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Posted by GG Goblin On June - 19 - 2018

Go to Hell.

The idea of hell is different for different people. For some, it may be the idea of red-skinned demons who are far too enthusiastic about red hot pokers. For others, it may be something as simple as queueing to use the toilet, for the rest of eternity. Whatever your own personal vision of hell, Madmind Studios have taken the Christian route for their depiction in the videogame Agony, which obviously means extreme violence and gore, and a surprising amount of anatomy.

agony1 (Copy)

Madmind Studios’ Agony was always going to be controversial. Even from the beginning as a KickStarter, Agony seemed to court the controversy, lapping up the equal amounts of interest and disgust vented upon the game by gamers. It is an age old story, make something that offends people, and they will flock to take a look. Further adding to the mythos that was rapidly surrounding the game, it was revealed before launch that Agony had to cut some scenes for being too graphic in order to simply release the game. Damn, if that doesn’t make you want to rush out and buy it.

So, Agony promised the most terrifying vision of hell in the history of gaming, and it has to be said that it has more or less succeeded. Although I am not sure that “terrifying” is the right word. To me, terrifying suggests fear, and fear is more like objects moving in the corner of your eye, or children’s laughter echoing from the darkness. Agony is probably better described as the most disturbing vision of hell, packed to the rafters with shocking depictions of violence the like of which has never been seen before in a game. It can be quite disgusting at times, and I would suggest that many players would find themselves unable to play the game, or be deeply offended. But there we go, it just builds up the hype as people will want to see what all of the fuss is about.

It has to be said that offensive material aside, Agony does look good and would likely fit in with many people’s depictions of hell. It just pushes the boundaries a little too far. But the visuals and the settings are all quite impressive and varied, and while screaming in agony is not the most settling sound, the sound work is generally really good, as long as you don’t take too much notice of the sub standard voice acting.

agony2 (Copy)

And if Agony were some kind of narrative adventure, players would either be offended or mildly entertained. However, the game is actually a first-person survival game with a healthy dose of stealth and some puzzle solving. Players take on the role of a lost soul who wants to, quite understandably, escape from hell. This will involve seeking out the Red Goddess, which will be quite the undertaking for a defenceless soul.

The problems present themselves fairly quickly. There is very little by way of explanation in the game, something which is quite common in the survival genre, but feels cheap in Agony. It is difficult to know what you are supposed to do, or indeed what you can do, which leads to a whole number of trial and error deaths. Sometimes, it is not even that easy to work out where to go. In fact, I managed to get completely and utterly lost within the first ten minutes of playing the game. There is a lot of frustration out of the door.

A large part of the gameplay will come from avoiding the various demons and nasties that roam hell. These beasties will kill the lost soul without a thought, and so the player will need to extinguish their torch, cower down somewhere dark and hold their breath in the hope that the demon doesn’t see them. This is all well and good for those who like cowering in the shadows for a large part of their game experience. But, on top of this, a demons ability to find the soul seems incredibly random. Sometimes they will miss the player and continue on their way, other times they will chase the soul down no matter where they hide.

If the soul is killed, players will have a short amount of time to find another vessel to inhabit, otherwise it will be back to the last checkpoint. It’s a nice little mechanic that could work really well, but once again it is not explained enough for players to make the most of it. The same can be said of the puzzles in Agony, that lack of explanation just leads to frustration.

A whole bunch of performance issues also taint the well, from framerate problems to the now infamous audio issues. At least with these issues, a fix is possible. The frustrating gameplay on the other hand will require a whole lot more work.

agony3 (Copy)

Agony’s developers had a vision of hell for this game, and that vision, complete with all of the shock value, comes across. However, it seems that in perfecting this vision, they may have overlooked things like gameplay or a smooth framerate. For those seeking some hellish gaming, Agony will only frustrate. If, however, you want to see what all of the fuss is about, fill your boots. Agony is just as disturbing and gross as was promised.




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