Agony is a Survival Horror game, currently reaching the end of a Kickstarter campaign, in which the player takes a “trip into madness” within the bowels of Hell. It’s an intense, graphic, gory title that has generated a lot of hype and discussion – partly because of its extreme imagery – during the Kickstarter campaign, and I was excited that PlayWay decided to give us a sneak peek into this world of fire and brimstone. Agony promises to show “the most terrifying vision of Hell in gaming history” and the team has already generated more than double the funds required for the Kickstarter campaign to be a success. This review is based on an early alpha demo of Agony, so elements are subject to change, and a lot of content is still pending implementation.
Welcome to Hell
Agony is a first-person title that puts gamers in the role of a tormented soul deep within the depths of Hell, who has no memory of their past. Still, given that this character can possess demons and control other lost souls that it encounters along the way, there’s certainly a variety of tools in place to ensure its survival. Floors made of bone, hallways that look like opened mouths full of teeth, and other strange, disembodied scenes make up the landscape of the world. Although the amount of playable areas in the demo is limited, it certainly painted a vivid image of what Agony offers for an immersive, disturbing world to explore.
Agony comes with a graphic images warning, which is well merited; in one scene, I stumbled upon a large demon using twisted, deformed babies as mortar between blocks as it repaired or built a new wall. Other trapped souls rock back and forth, naked, hitting themselves in the head or otherwise groaning in distress. Unfortunately, there’s no dialog in place within the demo at this time, so Agony currently relies on exploration and deduction to figure out the plot. I’m eager to see if the conversations between the lost souls are as disturbing as they stand to be – I imagine many will be tragic, demented creatures, lost in Hell for one reason or another.
The Mechanics of a Tortured Soul
Agony will be a multiple-platform release, but the controls for PC are very intuitive based on the demo. You can crouch, sprint, and hide with simple button clicks – scooping up torches, and tossing them away, is also a simple feat. One really interesting feature is the breath dynamic; players can hold Alt to suck in a breath of air and hold it, in an attempt to hide from demons. The screen fades and your view slightly narrows, but I would have liked to have a bar that gave me a better indicator of when my character would breathe again. It’s a critical element, because even when you duck down low into a pile of bodies to hide from an enemy, your breathing can still give you away.
You can “attack” with right mouse button, but in the demo the only weapon I found was a torch against locusts’ swarms. But the Kickstarter information outlines attacking and battling enemies – in fact, with the $175,000 pledge level achieved, “Boss Fights” have been unlocked for the game. Players will now “learn how to beat invincible enemies by using their strengths as their weapon.” It’s certainly an interesting dynamic, and one that I look forward to exploring.
As a huge fan of the Survival Horror genre, I was stoked to get my hands on the Agony demo. I had heard murmurings that this title is extreme in terms of gore and troubling images, but honestly it wasn’t much worse – at current – than what I have seen in other titles visiting Hell and demonic realms. There’s some nudity, lots of gore, and disturbing-looking demons, so it’s definitely not a title for the faint of heart. Still, the graphics are impressive and the sounds are top-notch; hearing bones crack underfoot, and bodies tumble to the ground nearby, certainly increases the immersion. There’s cries of anguish, and growls from deeper in the level, not to mention the panicked breathing of the person the character currently inhabits.
I would have liked to see some dialog available for the Demo, at least for a tiny taste of what players can expect in that aspect. Still, Agony has done a great job thus far of making a version of Hell that is complex, unsettling, or even outright disturbing, so I have no doubt that the implementation of dialog with NPCs will further hone those effects, even if the overall story arc were to end up lacking. I dare to say that Agony isn’t a title most people will pick up for its intriguing plot anyway, and it definitely delivers on what it promises thus far: Demons, Hell, gore, and a desperate fight for survival. I look forward to seeing what the creative minds at Madmind Studio accomplish before Agony releases in its final version.