When it comes to survival horror, typically the number one goal is avoiding your own death. Be it through the careful conservation of resources, the successful application of stealth or simply running like hell you try your best to make your way through the nightmare to the other side but of course not everybody makes it with failure resulting in an often gory death and the much reviled game over screen. For Madmind Studio’s newest announcement however, death is just the beginning.
Awaking with no memory of your past and with no introductions you find yourself face to face with quite literally hell itself. A twisted vortex of cloud, lightning and twisted, demon bodies stretches on before you as your spirit descends towards its untimely fate, your sins unknown. After falling for what feels like an age you finally arrive, your sickly, charred spirit landing upon a bridge of bone, your only thought: Find the Red Goddess and end your torment.
Agony is a brand new first person survival horror currently in development by the newly formed studio, Madmind. Beginning as nothing more than a disembodied spirit with the ability to possess both man and demon players must navigate the hostile and sometimes surreal environments found within the depths of hell.
My first impression of the game was that the developers had somehow managed to either hire or kidnap the minds behind every Tool music video ever made. Twisted and unsettling the monster designs that bare a striking resemblance to an unholy union between Ridley Scott’s Legend and Silent Hill are combined with wet and visceral opening backdrops that appear more like a giant mass of internal veins and organs than the fiery depths of hell, that is, if it weren’t for the ever present masses of detached limbs, twisted bodies and the occasional burning cross.
Level navigation is truly impressive shifting from traditional exploration to combining the mobility of the various possessable beings into a type of morbid free- running which will have you leaping from a spire of corpses into a pool of miasmic black fluid and then onwards to an underwater tunnel filled with the eternally drowning.
Little has been shown of combat so far with the majority of gameplay focused on avoiding the larger demons and armed humans until it comes time to possess them and as you make your way through the various macabre dreamscapes of the underworld there is a constant air of foreboding with the use of both sound and silence to ramp up the tension combined with carefully controlled lighting to ensure you never really know what’s just beyond the torchlight. Despite the lack of weapons the Demons don’t really come across as threatening as though monstrous they are fairly beastial in nature coming off as more twisted animals than anything else being easily diverted and repelled by the throw of a torch. Because of this the game seems to lack what I like to think of as the “oh shit factor” failing to inspire the primal fear conjured up by games such as Amnesia and Penumbra.
In spite of these stumbling blocks however the game manages to be both surreal, atmospheric and gratuitously gory. Original in concept but perhaps not so much in execution Agony is still definitely one to keep an eye out for as it continues to develop.
Agony is set for a planned 2017 release on both PS4, Xbox One and PC
Chris Senz is a freelance journalist and contributor to PN2.