Agony – Blood and gore does not a good game make

Posted on June 18, 2018

Cast into the deepest reaches of hell, your existence is one of torment and damnation. You are but a wretched soul who is cursed to exist in a grotesque and graphic depiction of hell. Your one job, find a way out.

Agony is a first person survival horror game set in a rather uniquely disturbing hellscape. Blood and gore surrounds you with bodies impaled on spikes and fetuses hanging from ceilings. The walls of your surroundings are practically dripping with blood as the entire landscape appears to be made out of flesh, sinew or bone. Your footsteps turn from light thuds to crunching or squelching as you traverse your environment. Echoing screams pierce the silence. Agony certainly wants to make even the most desensitised gamer squeamish.

It was the uniquely grotesque depiction of hell and some great cinematic trailers that originally got me excited for Agony. Promises of a deeper narrative and some creepy enemy design only heightened that excitement. Unfortunately not all promises were realised once I actually got my hands on the game.

One of Agony’s biggest problems was what I was hoping would be its greatest asset.  There was no subtlety or pacing to the visual assault and pretty quickly I just got use to my surroundings. Every piece of blood and gore mushed into one and suddenly I didn’t even find myself noticing the corpses, entrails, or gore around me because it blended in so nicely with the rest of the environment. All of a sudden no single element within the world could leave an impact because no one element stood out from the rest. I also got the sense that the game was trying too hard to be unsettling and grotesque. If flesh and death weren’t enough then we may as well throw in some disturbing sexualisation to really make the player feel uncomfortable…

The gameplay in Agony involves a lot of avoiding threats. Possessing lesser beings and using them as a vessel to traverse your environment. Hiding is key as monstrosities and demons listen for your breath and hunt you down. It’s a game of hide and seek that we have seen in other survival horror titles before. Unfortunately the gameplay loop just feels dull and frustrating. The game often doesn’t give you enough options to survive with tight corridors rather than open rooms quickly leading to your demise. Reloading at checkpoints and replaying the same segments is downright aggravating and all of a sudden any fear is replaced by annoyance.

Agony has a lot of good ideas unfortunately it just wasn’t able to pull them off effectively. There is certainly an amateurish feeling to the game’s overall design with some aspects of the game being downright distracting and questionable. Agony doesn’t leave a good first impression which is a shame because you need that first impression to establish the tension, fear, and atmosphere of the rest of the journey. Some of the visual effects around you look so out of place and outdated with the game’s loading bar being a perfect example. Subtitles that don’t match the words and neon sprites that don’t match the environment are just two equally distracting elements I found within the first 5 minutes of the game. Add to this some framerate issues and visual distortions that literally made me feel sick whilst playing and you’re not in for a good time.

Agony screenshot

Agony unfortunately suffers quite a bit from mistakes that shouldn’t be made. The quality to the game differs fairly drastically from point to point and I can’t help but think extra development time would have gone a long way to helping fix up some of the more obvious errors, glitches, or awkward encounters. It’s clear that Agony wants to sell based on shock factor and the promise of horrific gore although it needs to be able to follow up on that promise much more effectively that it currently does. The journey through hell is undoubtedly unpleasant, although Agony may have taken that idea and applied it a little too literally.