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Agony Review

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Graphics:

It is going to be important to separate the content of the graphics from the quality of the graphics, because I do have different opinions of both. The visual content of Agony is often grotesque, disgusting, and potentially disturbing for some. I seem to have a fairly high tolerance for 'disturbing' so not much got to me in that way, but as far as establishing a disfigured and horrifically mutilated setting for Hell, Agony does a rather good job. The quality of these visuals is not always that good though.

I cannot think of a time I spotted a texture that looked bad, but there were definitely objects I could count the vertices on, which is somewhat disappointing. That is not too difficult to overlook, as any game is more about the experience than the graphical detail. The repetition of martyr models is somewhat disappointing, but is not unusual in even modern games so I barely care. If they were all different, I would be impressed, but that they are not does not upset me. Unfortunately there are other issues that are impossible to disregard and I both sincerely hope and expect them to be fixed. I cannot review the future state of a game though.

The most significant issue is the lighting at times was horrible. There were instances where shadows appeared more as stripes of black on the ground, looking completely unnatural and totally obscuring the detail of the surface. The statue collectibles at times were also completely black. In some cases I doubt even the shadows should have been cast as they were. There were also times liquids (could have been water, blood, or something else) had rainbow colors on their surfaces, which might have been intention or was some kind of corruption. I also at one point observed what almost looked like edges blinking into appearance through walls.

To be fair, those just mentioned issues could also be the result of problems with the drivers, and I fully admit I was not running the latest version. However, no relevant changes are mentioned in the patch notes for the newer versions and these kinds of graphical corruption could just as easily be an issue within the game or game files. None of these were specifically damaging to the experience though, so I played through them.

 

 

There is one quality issue with the lighting, however, that I cannot and will not ignore because I do feel it hurts the experience. Agony can be a very dark game at times, and what I mean by dark is the frame can be almost completely black. There is no detail to discern your position, where walls or other barriers are, or where enemies are, making it impossible to safely navigate some areas. The only solution I found was to go into the settings and turn the Gamma setting up to its maximum. This returned my vision to me, but is far from a desirable solution. This was not a small tweak to the graphics, but pushing a setting to its max specifically to alter the gameplay experience. In essence, a not-out-of-game cheat I felt I had no choice but to use, if I wished to progress. (Though it is an option I do not consider it an in-game solution. A torch would be an in-game solution, but these are not always around.)

Thankfully, the patch notes (though from after I finished my playthrough) state there have been and will continue to be improvements to lighting, because improvements are necessary.

A couple other issues that just look bad, but are not necessarily broken, are facial animations and fire. There are a number of NPCs that will speak with you, and if you look carefully you will see their lips move, but this animation does not appear to follow the words. Even when the Red Goddess speaks to you, her lips do not always follow her words, which does degrade the visual experience. There might not be much if anything that can be done about this, but it did become hard for me to not notice.

Fire is an odd combination of effects. There is a particle effect to it and it is actually kind of cool to see. The burning effect placed on a burning object looked like a fairly simple shader, so the surface of the wood would now turn oranges, yellows, and reds, but it would end at the surface. There was no volume to these fires until the object was destroyed and a burst of particles was produced. When it was not an object burning but just some fire placed in the world, like on a torch, then there would be some volume to the fire, but always looked just like an animation stuck somewhere, and I cannot remember them having particle effects with them. (That could just be my memory though.)

There are more particle effects than those following a fire, and in general they looked good. Unfortunately I cannot tell you what their purpose was because while they might appear with some purpose in place, their presence in another seemed to just be for show.

 

 

With all of that being said, there are definitely some examples of this game looking beautiful (speaking of visual quality, if not content). There are some screenshots I have that look almost like they could be artwork images for the game, instead of screenshots of what you can actually get when playing.

Time to talk performance, so here are my specs:

  • Processor: AMD Ryzen Threadripper 1950X @ 3.7 GHz
  • Cooling: Corsair H110
  • Motherboard: ASUS Zenith Extreme
  • GPU: AMD RX Vega 64 (Stock @ 0.965 V +50% Power Limit)
  • Memory: G.Skill TridentZ 4x8 GB (32 GB) @ 3200 MHz 14-14-14-28
  • PSU: OCZ Fata1ty 750 W
  • OS: Windows 10 Pro 64-bit (version 1709)
  • Drivers: Radeon Software Adrenalin 18.3.4

I ran the game at its Ultra settings, except for disabling Noise, Blur, and Aberration for personal choice. I also played in 'Full Windowed' which would be Borderless Window/Fullscreen, which is my preferred window option. (If the game crashes, the desktop is an Alt+Tab away.) This can mean there is a layer of double-buffering being applied by the Desktop Window Manager, delaying when a frame is shown on the display, but Agony is not a game that such a lag should make a difference in. Initially I may have played with V-sync enabled, but I ultimately did turn it off, being left with a 62 FPS limit which I believe is a default limit from Unreal Engine 4. Tweaking a config file makes it possible to remove this limit, but I normally try to avoid doing that for a review. However, at one point the game appeared to have a 30 FPS cap, so I did make the tweak. Unfortunately the cap remained for a while, though there would be times the frame rate improved, only to return to the cap. By the end of the playthrough, the game appeared to be running as quickly as my hardware allowed. Odd behavior, but even at 30 FPS, the experience was fine.

I am not going to share the OCAT data I have in much detail because of the odd performance behaviors I encountered, I will say of the four runs I have, the lowest average was 57.8 FPS while the highest was 81.0 FPS. All four had 1% frame rates in the 40s FPS and 0.1% frame rates in the 30s except for one that hit 27.30 FPS. This was all at Ultra settings, so there is room to drop settings for improved performance and hopefully there will also be optimization patches in the future. But again, 30 FPS was not a bad experience for this game.

I did encounter some bugs, including one time I was chased by an invisible demon. Even though this specific demon had already run through his script and was gone, I somehow triggered the event again. The result was the script repeating without the model, and then the absent/invisible demon killing me. Besides getting stuck in places, that really is the only gameplay bug I can think of, though the videos may have caught more.

Overall, the content of the graphics was pretty good and built a world of grotesque and disgusting images representing the suffering a depraved mind (the Red Goddess) would inflict on other creatures. The quality of these graphics was not always very good and some of the lighting and shadows were just bad and damaging to the appearance and the experience. The performance was pretty good, when it behaved correctly. Even at Ultra settings my hardware was capable of churning out a consistent 60+ FPS, when everything was behaving as it should. For some reason the performance capped itself at 30 FPS for a while, but eventually this behavior ceased (following a tweak to the config files to remove the default engine cap of 62 FPS, but not immediately following).

There are definitely issues that do need to be addressed so the best I can say is the graphics got the job done. There were definitely times I could speak more highly of the graphics, but there were also many times the graphics were a problem and examples of it being poor to bad. Hopefully it will not be long before patches improve the situation I experienced.

 



  1. Agony Review - Introduction
  2. Agony Review - Graphics
  3. Agony Review - Story
  4. Agony Review - Gameplay
  5. Agony Review - Heart Rate Data and Playlist
  6. Agony Review - Conclusion
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