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Everything in Agony is designed to either make you nauseous or run for your life.
Games like #ResidentEvil and #Outlast exist in believable, relatable worlds—a house in Louisiana or an asylum. It takes a while until you realize something supernatural is afoot.
But with Agony, it's all on front street. It goes from zero to 60 in like three seconds. My time with the Agony demo had some of the most disgusting and creepy moments I've ever spent In gaming.
Before diving into the gameplay and the ins and outs of the demo, I must say, the controls weren't well optimized. But things like that can be fixed. Sometimes my mouse would chug, and other times it would zoom past what I was trying to look towards something.
You should also make sure your computer is stable enough to run Agony, as my first trip through on Epic settings was sticky at times.
Also, a strange detractor is the menu font. Now, I know that sounds like a small gripe and can be fixed quickly, but it was weird seeing this somewhat clean, almost goofy font laid over the absolute worst nightmare a trip to Hell could provide.
That's the conceit of this game; you are a soul trapped in Hell, and Agony's interpretation of Hell makes Doom look like a bed of flowers.
For example, as I strolled down a gore-filled hallway, guts and sinew plastered all over the wall, I stopped to see a man in an enclosed space laying rocks in front of him. It was sort of normal until I heard the cries of a child, and then I saw the man pick up a baby with an engorged head and lay him on top of his pile of rocks.
What proceeded after that is something I have never seen in any medium. He piled rocks onto the baby, crushing it, and he doesn't just do it once, he does it multiple times.
It was at that moment when I realized what kind of game I was playing. No game looks like Agony. Honestly, no game has ever tried to look like Agony, in both scope and art-style.
The game runs on Unreal Engine 4, so that means it's gorgeous while also looking hideous. Things like a dining table built out of human bones wouldn't be so gross if it weren't also so beautifully made. Under the table, holding it up, is a pile of arms and legs, and on top are hundreds of rib bones pinned sharply upwards, taking the no elbows on the table rule to a new level.
It's the little things that make this interpretation of Hell stand out so much, plus the creatures that roam the halls—demons with large sideways alligator faces and lost souls crying so loud that they echo through the corridors.
Also, there's some sort of a human-spider hybrid. I didn't get a great look at him because I obviously ran the hell away from this monstrosity, but just as I neared the end of the demo, around the corner of a tooth-filled door came a spider with I'm guessing six or eight human-looking limbs that outstretched from its torso. It then proceeded to chase me into a dark corner. I'm not sure how I lost him, but I'm glad I did.
What is dead may never die.
Death is handled differently than in other games. When you die, you need to travel to another host to take another body.
It's an interesting sidestep, especially because one of the linchpins for survival horror is the threat of a game over. I suppose it works, in some ways, as a checkpoint, because available souls tend to be grouped together in a particular part of the map, but nonetheless, it's an interesting twist on dying in games.
There are also some interesting ways to solve puzzles. In one instance, what I had used to get through a doorway was a sigil I had learned in a previous room, and to use the sigil, I had to complete a drawing on the door. It's an interesting way to operate the pace of hiding and running.
The sound design combined with your environment work perfectly in tandem. The floor is covered in gore and bones, and every time you take a step, you can hear the crunch and the viscera slosh under your feet. And not only are the floors covered in gross stuff—the hallways are made up of giant throats. Each entry way or exit is lined with gross teeth that are always moving and shifting. I can't imagine I'll be sleeping much without these images popping in and out of my head.
These were just a few of the moments I witnessed in a 30-minute demo. Even beyond it being creepy, Agony has an absorbing gameplay loop on its hands. There are the obvious similarities to games like Outlast and the new Resident Evil, but Madmind Studios has something truly awful here, and I mean that in the best possible way.
There is survival horror, and then there's skulking through a gore-filled room only to see a woman chained up with her stomach cut open, showing a baby hanging from its umbilical cord. If Agony can keep this sort of tone for a reasonable amount of time and fix a few of the issues up top, then any horror fan should keep his or her eye on this game.
To see what I mean, check out the demo footage.