Agony is a game that seems to be mired in controversy lately. This infamous hell simulator was funded on KickStarter and finally released recently, but it seems that the game wasn’t quite finished when it hit shelves. I don’t know what the story behind that is, whether they were just rushing to meet a deadline or ran out of money or what, but naturally the collective internet quickly began to scream things like “they lied and stole our money!” and “this is the worst game of all time!”.
Well, that’s ridiculous. It’s definitely got its share of unfortunate flaws, but it’s not even close to being one of the worst games ever. It’s not even a bad game. It’s actually quite fun despite everything.
Even with all the negative reviews, I just couldn’t resist checking out these amazing looking hellscapes, and that part of the game definitely came through the most. The environments are absolutely amazing looking. It’s like walking through a huge series of living paintings and I couldn’t help but to keep stopping and staring at all the crazy looking things in the large and twisted variety of environments. I don’t think I’ve ever taken so many screenshots of a game (see the extra gallery at the end for even more ridiculous hell-pics).
Speaking of large and twisted, that also sums up the physical layouts of these crazy hell environments. Navigation through many areas can get extremely confusing, as the locations tend to be large, mazelike, and surreal to the point where things like traditional physics sometimes fly right out the window. This can be a little frustrating, but I feel like it also works well given the context of the game, that of being in a highly oppressive and irrational environment.
Combine that with how helpless you are against the deadly demons roaming around and you’re in for one uncomfortable feeling place. Survival is just as chaotic as everything else in this game, with you starting out completely helpless and having to make your way through some really clunky stealth sections, to getting the ability to leap to a new human body each time you die (if you can find a free one nearby), to learning to possess different types of demons, which all leads to you being able to play kind of a weird game of spirit tag through some of the later levels.
There’s also a strange checkpoint system where you not only have to find and manually activate each checkpoint, but you’ll also lose your last checkpoint if you die 3 times before reaching the next one. This sounds pretty intimidating and has been the subject of many complaints, but it’s actually nowhere near as bad as it sounds. You have to take into consideration that this means 3 “real” deaths, as in not the kind where you die and leap to a new body, but only ones where you completely run out of bodies to leap into and your spirit dissipates. There are anywhere between 2 to a dozen bodies for you to jump into in almost all the areas and they all respawn with each real death, so you actually have anywhere from 6 to 30-something chances to reach that next checkpoint, even more when you get that ability to possess demons too. Mileage may vary, but I never lost a single checkpoint in all my time with the game, even in the nasty early areas before the body hopping mechanic unlocks.
Unfortunately, there’s still a fine line here between the discomfort of hell and the discomfort of clunky gameplay mechanics and Agony tends to wobble back and forth between the two pretty frequently in many other areas. For every amazing looking environment there’s something in each that’s so glaringly unfinished that it really pulls you out of the experience. Things like all the human victims in hell looking completely identical and the female ones looking extremely unfinished, or the fact that a lot of the dialogue from the Red Goddess sounds like it was recorded on an old mono tape recorder, or how some pretty huge, and extremely noticeable bugs like certain types of collectibles becoming uncollected when you die or numerous broken achievements/trophies were just left in there.
It’s very obvious that this game wasn’t ready for release, and this is unfortunate and maybe even unacceptable, but…it is what it is. The game has had several patches since release, but it doesn’t look like there will be too many more since the developers are rumored to be going out of business soon due to this gaming flopping badly and the huge amount of negative press surrounding it.
Obviously I wish they’d worked on it more before release so it could have been the amazing game it wanted to be, but y’know, I still had fun with it. It’s pretty flawed, and sometimes it feels more like you’re a tourist than a participant, but at its heart it’s still a pretty fun and unique journey through an extremely visually impressive journey through hell. Fun enough that I went back through multiple times immediately after finishing so I could get all the different endings and see all the places I’d missed the first time, and while none of these additional endings really ended up adding much to the mess of a plot (which felt like it had several pieces missing), I still enjoyed the journey.
I don’t think I’d recommend it to anyone but the most rabid horror fans, and even then, only ones with a lot of patience for something with rough edges and not much in the way of action, but if you happen to fit into that small group then I think you’ll find something you can appreciate here too.
Now, I’m just going to dump a pile of extra screenshots down here at the bottom that show off some of the coolest looking sights I saw (I didn’t include any with any graphic gore or dicks flopping around, in case you’re worried)…