*This review will contain content and images suitable only for people aged 18 and over*
I remember seeing a preview trailer for this game around a year ago and being highly intrigued. Agony is set for release on PS4, Xbox One and Steam, and I was lucky enough to play it early. I say lucky, I thought I was…
MadMind Studio are behind the survival horror game, a studio founded in 2016 by Tomasz Dutkiewicz and his team of 9 developers who are veterans of titles such as The Division and The Witcher 3. Developed using Unreal Engine 4; Agony was funded using Kickstarter and has been in development for the past 2 years. The trailer for this game gave none of the story away, it looked like a view into the mind of Antonin Artaud. Safe to say I was pretty excited to give it a whirl.
We were told to wait until the day one patch released, which I did, and here are my thoughts so far;
You start the game at the Gates of Hell; immediately I began to feel queasy. The sound of your footsteps is vulgar and it sounds like you’re walking on a pile of innards and when you look down you may not be wrong. Graphically the game looks okay, right from the opening sequence I noticed issues with the frames dropping and strange lines running up the screen. I am playing the PS4 version, but have seen some Unreal Engine games that perform much better on console than this. I had to play with the gamma as I couldn’t see much when it first loaded.
As I mentioned, one of the team behind the game has worked on The Division, and you can tell this by the movement speed of your character. The Base of Operations forces you to walk slowly when entering/exiting; which is the most infuriating part of the game. Well luckily for me this entire game is that speed, and each footstep sounds like someone making vile sex noises with their cheek slapping against their teeth. You can sprint, but there is a stamina bar at the bottom of the screen which depletes quicker than my pint glass on a sunny Bank Holiday Sunday (Yes I played this game hung-over).
I’ve never been a fan of following rules, there is an option to have a guide line to show you to your objective. Right at the start of the game I decided to completely ignore this feature and go exploring. Basically I saw something shiny in a hole in the ground and; like a magpie went to investigate. That was a bad idea. The shiny object turned out to be the game’s respawn system, which with normal settings allows 3 uses before needing to be reset. I then proceeded to walk around an area known as ‘The Abandoned Prison’ for around half an hour having no idea what I was doing. In this time I heard a lot of strange noises, moans, screams etc. I also set myself on fire some how. I had no way of getting back up to the start so was forced to quit to the menu and start all over again.
Back at the beginning you learn the first mechanic which is to pick up and use items, in this case a thigh bone used as a burning torch (seems like hellfire will burn anything) which is used to burn some branches on the ground and open the gate. Now I had already done this so jumped right in, forgetting a screen would pop up to tell me this. Because of my hastiness it caused a glitch where I was stuck inside the object I took the torch from, cue reload number 2. This time I decided to play around with the setting, mainly the sensitivity as although moving fast was out of control I will never let a game stop me from looking around as quickly as I like. I swear I only changed this one setting, however my button scheme decided to swap things around too, so now jump was assigned to L1, and crouch was assigned to X (F the norm, right?).
My next moment of rage came when finding a note on the ground, there are many of these notes which are there to explain the lore, but don’t really do that, they talk nonsense and swear. The button to continue when you have finished reading is the same as jump, and even though you press it once, it will still do both actions. In this case that meant leaping forward from a cliff in to the even deeper depths of hell. This game is supposed to scare you due to its gore and its awfully sadistic content. At this point it was simply pissing me off. I moved forward with my objective though, and completed the first chamber by collecting hearts to balance a scale. I didn’t have to harvest these organs myself, they were just laying around on the floor.
During this time I came across my first NPC, another prisoner of Hell who are known as Martyrs. He spoke with a very stereotypical Cockney accent that we have heard many times since voice in game was a thing. He spoke to me like me knew me, letting me know that it was my fault that we were in Hell, that me ‘thinking with my cock’ had landed us there. I then burned him to death, now we were getting somewhere.
This game is freaky, moving into darkness will sometimes release a brand new area from nothing, things that look dead will reveal they are not in horrific ways. The sound to this game is it’s real saving grace, games don’t usually scare me, but there were times where I had to take my headset off and take a moment, much to the amusement of my girlfriend who was watching me play.
The second chamber is a maze that you are instructed to escape, while avoiding demons that track you by sound, this seems very difficult as every step sounds like you’re walking in a pool of jelly. You can hide within walls and hold your breath until they pass. All the while you are collecting literal limbs of people to assist you in opening the next chamber, and meeting NPCs who spout nonsense. One can be heard giving birth and it sounds brutal.
The game has had criticism in the media for over doing the horror. I am all for artistic expression, but when it comes to babies being eaten and scenes of brutal, graphic rape then some things are best left unseen. The developers were told by gaming authorities to tone it down or face the game not being released, some of the things I had seen were brutal enough, I can’t imagine what it would have been had the toning down not happened. I gave this game some time but it is just not for me, I’m sure some people out there would enjoy it, so don’t let my review put you off, give it a go and let us know what you thought. I enjoy horror games, and love the survival genre, I just can’t bring myself to love Agony.
A survival horror game, Agony pushes every boundary you can think of with it’s brutal content. Perhaps they should have focussed on the actual gameplay rather than the shock factor. Feels like a fairground ghost train, quite scary when you’re on it, but when it’s over you feel empty.