Ever since it was first revealed, Agony caused a lot of controversy, not because it was a game that aimed to be something that wasn’t really ever done previously, but because the developers had the intention of making it a very mature experience, with plenty of gore and nudity. The question for me was always if it would up being a good game or not because right from the start, I was pretty sure that the artistic vision for this was spot on.
First and foremost, Agony is an intense surreal horror experience through and through. The game is a first-person survival horror game that takes place in hell, where the player takes the role of a soul that has found itself trapped there and is seeking for a way out. The main selling point of the game is certainly its setting, but the game has a few mechanics that derive from it and that are pretty unique and interesting, at least in theory.
In Agony, death is not necessarily the end, as once you lose your body, you can still use your soul to possess someone or something, that you might find before your soul disappears forever. However, if the latter does happen, you’ll respawn at whatever checkpoint you’ve activated last. This brings up an issue that the game has, this being the fact that the way that checkpoints work isn’t really explained at all, and that checkpoints are far between
If there’s one thing that Agony does extremely well, it is without a shadow of a doubt the portrayal of Hell. This place is infested with all sorts of demons and creatures, there are also plenty of people that have found themselves trapped there for eternity, and the attention to detail in some specific parts of the game is really spot on. Unfortunately, the novelty soon loses its effect, as things that you see in the first two hours of the game will not have the same kind of impact they did once you experience them later on.
The design of the levels in terms of visuals is pretty good for the most part, but the level design itself is rather poor. The game seems to try too hard to be a traditional video game, by having these filler puzzles, and obnoxious maze sections and games of hide and seek with demons, while it would tremendously benefit if it would just scrap these segments off the game.
If what you’re looking for is a story that focuses on the idea of hell, you’ll also be disappointed. The game’s plot and characters feel as if they’re just there for the sake of it, sure they do have some role to play in the game as a whole, but they weren’t captivating enough to make me want to play the game further. The voice acting also didn’t help in this matter, as whenever an NPC would start talking, the little immersion that I had would be lost. Lip syncing also seems to be non-existent, and, surprisingly, the NPC models look absolutely horrid, which is weird given the amount of detail that went towards demons.
The only reason as to why I kept playing the game was because I was curious to see what would come up next, what kind of things did the artists had in store for the players, because as far as gameplay and narrative goes, Agony pretty much has almost nothing going for it. While the scenery, the visuals, and some of the sound effects certainly carry the game forward a few times, the animations, the questionable enemy AI, and the seeming filler gameplay content that seems to only exist in order to extend the time it takes to beat the game, really drag down the game.
Nonetheless, it’s also worth noting that the game not only offers a single-player campaign, there’s also an endless mode where you try to survive for as long as you possibly can. As far as the main story goes, it takes about 10 hours to beat the whole thing, and there are supposedly seven different endings that you can get. With that in mind, I must say that I’ll admire anyone that will put themselves through the entire game these many times in order to experience all the endings.
To sum things up, Agony is the perfect example of what happens when game design and numerous other technicalities don’t manage to keep up with the artistic vision that originated the concept of the game in the first place. In the end, I feel like this is a game that some people might enjoy for the experience that it provides, while others will absolutely hate it because the gameplay isn’t that compelling. Still, the ultimate problem is that Agony as a video game just isn’t that good.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.