I’ve been looking forward to Agony since the beginning of the year; after finally getting to play, I’m still not entirely sure how I feel. For starters, Agony is marketed as a survival horror game, and that is absolutely true. I’m about two hours into the game, and thus far my life is dependent on how long I can hold my breath or whether I can find a place to hide in time. According to some of the trophies you can earn, it does look like legitimate combat is a part of the game later on, once you can possess demons and such, but for right now I’m a lowly husk just trying to get out of Hell. I can’t comment on the story much, as I haven’t experienced any story yet. As far as I’m concerned, this game is about finding the Red Goddess… and go! We aren’t given much drive beyond this. You are able to interact with some NPCs that you can ask a question to try to discover more information, and there are notes to pick up throughout the game that seem to be putting some sort of narrative together, but as of right now there isn’t much to go on other than SURVIVE.
The graphics for Agony are a bit of a letdown. They aren’t terrible, but I expected a little more than I got. If you’re looking for sharp lines and crisp detail, look elsewhere; none of the environment or monsters have any sort of super realistic clarity that we’ve come to expect from the gaming industry these days. Now, allow me to defend that which I damn: if this game was hyper-realistic, I would have had several panic attacks. While the visual graphic quality isn’t superb, the graphic nature of the game is. There are haunting scenes and gore in absolutely every nook and cranny of this macabre masterpiece. I feel like most people would be too uncomfortable to play if they could REALLY see what they were looking at; this adventure is not for the faint of heart. Every single aspect of the surroundings and monsters are adult. There is nudity (lots and lots of it) and extremely graphic violence — at one point you see babies crushed (that’s not a spoiler compared to what you have waiting for you, trust me); it’s just an all-around horror fan’s wet dream. So what this game lacks in graphic quality, it makes up for in graphic quantity.
I have to admit, Agony frustrated me to extreme levels for the first hour of gameplay. I play 90% of every new game I get on Easy, this way I can focus on the playstyle and story without taking overly long on battles or puzzles; this is my way of feeling something out for replayability. I started Agony on Easy… and easy it was not. I spent so much time getting my face eaten by demons I was ready to just throw down the controller and let the Hellfires take me. There are varying levels of difficulty you can choose, as well as custom settings for those true masochists out there, but I can assure you I am perfectly happy over here in Easy Land; keep your difficulty to yourself.
My biggest gripe about Agony is the truly appalling amount of glitches. I have had to restart the game twice because it froze, and I’ve only put in a couple hours of gameplay. Not to mention the graphical glitches; so much screen tearing! Since death happens fairly often in Hell, save points are a big deal, but they also bring you back to the beginning of an area if you aren’t able to possess a new body in time, and this is where more restarting comes in. I would die, and then be unable to do anything as I helplessly watched the timer count down. In some cases, the timer would never appear, and I was just left in Limbo until I closed out the game and booted it back up, putting me back at the beginning of the area and erasing all my progress. Thankfully, since I’m on easy mode, I at least have these save-points to go back to numerous times, because in normal play they disappear after three uses and you’re forced even further back in the game. No flippin’ thank you.
Overall, my first impressions of Agony are: not nearly as good as I was expecting/hoping for, but still okay. The controls take a little getting used to, there are still a lot of bugs to be fixed, and I would love a map, but this is still my type of horror game. The sound effects are gross, and the wails of damned souls all around you really set the mood. There are no cheap jump scares; the developers went the route of anxiety and ambiance to thoroughly freak you out. I sure hope the Red Goddess is worth it, because I certainly wouldn’t want to be stuck in Hell unless I had access to the penthouse; down in the depths, where you can smell your own burning flesh, it is a truly unpleasant place.