Back to hell after five months in limbo
Agony was [checks thesaurus.com for synonyms for “agony”] pure misery, torment, and despondency. I started reviewing it and then just stopped halfway through. I respect my own time too much to continue hating every frustrating second I spend with this game. Although, apparently the entirety of my intro to the pseudo-review was simply “Agony sucks.” I stand by this wholeheartedly.
At least I got this video out of it:
Today, five months after its hellish release, Agony tries again. Developer Madmind Studio has launched Agony Unrated — a new version of the game that allegedly doesn’t make the compromises the original did. Here’s Madmind’s bullet-point list of changes:
- Improved quality of character models and textures
- New types of threats – Traps
- New types of environmental threats
- New types of static opponents
- A new, more extensive and useful character development system
- Volumetric lighting
- Normal Mode and Hard Mode with more opponents and puzzles
- Completely new type of environment – the Forest, added to the procedurally generated Agony Mode, which now also includes additional traps and boss fights
- 8 different endings in the Story Mode
- Possibility to follow the story mode as a Sukkub
- Sukkub Mode and Agony Mode are unlocked at the first start of the game
- Many new, uncensored scenes
- Black and red image filter, inspired by the Agony trailers
- World map and minimap
- The possibility of setting up a fire and killing some opponents as a martyr
- Sacrificial altars
- New and modified paths for the player
- Numerous technical improvements to the basic version of the game and much more
There are a few definite positives here. The maps will certainly help keep Agony from being so disorienting and confusing. The “technical improvements” mean it’s hopefully not such a choppy trainwreck. But Agony is a bad game not for a series of minor but compounding issues, but for flaws that make up its very foundation. This stealth-survival puzzler jumble is poorly designed in almost every aspect. Don’t expect any amount of reworking to definitively save it.
Madmind laid the blame for Agony‘s awful reception at the feet of one trusted team member. Destructoid received an anonymous tip a while back from a Polish reader about Madmind’s public statement to its publisher and investors. The developer says it followed its most experienced designer’s suggestions about gameplay direction, while completely ignoring feedback from testers. That is, supposedly, how Agony ended up so far removed from what crowdfunding backers originally thought it was going to be.
Here are relevant portions of that explanation, run through Google Translate:
Agony in the initial assumptions was to be a small production, scheduled for about 5 hours of gameplay. In order to better match the console player, we extended the story mode from 5 to 10 hours. This resulted in artificial extension of the game, in the form of additional puzzles, difficult tasks and poorly explained gameplay mechanics. An additional factor turned out to be the entrustment of game design, the most experienced person in the Madmind Studio team, and its complete trust — which we regret today.
Madmind Studio, as a small team, had problems with completing such a large game, an appropriate, interesting content that would surprise players at every turn.
Suggesting the opinions of the players about the Kickstarter demo, and comments on the gameplay videos published by us (about 45 minutes of play), we believed that the direction we were heading was right, ignoring the feedback from the test teams, to which we had access through PlayWay SA, which additionally clearly signaled to us that we should make gameplay changes, and think about the release date of the game. However, Madmind Studio decided not to load the release date, believing that the game will be well received by the target group of players. The person responsible for the Agony game design is no longer a member of the Madmind team.
So, Madmind’s best attempt at course-correcting has released today on Steam. Previous owners are upgraded to Agony Unrated at no charge. The developer has also halved the original price and launched this new version for $15.
The PC version is apparently free of censorship because it’s an entirely different title rather than a straight update. That means it has all the distasteful and objectionable cutscenes that were forced out of Agony. (The exclusion of these scenes wouldn’t make a top ten list of things that Agony fucked up.)
That’s not the case for the console versions. PlayStation and Xbox aren’t going to let that content get patched into Agony. However, Madmind mentions that there’s the longshot possibility that it’ll be able to release a limited edition physical version of Agony Unrated that has an “Adults Only” rating, and it’ll have those cutscenes.
Lastly, in a true twist, Madmind also announces a Switch port for Agony which is scheduled to release before the end of the year. Even with titles like Doom and Wolfenstein II and Binding of Isaac on Switch, it’s tough to not still have a hangover notion from previous generations that Nintendo is the family-friendly platform. If that image hasn’t already been erased, Agony will shatter it. As a bonus, it should be fun to see how the Switch runs Agony — especially considering it was kind of a mess on capable PCs when it first launched.