Agony is a new release from Madmind Studio, offering gamers on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC possibly the darkest rendition of hell yet seen within gaming. This was the developers intention from the beginning, so have they managed to escape eternal damnation or does this get trapped in a never ending eternal nightmare? Lets take a peek.
Agony opens with you waking as a tormented soul within the depths of hell, no recollection of your past life or memories remain, with only a singular urge to drive you. Like millions of souls before you, you must find the Red Goddess. Who is the Red Goddess? Why do you need to find her? Will she offer you a way out from this eternal torture? If you’re looking to soak up as much about this version as possible then it would be best to keep in mind the semi open nature of the game. Most lore is offered to you by other damned souls or through notes and scribbles left by those that have fallen before. These are usually off the beaten patch, alongside statutes etc that can be found to boost stats and unlock art, and these are a must to get the most from the story. They’re not required though, you’ll still get the general gist of what’s going on, but they do offer more insights into the Red Goddess.
Once you’ve finished the story, you may want to start again. There are several endings to the game depending on how you get through certain sections, and not all are good! When you really have finished with the story or want to take a break, there is the Agony mode. This mode offers procedural generated dungeons for you to survive. Your survivability is scored and high scores showcased to the world. It’s a decent enough inclusion & offers some variety, but doesn’t really differ much from what you’ll be doing through the story mode.
Just as an added note, Agony pulls no punches with its depiction of hell, it can be shocking and brutal without a hint of remorse. There’s killing, rape, torture etc throughout, hell you’ll even come across things like infants hanging from ceilings by their umbilical cords, and there’s certainly a hint of dark eroticism across the entire game. Hell as depicted in Doom & Dante’s Inferno for example are like rainbows & unicorns in comparison. You may have seen reviews by triggered reviewers, so keep in mind that this is not for the faint of heart. This is hell. Plain & simple.
One area of the game that is done particularly well is how hell is presented. It’s probably as gruesome as you would expect, minus the hellfire & brimstone, as this section of the underworld isn’t so much about that. Instead it’s all about corpses. Decapitated corpses litter the ground, bones crunch under your feet, furniture and the walls themselves are made from people – the developers leave little the imagination. The demons themselves look surprisingly good, though the animation is a little wooden at times, and their designs over the game continue to impress. Having the game based on Unreal Technology opens up a plethora of rendering techniques, and the developers cram as much as they can within the game. Post processing is lavishly applied, which can lead to a disorientated look to the game, but some can actually be disabled in the settings which does help clean up the image a tad. The decent presentation is further enhanced by the sound. There’s no BGM to speak of, which makes sure your aware of everything in the area when not distracted by the cries and moans of the tortured around you.
Once you look past the hellish presentation, any cracks noticed before become fully fledged tears. Just after release a patch was released that dropped the resolution from 1080 to 810 on Ps4, and this pretty much fixed the screen tearing (at least on Pro boost mode) and the post processing heavy look of the game hides it somewhat. The lack of any support for Pro/One X is a little disappointing though. Things continue to spiral as you play, with what looks like open areas leaving you stuck on an invisible wall, or mounted half way up one with no way to get off. This happens a little too often unfortunately, though not as much as it did pre-launch (hooray day one patch) One of the bigger irritations for me was the games brightness. Sometimes it was fine, but others when booting the game left it ridiculously dark. Luckily there’s a gamma option, but whilst it helps with darker areas it leaves bright areas washed out. Then there’s the simple AI, cumbersome feel of the game from stiff animations, copy & paste martyr models, pop in etc – There’s just too many technical quirks with the game, and unfortunately it does effect the gameplay.
Gameplay for Agony is slow. You’ll spend most of your time creaturing around in the shadows due to the heavy emphasis on stealth for the most part when you’re stuck as a Martyr. Stealth here works well enough once you realise it’s quite specific. What I mean by this is there are certain areas that will allow you to hide, gaps in walls & piles of corpses for example, which holding your breath in guarantees safety from passing demons. Just sitting in a dark corner holding your breath wont work, believe me I tried, even though most of the demons you come across patrolling Hell are of the blind variety. When you get killed, which is usually a lot, the games key feature comes into play that allows you to possess others. Your soul leaves the body and you gotta hunt down a new one before your soul is pulled away, failing will see you spawn back at the last portal you activated. You can also fail a possession I guess, a couple of times I’ve been stuck in a body doing it’s preset animations with no control myself. This feature does get interesting later on in the game, allowing you to possess demons, which comes in handy for the fleeting combat and surprising boss battles further in the game.
I haven’t really ragged on the gameplay yet, but it is invariably affected by the technical issues mentioned previously – and they can have a big impact on your enjoyment of the game. It leads to an overall cumbersome feel to the game, hidden slightly by the slow pace, until a game ending quirk rears it’s head. The simple AI, enticing pathways you’ll get stuck in and low brightness to the game can lead to some frustrating moments during the early stealth focused gameplay. Imagine running from a demon only to get stuck on something, or escape through a portal and find yourself face first in the bosom of a demon, situations like these happen occasionally – I suppose the possession feature makes these more forgiving, except when there’s no one around to posses. Eventually you can get used to the quirks and it does ease up a tad later on, but it still doesn’t make it forgivable. Not when your save file corrupts yet again and leaves you having to redo a whole section! I could probably see most people giving up on the game within the first few hours and it’s completely understandable. Hopefully the developer continues patching the game and fixing these problems, probably could’ve done with some more time in the oven really though, as it does still have a glimmer of potential.
I’ll be honest and say I was looking forward to Agony. The developer piqued my curiosity when stated they will be looking to create the worst possible hell yet seen in games. Well they succeeded, in more ways than one. It sure is the most gruesome hell you will play through, my curiosity for how far things could get pushed kept me going, but it really is an undercooked janky game. It’s not broken by any means, but there’s just too many quirks that can impact your enjoyment. When it all comes together sometimes it’s great, but other times it just doesn’t and Agony becomes wasted potential in the end.
Agony (Playstation 4) - 5/10
- Decent story with multiple endings
- Brutal & Uncompromising depiction of Hell
- Nifty possession feature
- Alluring succubi
- Too many technical woes
- Cumbersome gameplay due to technical issues
- Save file corruption!
- No Pro/One X support to boost performance
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