Archives by Day

July 2019


Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: PlayWay
Developer: Madmind Studio
Release Date: May 29, 2018


PS4/XOne/PC Preview - 'Agony'

by Thomas Wilde on Nov. 13, 2017 @ 2:00 a.m. PST

Agony is a first-person survival horror game where you will begin your journey as a tormented soul within the depths of hell without any memories about his past.

This is the game that your religious relatives were worried about. Agony makes Doom's hell levels look vaguely quaint, and it's the closest thing I've ever seen to an interactive version of the cover art to a heavy metal album.

Agony is another Kickstarter success story, and it's a stealth-based, survival-horror title in the vein of Amnesia and Outlast. Even the premise sounds like an exaggeration for effect, like somebody's making it up as part of a throwaway joke about Satanic panic: You're a recently damned soul who's just landed in hell, with no memory of your previous life, and you must survive long enough to find a way out.

I'm playing an alpha build (v. 0.666, because of course it is), and the first thing that hits me about Agony is how wet it is. You land in a particularly moist part of hell that looks like it's been spot-welded together out of flesh and bone, which is populated by shambling husks and hostile demons.

You have exactly zero methods of self-defense at the start of the game; either you sneak past something, hide from it, or get punched to death by a clam monster with an enormous rack. It sounds like I'm making this up, but I'm not; the first enemy you encounter in Agony has a head like an oyster shell standing on its side, goat legs, long claws, and a big set of naked breasts. If it catches you, it pokes you in half with the claws, with a gesture kind of like it's chiding you for having the balls to try something. It's Freudian as all hell.

(And so I go into the end of this year at Worth Playing as I began it: talking about naked video game people who are trying to kill me.)

Death in Agony, however, is a complicated subject. The primary mechanic in this game is possession, which allows you to move from body to body to circumvent obstacles or gain new abilities. If you're caught and killed, you don't just go back to your last checkpoint. You instead revert to a disembodied state and must search the environment for a lesser demon that you can possess.

It's even useful tactically, since you can use it to leapfrog past a particularly obnoxious enemy's patrol route, but you still have to be careful. Some of the lesser demons are in bad positions, such as on the far side of a chasm you can't cross. I managed to get myself stuck in a situation where all I could do was leap to my death.

Right now, this build of Agony is an incomplete demo, without anything other than the basics of its gameplay. Mostly, it's a tour of the game's particularly oppressive atmosphere. It's a game that feels weirdly dirty, where you're surrounded by weeping damned souls and sites of recent carnage, and everything's bloody or part of a corpse or looks like a serial killer's art project. Some rooms let you reorient gravity; others host weird puzzles or stealth challenges. There have been a lot of games that are set in parts of a version of hell, but Agony is one of the few that makes it as surreal and desperate as it feels like it should be.

It's going to be interesting to see how the world reacts to Agony. This is not a game that subtly hints at unwholesome content; it throws you directly into the part of hell where everybody is naked and afraid and in shock and on fire and being hunted by tit demons with clam heads. If it is not immediately targeted for destruction by every half-baked parental watchdog group in the Western world, something has gone terribly wrong. In a way, the highest possible endorsement I can give Agony is that it will drive all the right people absolutely insane.

More articles about Agony
blog comments powered by Disqus