Agony Review - Is it worth the asking price?

Video games are unique when it comes to the horror genre. In no other form of media do you actually get to be the victim or the lead role. Through film, graphic novels, novels, and poetry, we are observers to the world that is created, but video games are different. You enter the world that is created. No longer are you the eyes that sees the terror unfold. This is why this form is so powerful in the horror universe. When the choices made are solely your own, you become aware that you are at the mercy of the world around you. Games like Outlast, Evil Within, Resident Evil 4, Amnesia, even Kojima's demo of Silent Hill P.T. all knew how to use games to its horror advantage, so where did Agony go wrong? I'll go further into detail to explain how Agony missed the horror mark.

I cannot remember when I was introduced to Agony, but I recall being intrigued by its interesting take on hell. Visuals looked promising, so I decided that I was going to follow its progress when it got closer to launch. With that little snippet that I saw, I anticipated something that could rival some of my favorite horror games, but I didn't expect to be so appalled by its outcome. So, what exactly made Agony so bad? There sadly isn't one thing that could be patched in the future. No, basically the entire foundation is built on a crumbling structure, leaving a partially alluring husk, with a rotted core. The list is incredibly huge that I need to break down each and every problem, and even then it won't hit on all of its failures. Themes, maps, sounds, visuals, and most of all, the fear of death do not exist in this game, eliminating it from the genre of survival horror. I feel that a red flag should have been noticed when Madmind Studio never contacted me back, despite how much I was trying to promote it through my streaming channel and social media. I'm pretty sure Madmind Studio knew it was going to be a failure, so they did their best to just keep quiet.

In my experience with horror in gaming, I've noticed a central theme of reward. Take Resident Evil 4 for example, the rewards are the save stations. In such a chaotic atmosphere, that moment of silence is possibly the greatest feeling you could have. It's okay to sigh that breath of relief before venturing out again in the tension filled atmosphere once more. Amnesia also revolves around the reward mentality as well. In this game, the rewards come from solving puzzles. In doing such, sanity is restored, preventing any further hallucinations for that moment. These small window of comfort are enough to keep us going on, enough to put ourselves through the mercy of the game in which we play. What would happen if that trust happened to be betrayed? This is where well executed horror comes in.

Agony does not work on this system one bit. While you progress to gain more powers (ultimately enabling you to possesses some stronger demons), it feels more like what you would get from a Call of Duty game than a horror game. What's worse is that the game feels far more frustrating than it does terrifying. A death, which could occur because of the poor level design can sometimes throw you at an old checkpoint, making traversing back to your original location that much more infuriating. This happened in multiple scenarios, which gave me even less of a reason to want to come back to the game. Even the items that you collect, and indicate to be auto saved tend to go back to where they once were, making you have to journey again to retrieve what you missed since you last died. This isn't Dark Souls hard, it's just poor design. At least Dark Souls had the decency of saving all of your progress.

Another terrible design comes from the map itself. While it seems that the dark corridors would be a nice touch, it is incredibly difficult to navigate through this labyrinth of poor lighting. The problematic map also tends to cease your sprint at random moments, making navigation that much more difficult. Having dark, tiny pathways do not make the experience scary, it just makes it rage inducing. Just trying to get to the main objectives are problematic since guide markers are only given when collecting a statue, which, don't be surprised, are incredibly hard to find due to this terrible design. These too are things you need to recollect, over and over again if you die.

Then comes the audio. The voice acting does not sound remotely close to what you would expect people in a damned scenario to sound like. Yes, there are sounds of screams, wails, and crying, but it's on a constant loop that it again, becomes more annoying than atmospheric. Along side this situation comes the music that "looms" every time a threatening monster is near. In trying to take a page from Left 4 Dead with the Witches, music queues every time their proximity is near, and it sounds pathetic. At no point did I feel panicked at the approaching demon, but annoyed that I really had no where to go because of the previous point in level design. Have this happen enough times, and expect the check point to launch you all the way back. At one point, I was sent to the start of the game, and was the last time I turned on the game.

One more point that I want to make, as talking about this game is just as painful as playing it, parts of the visuals fail to deliver. These condemned bodies that walk this hell have gargantuan heads and tiny bodies, making them appear comical more than tragic. It really looked like I was playing Goldeneye on the N64 with DK mode on. It almost appears that the developers spent more time creating chest physics than on any other character design. Another sad visual lies with their fire design. In 2018, it surprises me that I'm watching what look like still images just layered and disappearing for a fire effect.

The sad thing is that Agony lives up to its name as it is agonizing to play. I cannot, for the life of me recommend this game at its asking price of $40. I paid $20 dollars, and even then I feel ripped off. Even $5 seems to be too much because it is so unplayable. The only this heaping mess can improve is if the modding community just restructures the entire game from the ground up, that's how bad it is. There are so many other games that are worth what the price it offers, and this will, in my opinion, never be worth any dollar amount they mark it down to.

Definitively not recommended.

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