Agony or Gameplay from Hell

First of all, DO NOT watch any gameplay from Agony at work. Even if you sometimes watch video game videos there. Just don’t. Unless you want to explain the sight of strangely shaped heads with teeth above bloodied breasts to you co-workers of course – and that’s one of the more harmless visuals …

 Agony. A horror survival game in hell. A developer that promised to make no compromises. Sounds good. But then, there were compromises. Developer Madmind Studio self-censored the game, even more than they said they would, and then miraculously released a video containing exactly the deleted scenes, which involve pornography and a demon dick raping a succubus. Yes, very fucking explicit scenes. Honestly, fuck discussing if that’s art or not, this kind of click-bait and “look how edgy we are” marketing is gross or pathetic. Or both, depending on your point of view. Oddly enough, apples with a “hole” have made it into the game …

It surely should not create a shitstorm among gamers, because talking about censoring bits of a game where there is still shitloads of violence, gore and sex on your screen is moot when it is a miracle all the content that is in is actually allowed on-screen in puritanical countries like the US or in countries like Germany, where even a ridiculously harmless game like Syphon Filter once had to have enemies bleeding green blood …

So controversy and violent porn scenes aside, how does Agony fare? Ugh. First, what happened to the graphics? You know, the trailers and past presentations showed a nice-looking game. Now, hell looks like a game released 5 years ago, and flesh rather looks like plastic in many areas. It’s also pretty dark – so dark that you sometimes can’t even stare at the wonders of hell because it is too damn dark! And yes, animations and NPC would look odd next to Skyrim! Then, there are problems with screen tearing and FPS slowdowns, as well as demons teleporting 2 meters next to you. Or you can’t progress for some reason until you restart the game …

But hey, maybe the gameplay can save Agony? Nope. The controls are not as responsive as they should, the character moves too slow, the puzzles are merely “find a heart and bring it there”, the stealth is similar but worse than Alien: Isolation, and the fighting small enemies but run away from big ones is also frustrating because of the technical issues or boring because the demons that quickly dismember you can appear everywhere (see above). It can also happen that you can be stuck in a hiding spot because the demon next to you keeps running into a wall … Or random stuff like this glitch or whatever it may be:

But there’s one good gameplay idea at least: If you die, you have a bit of time to fly (in spirit form) into another body, possess it and continue your journey. However, if you fail to do so, you’re dead. And here comes the idiotic save system of Agony into play: You have to use a mirror-thing to be able to save there, which in turn means you’ll return there (up to three times only though). And the game does an awful shitty job with placing them smartly. Sometimes, there are two within two minutes, and sometimes, you can’t find a single fucking mirror-thing for 30 minutes – until you get killed. But it’s fun to lose 30 minutes of progress over and over, isn’t it? Then again, the demon sometimes stands literally next to you kneeling and walks away again. Huh?

All of these factors combined turn Agony from a promising survival game to a game where you wonder if the game engine can even survive the game. Sadly though, the tiresome gameplay and the irksome bugs are so annoying, progressing is such a pain, that it is easy to overlook that the designers actually did quite a good job with their portrayal of hell in Agony. Some areas feel like hell, and you’re slowly crouching along when a demon is close by while you hear damned babies or mad adults cry. Some scenes also leave that slightly curious yet definitely uncomfortable feeling in your stomach, which is a sign a horror game does something right.

So no, it’s not that Agony couldn’t get anything right at all. Maybe it’s for masochists who loved to die a million times in Dark Souls, and now don’t mind terrible controls. Maybe it will be better once it’s patched properly. But while one can say this road to hell was paved with good intentions, the lacklustre execution means you grow tired of this incarnation of hell very quickly.

Rabidgames laments: Shame. Great potential, but the self-inflicted controversy about censorship, the unfinished state and the incredibly boring gameplay ruin this vacation to the depths of hell. A hell where you suffer the shortcomings of the game more than you suffer hell itself. Or to sum it up: The name says it all.

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