Being a huge fan of the survival horror genre, I was itching to get my hands on Agony and jump into its hellish world. The game depicts a vision of Hell that is so disturbing not all of its contents were allowed into the final version of the game. You start out as an unnamed protagonist who has no recollection of who he is or his past, and set out on a journey through the underworld to find out.
Unfortunately I didn’t find out, simply due to the fact that the audio in Agony is broken, every aspect of it, from the smallest sound sample to the dialogue. It skips, repeats, skips and often crashes assaulting your ears with a mix of fuzz and crackling. I had to completely reboot my console to fix this issue on multiple occasions, sadly the skipping and repeating continued. All of this made the story so difficult to follow I just gave up trying to understand. There are subtitles to read, but concentrating on doing so was made difficult with all of the things mentioned above going on too, and this is just the start.
While the setting is meant to be morbid, gross, depressing etc. the gameplay is just as bad. The world is quite large with multiple paths to take through certain sections, and is littered with secret areas and collectibles. Rewarding the player for taking the time to risk looking around and finding them. I did try this during the first level of the game, however I quickly gave up as I was getting so frustrated with the horrible janky controls, horrific screen tearing and dismal texures. I simply just wanted to finish the game and make a start on writing this review. I would go as far to say if I wasn’t reviewing Agony, I would have stopped playing it very early on.
In typical Survival Horror fashion, you have no weapons to fend off the various demons and creatures in Agony. You only have access to torches, that will help light the way through some of the games darker areas, at the risk of attracting enemies, who are attracted by movement and the flame. You can throw said torches to distract them, and should they sniff you out, you have the ability to hide in select piles of bodies and cracks in walls. If you are caught in a tight spot you also have the ability to hold your breath and hopefully go unnoticed, although I personally found that doing so was useless, as by the time an enemy had come over to take a look, turned around and started walking away, my breath holding meter had depleted and the enemy would turn straight back around. Often resulting in death, as typically once you’re caught it’s you’re dead, though you do get a second chance as after being killed you then become a spirit with the abilityt to take control of another body, should you find one within the time limit. As you progress through the game this ability is extended so you’re able to take control of more and more enemies the further you go. with small shrines appearing now and again enabling you to leave your body voluntarily.
These ‘upgrades’ are available after finding “forbidden fruit” dotted around the world, the ones that enable you to take over enemies are usually in the general area where your objective tells you to take control of one for the first time. While other forbidden fruit that you find can be spent on skills such as holding your breath longer, and making less noise. Finding them though isn’t as straight forward as it sounds as they often blend in to the mush of terrible visual textures and masses of screen tearing, with the prompt to interact with anything only becoming visible once you’re right on top of it. As for making your way through the game, there’s no linear route to take as mentioned earlier. With the only aid being a click of the right stick, and follow the glowing lines that give you a small clue of the general direction to follow, then disappear. This however is also a little broken, often pointing me towards an open doorway, to then use the ability again and for it to go back through to where I had just been, and even sometimes just vanishing through a wall.
The games does feature a couple of puzzles that must be completed to progress through to new areas, one being having to find objects, usually hearts to place one some scales or alter to open a door, while the other requires a sigil to be found and and drawn on to a plaque to open a door too. The first one feels tedious especially the very first time you have to do it. Where as the second feels a little more thought out, as there’s many sigils around to find, which at first is frustrating, however taking note of the frozen figures that are often nearby, pointing in different directions follow them and you’ll find the right one. You then have to actually draw the sigil on to the plaque using your controller. Though once you’ve done this three or four times it starts becoming tedious.
The controls as stated earlier are janky, coupled with the abysmal collision detection made navigation through the game just as dreadful as the audio experience, snagging on random bits of scenery, getting stuck in dips and cracks in the floor. I even had difficulty navigating a staircase at one point, having to wiggle and jump my way up to the top, just ridiculous. By the time I got to the final part of the game I was just running, running and hoping to find a checkpoint to save my progress just to get that little bit further towards the end. An end that was so underwhealming I was angry, angry I had put myself through playing this game to smash a couple of strange pulsating pimple looking objects to get an ending, one of a few that if you’re a glutton for punishment will endure this entire game again to unlock. No thanks. You also unlock a new game mode in which you play as a Succubus. Once again, no thanks.