand in hand. Sure, it would be perfectly reasonable if some enemies were like this, but they become over-used to the point of being a cliché by even the end of the first level.
Surely Satan has more imagination of how he tortures his denizens? The game is supposed to be X Enhanced but I would hate to see the game on an OG XB1. There’s loads of tearing, the frame-rate is inconsistent, and I came across a number of graphical glitches as well.
The sound design is pretty poor too. There’s not enough music in the levels to help raise tension (especially given the slow pace), and the voice acting is hilarious in its awfulness. It actually takes away from the atmosphere the developers are trying to build.
Unfortunately playing “Agony” lives up to the title of the game. The initial premise is really cool, and the depraved art design is excellent. But who knew hell could be so dull? People have often referred to fetch quests in games as the work of the devil, but here it rings particularly true. With woeful sound design, very little variety, and a 6-8 hour run-time that already feels bloated, Agony is unfortunately a survival horror game too lacking in horror, one that largely wastes the setting and visual design. Go back and play Resident Evil 7 instead. Or just about anything else.