2018’s Agony didn’t go down well with either critics or gamers. What looked like a promising, uncompromising trip through the underworld actually ended up being an entirely different kind of hell thanks to monotonous gameplay mechanics and skin-deep exploration of its themes.
It was surprising, then, to learn in late 2020 that the game would be coming to VR. But despite this being fairly low on our list of most wanted VR ports, there were some opportunities for this take — developed not by original studio Madmind but instead the VR-focused Ignibit — to right the wrongs of the past, perhaps giving us a much more immersive and frightening version of hell to explore. Based on the new demo for the game, though, that’s not really the case. Check out some gameplay from the build below.
Agony VR Gameplay
In fairness, there are some new and interesting ideas in this version of the game. Full motion control support is in, meaning you’ll actually hold torches to light your path, and even keep a hand over your mouth to hold your breath. Given so much of the game is also about exploration, it’s also a pretty smooth fit for the platform, provided your gaming PC is up to the challenge of running it without issue (my 3070 Ti held its ground aside for a few effect-heavy bottlenecks).
But these additions don’t change the fact that Agony was already a tonally monochrome version of hell unable to muster even a pang of panic from the most cowardly of gamers (of which I count myself amongst). A sea of fleshy reds and underwhelming monster reveals get lost in the game’s overwhelming noise, and the cutscenes wrestle for control of the camera, breaking even the most basic rules of VR comfort. There are several moments in which the game seizes control from you and you simply don’t know if it’s broken or something story-related is happening.
It is at least pretty funny to pick up squirming demonic spawn with three skulls for a head and throw it across an environment, if only because it’s likely to bounce off of an invisible wall.
Gameplay doesn’t fair much better. The opening 10 minutes feature a dreary mix of simplistic stealth and puzzles; enemies that are avoided by simply walking the long way around and unrewarding challenge solutions that ask you to simply press a symbol on a wall. Hardly inspiring stuff.
Ultimately it might have been better to take Agony’s setting and themes and build something new in VR rather than port an already lackluster project into headsets. I can’t see many people being won over by the extra headaches the VR support affords, but we’ll find out when the game releases in full later down the line.