We’ve been keeping close taps on Agony since it was originally announced back in 2016, because it looks like it could be a horror experience like no other. As you know doubt know by now, the game takes place in Hell, and tasks you with tracking down the Red Goddess in a desperate attempt to escape eternal damnation.
Developed by Madmind Studio and published by PlayWay with Maximum Games handling physical distribution, Agony had to be slightly censored on consoles in order to avoid the dreaded Adults Only rating from the ESRB, so needless to say, this is definitely not a game for the faint of heart. Ahead of its release on PS4, Xbox one, and PC on May 29, we decided to talk to Tomek Dutkiewicz, the head of Madmind Studios, about the process that went into creating such a twisted vision of Hell. We were also sure to ask him about the changes to the console versions that needed to be made to secure an M rating, and you’ll probably be glad to know that the changes are minimal.
Dread Central: Is your version of Hell based purely on Christian mythology, or did you look to other sources and well?
Tomek Dutkiewicz: Definitely not, actually. Agony was supposed to be something unique and new from the very beginning. Basing the game on only one vision of Hell from a given religion would limit what I could show due to the limited range of my interpretation. To surprise players, I decided that the best solution would be to combine various ideas from different cultures and religions and then add my own influences, because this way I could keep players on their toes, not knowing what to expect until the very end of the game.
DC: Why did you opt for the game to be played from a first-person viewpoint?
TD: I don’t think it’s a coincidence that many new horror games choose first person perspective (FPP). The first Outlast proved that this viewpoint works well and strongly enhances immersion. I love the Silent Hill series, so I don’t mind third person perspectives, however the choice of FPP for Agony seemed more natural when I started creating the game.
The key element of the game is making sure the player is immersed in the game world in which they move, and the first person perspective helps a lot to intensify that impression.
DC: How will the player interact with the Hellish environments?
TD: Players will have the opportunity to explore the game world by both playing as a martyr, and as a demon. Each of these characters have unique skills. For example, each of the demons controlled by the players has a specific type of attack, but their primitive nature does not allow them to solve puzzles. Those abilities are stronger utilizing the skills of the martyr.
By using a torch to get away from spiders or snakes, and to burn away certain obstacles, the martyr has the ability to find additional passages, chambers, or other tormented souls with whom he can interact with.
There are several types of puzzles in the game, and the world is filled with collectibles that reward the most persistent players. As players progress through the game, the story will continue to develop as they find notes, letters, pictures, figurines or even a comic.
DC: Can you talk about the soundtrack?
TD: The soundtrack in Agony is created by Draco Nared, a talented Polish composer. Additionally, we were also able to work with the band, Android Lust, who recorded the main theme for Agony – “Shores Unknown” along with two additional songs.
The game will also include one very atmospheric and unusual (compared to the rest of the soundtrack) song created thanks to the cooperation of Draco and Liane Silva.
DC: And the voice cast?
TD: We were able to work with Karen Strassman, who is known for her role as Mileena from Mortal Kombat X. She is a very talented actress, and her voice seems to fit perfectly as the main villain in Agony, the Red Goddess.
DC: Were you at all worried that Agony would be a difficult sell to mainstream audiences?
TD: To be honest, I don’t really care about the sales of the game. Agony is a project that was born in my head a long time ago and I’m very happy and thankful that with the support of fans, we managed to make it real. This is a crazy and very unusual game, and its sales potential is difficult to estimate.
The most important thing for me personally is that we’ve managed to complete Agony, despite many obstacles along the way.
DC: Can you talk about the changes that had to be made to the console version of Agony to avoid an Adults Only rating from the ESRB?
TD: Sure. First of all, I’m glad that the rating agencies are not closed corporations that just make you cut out a given item by force. I spent a lot of time in contact with them to be sure that we censored only those things that we really had to. Thanks to this, we managed to leave most of the content intact.
Censorship mainly affected three of the possible game endings (there are seven endings), and a few smaller things that can be seen / unlocked only after the game has been completed once. Most players might not even notice…
DC: Agony has amazing looking graphics, despite being made on a somewhat limited budget, and some of your staff also worked on The Witcher 3, so would you say that indie AAA is the new norm?
DC: I don’t think so. We spent a lot of time to make Agony’s graphics look good, but without a proper budget, no one is able to do graphics similar to a AAA level title.
DC: As impossible as it may seem, there are some people who actually believe Hell is real. How do you think they will react to Agony?
TD: I think they will take our vision of Hell as something that naturally appeals to them. People have different ideas about Hell, but it seems that Agony, thanks to the fact that it does not only focus on one religion, is able to affect the majority of people. It is a brutal world full of violence and vulgarity.
I don’t know how people who believe in Hell will react to Agony, but I hope that no one will pour holy water on me when I travel home after work …
Thanks for the interview!