They say that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and while this particular proverb relates to social deeds, it does also fit in perfectly well within the digital world. As the vast majority of developers, especially the ones of the indie kind, means well when creating their products, but just because most intend for their title to be a masterpiece, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it will become one. As ultimately one’s intentions are only a portion of the final product, and in truth, hard work and dedication are what ultimately makes games great, and it seems like Madmind Studios, the developer of the recently released Agony, has missed that particular point.

Agony, is, or rather was the highly anticipated survival horror set within the depths of hell and while the setting of this particular title seemed a little cliché at the time of its announcement, then it has to be underlined that Madmind’s realisation of the underworld – within the final version of the title – is simply superb. It is not just another red and brown desolate land which you had a chance to experience within Dante’s Inferno or the God of War series, but a rich and unique hellscape full of unique colour schemes and tones, which is populated by a wide variety of demons, devils, and other monstrosities.

When it comes to Agony’s aesthetic and visual design, then it has to be said that it is second to none. It provides the horror genre with a breath of fresh air which it desperately needed, as the dark gray, futuristic landscapes of the _Observer, and Soma, have begun to stagnate the genre over the recent years. However, despite of its excellent design, Agony’s facade ultimately suffers from a plethora of visual imperfections. Blurry textures, or low-quality models are not a rarity, but it has to be pointed out that such are only an issue when one idly spectates the title’s landscape. And in motion, while escaping the plethora of title’s creatures, such are no longer an issue.

Madmind Studios the developer behind the title, is clearly aware that the visuals of their product are not as exceptional as they would like them to be. In order to ensure that the players world over have a chance to experience Agony at the highest possible level, the developer has included a plethora of visual effects which mask some of the title’s aesthetic shortcomings. But even with all the bells and whistles in place, Agony can at times look a little underwhelming if not ugly and while most will stomach oddly looking martyr models, and clunky animations, ultimately not all will be able to accept Agony’s user interface.

In addition to the rather mind-boggling issue, Agony also possesses a plethora of artificial intelligence related quirks, which can at times stop you dead in your tracks, or downright force you to restart. As for some reason, in-game demons, chorts, and other hostiles, love to hang out right next to you, for extended periods of time. During my playthrough, I would sometimes spend up to five minutes hiding inside of a crack in a wall, watching a demon walk in circles right in front of me. But such behaviour was imply annoying, and nowhere near as infuriating as hostiles’ tendency to circle around martyrs, which act as in-game lives – as whenever a demon is close to a martyr, especially one which you take possession of, you get instantly attacked and at times, you have no other choice but to take control of a body, only to get instantly killed.

When you first start Agony, you’ll be faced with the standard ”press start” screen, and then main menu and it has to be said that both of these are a little over the top, as they combine an unnecessarily complex font, with textured underlay’s, which in conjunction with one another, make it a little difficult for one to read or comprehend what the title is trying to convey. Even if you have 20-20 vision, you are likely to struggle to understand the messages which Agony places in front of you. But that being said, Agony’s user interface is just a nuisance within its menus, but is a true pain when encountered within the live gameplay. However, most will likely overlook incomprehensible text and overly-complex user interface, as ultimately, when in-game, Agony’s weird bugs and glitches take the center stage.

Before I proceed, I feel like I have to underline that while Agony’s technical issues are serious enough in order to be highlighted, they are nowhere near damaging enough to drag the title down into the depths of hell. As ultimately they are much more confusing than annoying. For example, Agony seems to be missing a save icon, and whenever the title at hand auto-saves it displays PlayStation 4’s XMB overlay over the gameplay and it feels really unnatural, and is ultimately incredibly immersion breaking, when you are in the middle of a conversation with a damned soul, and suddenly you are confronted with a black, transparent screen with a massive save icon.

The in-game possession mechanic, may not make a lot of sense to some, however, once you start the title, and are confronted with the fact that you are in control of a soul, and not a mortal being, it is much easier to comprehend. Ultimately, once you get into the stride of things, you will completely shake off any negative feelings towards the possession mechanic. But while you might make peace with the fact that Agony gives you borderline infinite amount of chances to succeed, you may not completely accept all of the title’s missed opportunities.

Within Divine Comedy, Dante Alighieri uses monuments and locations, to highlight the morbid and ironically enough, chilling nature of Hell itself and upon the very beginning, he uses the gates of hell to convey to the reader the true nature of the foreign land which Dante is about to enter. Every little detail, even as seemingly insignificant as the inscription on the arch of the gate, is ultimately used to move the reader to the edge of his/her seat. This particular quote: “I am the way into the city of woe. I am the way to a forsaken people. I am the way into eternal sorrow. Sacred justice moved my architect. I was raised here by divine omnipotence, primordial love and ultimate intellect. Only those elements time cannot wear are beyond me, and beyond time I stand. Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter Here.“‘ has resonated with mankind since the 14th century. And unfortunately, despite of its setting, Agony fails to capitalise on such details, and ultimately makes Hell feel trivial, and at times, a little boring.

The world of Agony is by no means bad or ineffective, as ultimately, it does its job of creating a believable setting for the devilish story which it is trying to convey. But just as its world, the title’s narrative is not as high brow as many perhaps expected it to be – and that’s perfectly fine and when all is said and done, it has to be said that Agony is more like a slasher horror of the 1980’s, rather than a literary masterpiece the like of The Raven, The Picture of Dorian Gray, or The Call of Cthulhu – and that’s perfectly fine and while it is not a title for absolutely everybody, I am sure it will find its audience.

When push comes to shove, it has to be said that Agony, as a standalone horror, clear of any third party burdens, is a great title. However, once other works enter the fray – from any medium – it becomes clear that Agony is not the high brow masterpiece which many wanted it to be, and perhaps one which the developer has intended to be. The final outcome, is more than suitable considering that ‘Hell is full of good meanings, but Heaven is full of good works‘. And who knows, maybe with time, once Madmind manages to patch out all of the title’s bugs and glitches, it might just become the horror game of the generation. But as things stand, it will have to make a way for the titles such as the aforementioned _Observer, or Outlast 2.



Author

Kamil

My name is Kamil, and I'm the 'Feature Man'. I write news, and reviews just like everybody else, however, feature articles are my true forte. And this is not because I'm another self-centered, pseudo-intellectual games journalist, but because there are many discussion worthy matters which go unnoticed in the flurry of other video-game related articles. If you want to read more of my #HotTakes and #Opinions, or if you simply want to fight me over the internet, you can follow me on Twitter @Kama_Kamilia.