After spending far more of my time than I should have playing Agony, I can say with absolute certainty that I am disappointed. I was willing to give this game a chance; it had some good points and bad points, but I believed even these to be enough to warrant further investigation. But the farther into Hell I walked, the more I was unable to excuse the flaws. Granted, no one is supposed to like Hell — that’s sort of the point — but I paid for my ticket there. I WANTED Hell. What I got was… just okay.
I wish I could explain the plot of Agony to you, but I’d need someone to explain it to me first. The point, as I understand it, is to find the Red Goddess. Whether there’s more to it than this, I really couldn’t say. Throughout the entire first “level” of Hell I was treated to exactly two snippets of hollow story. There is no drive to move forward in this game, no goal beyond survival and finding the Red Goddess, who may or may not have some answers for us. Extremely early on — I’m talking the first five minutes — we find out what our name is, but that’s the last time the whole “Who are you?” angle is catered to. But I suppose that’s because we now technically know? I felt such a lack of drive while trudging through the different areas of Hell that I can understand why people would get stuck there.
If you want a game that is easy to navigate, please, for your sanity, do not play Agony. There is no map; no matter how hard you wish it into existence it simply will not happen. There are, however, an outrageous amount of mazes, and just in the first level! In my personal opinion, a one maze per game limit needs to be implemented from here on out. The first one you have to get through is actually fairly perfect. The sense of anxiety every time you turn a corner; the screams of victims hanging from the walls or soulless husks babbling in your path; it’s beautiful. The maze itself starts off relatively confusing and challenging to transverse, but once you, like me, have died numerous times, you get the hang of it. The rest of these puzzle-type aspects are just… lame. They are more a nuisance than an actual obstacle to overcome. You will get your first taste of “combat” in these mazes, but it wasn’t enough to stop me rolling my eyes at the blatant lack of creativity. Aside from the world itself, the controls are not intuitive in any way; I can’t tell you how many times I had to completely restart an area because of an apparently poor jump (that I swear to the Red Goddess I painstakingly lined up). I wish I were kidding, but due to the oddly placed save points, one wrong move will cost you dearly, and wrong moves are extremely easy to make.
As far as graphics go, I stand by my original assessment: they aren’t terrible, but they aren’t anything to write home about. Once again, the horror aspect, meaning actual graphic content, is spot on. Everything bleeds or moans or screams; it’s a playground for a twisted individual like myself. That being said, I would have loved some more detail on the inhabitants of Hell. The demons and succubi and whatnot could have been much more frightening if they had been just a little sharper and more precise. The guts on the floor could have been more anatomically correct; same goes for the massive amounts of genitalia you will casually walk by. There is no lack of imagery here, but since it is the only redeemable quality of this game, I wish they’d spent just a little more time on it. Agony is a veritable garden of horrors and disgusting tidbits from your worst nightmares; you just have to squint your eyes a bit.
When I think of the word “difficult,” I think of something that is a worthwhile task that takes effort to complete; I see visions of grandeur and a sense of accomplishment. None of these things apply to Agony. It is not hard because there are epic battles or long puzzles; it is hard because the controls are jerky and you are expected to retrace your steps constantly. The amount of time you have to put in is not nearly equal to the payoff you receive. When I made it through a level I did not feel a sense of pride or breath a sigh of relief; I was pissed. “That’s it?” is all I could think to say; every victory was so empty it didn’t feel like a victory at all, just a waste of time. There are three levels of “difficulty” the game gives you, as well as a “custom” difficulty where you can tweak things to try to better your experience. I’ve played around with these settings and, try as I might, I could not make the experience better.
I still hold to my praise of the sound effects in Hell. The crunching of bones, the squishing of viscera, the constant dripping of blood, these are sounds that are with us always, setting the stage and amping up the tension. The screams of victims, the roaring and howling of demons, these things are the music of Agony. Because this game works off of anxiety and not jump-scares (yay), there is a reliance on the ambiance built by these sounds to raise your heart rate and question every step you take. I spent a lot of time just listening. I would hide under a pile of bodies and melt into the environment, hearing the raspy breathing of an approaching demon and the wails of victims; the world around you seems alive in Agony, pulsing and vibrating in perpetual torment. Hell can really get under your skin if you let it.
At the end of the day, I’m saddened by this game. I was looking forward to it for months. I checked on the release status daily after it was moved back. Every new trailer got me more and more excited to play, but Agony didn’t live up to the hype. The good does not outweigh the bad here, and while it may not be even close to the worst game ever, it’s not one I would have chosen to spend my money on now that I’ve played it. As far as I can tell there isn’t much of a story, the controls aren’t great, and the levels are unimaginative. The only good points are the sound design and the offensive nature of the surroundings. Agony has taught me if you’re going through Hell, exit and find another game.