Agony is a survival horror game that’s set in Hell, a pretty cliche version of hell in all honesty. In the game, you roam around hell in order to get artifacts, but the catch is: you need to do it quietly. Otherwise, you’ll get chased and caught by the patrolling demons who do not like people roaming around the different mazes and corridors of hell.
During the early stages of the game, it’s visually pleasing for those who like these sort of games. The first few areas are filled with bone orifices, a fleshy cliff face and you hear occasional screams as well. There is room to explore, of course, it might be difficult with the demons chasing you. There are a few extra stealth controls that, in theory, would take a stealth game to the next level. For example, apart from the usual crouching to keep your footsteps quiet, you can also hold your breath, but that doesn’t make that big of a difference, unfortunately, it’s a pretty useless mechanic.
The demons themselves look kind of gross like they should but they’re not as big of a threat as they sound. They’re only programmed to follow their fixed paths, if you come across their path or get detected in the vicinity, then you’re in trouble, otherwise, they won’t actively chase you. So, if you get caught, it’s likely because you made a mistake instead of the game’s AI being clever in trying to find you. Although many horror games are like this, given it is 2018 and the high standard of horror games we have now, it’s a bit disappointing. The game also punishes you for getting caught sometimes as it can respawn you at a really bad location, making it annoying if you fail.
As far as the objective of the game and the setting goes, you play as a spirit in hell who’s looking for ‘The Red Goddess’. As a spirit, you’re able to take bodies of the lesser souls in hell and use them to traverse the different mazes and areas to accomplish your goal. The inhabiting bodies part is crucial because that’s how the game’s respawn system works as well. There are these weird-looking mirrors scattered around the game which give you respawn charges.
If you get caught and die, you use these respawn charges and float around looking for bodies to possess. Another added difficulty here is that if you don’t find a body to possess in a given time, you’re set back to the start of the dungeon, and if you don’t have any respawn charges, then you simply have to do the section all over again. This is why the respawn system in the game can be really inconvenient as it can spawn you a long way back from where you actually need to be because even if you do find a random NPC to possess, you’ll likely end up being lost.
Although there are definitely good aspects about this game, some will even find the respawn system as a good thing because it punishes players for dying, but it’s safe to say that players will not appreciate the darkness within the game. The game environment is too dark, literally! You can’t see anything most of the time, which is a problem because it means you have no idea what you’re doing most of the time. Yes, it can be argued that it adds to the difficulty of the game which is what any stealth horror game should be like, but it’s not something that was needed. There are much better ways to keep a player disoriented instead of not making anything visible.
Overall, agony is a decent stealth horror game with a few shortcomings. It’s nothing that the developers can’t look into, they can improve the game’s AI and can do something about the darkness in the future updates. For now, the game seems less rewarding as a stealth game as its just more convenient and easier to just run for it and play through trial and error instead of wasting over 10 minutes at times playing the “right” way.