Seasons In The Abyss

Happy Weekend TAY!

I’m *finally* over my two-week-long cold. Not the worst cold I’ve ever had, but definitely the longest. I’m looking forward to a phlegm-free weekend as we move into the month of June.

I mentioned last week that I was struggling to set up Agony UNRATED. I finally have the game at an acceptable gamma level, though it still could use a little tweaking. The in-game utility for gamma levels is probably one of the worst I’ve seen and I just ended up guessing what would be the correct setting.

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I get frustrated when developers give me images to adjust my colour, brightness, contrast, and gamma but give me no direction as to how the image should look when properly adjusted. There are loads of great examples of tools and images in other games that aid you in accurately adjusting your visuals, but Agony is not one of them. It is a shame too, there is a big focus on the visuals of Agony as you make your way through this tormented landscape.

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In a nutshell, Agony is a journey through hell as you try to find your way out.

Agony’s depiction of hell isn’t your typical “Hollywood” hell and makes games like EA’s Dante’s Inferno look like a kid’s cartoon. Agony is a disturbing journey and is likely only for those who enjoy a walk on the macabre side of life.

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The style of Agony is as if H.R. Giger and Clive Barker’s dreams were put into a blender and mainlined onto your hard drive. It is an ambitious title and does a great job with the atmosphere, but there is a lot of other stuff that needs some work.

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The original version of Agony was apparently a much more broken affair and the unrated version looks to have added a lot of content as well as fixing many of the issues and complaints, but there is still a lot of clunkiness present.

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The gameplay is where I have the biggest complaints. It is a slow and plodding game and nothing feels particularly fun. Not that hell should be “fun” but there should be some satisfaction from the controls in most action-games which simply isn’t found in Agony and the puzzles don’t seem to offer any challenge. It almost feels like an old-school (slow) action-RPG in the vein of King’s Field or Arx Fatalis. However, those old games were running up against huge technical hurdles to realize their vision which resulted in questionable performance; Agony just feels unpolished.

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The biggest joy in Agony is the level design. The levels are huge and confusing and I’ve lost my way many times. I have finished two levels already and found almost none of the secrets (and not for lack of trying). The secrets do seem somewhat designed for subsequent playthroughs especially since, being hell, the laws of reality are thin and shifting. You often go down a hallway only to turn back and find the tunnel has closed up behind you. This likely ends up cutting off many of the secrets and you’d need to know the levels well enough to find everything.

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I’m looking forward to seeing more of Agony this weekend, but it doesn’t call to me like most games. I guess I’m playing it more for the visuals at this point than the gameplay, something I don’t normally like to do.

Agony really could make an argument for games as art, however, the unrated version could also be an argument for how games could possibly disturb some people. Definitely not a game for everyone (look up the trailer for Agony: UNRATED if you want to see what I mean...don’t blame me if you need a shower afterwards).

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So, what are you playing this weekend?