Do you have a taste for battling demons and navigating the scream-filled corridors of hell after playing video games such as Diablo and DOOM? If so, then you may want to take a trip to the fire-fueled underworld in the new video game Agony, out now from Madmind Studio. To celebrate the game's recent release on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC, we caught up with Madmind Studio CEO Tomek Dutkiewicz to discuss his 10-plus years of research for Agony, the different modes that gamers can choose from, and the possibility of future DLC for the gory game.
Can you tell us about the team behind Agony? What brought you together to tell this story and take players into the depths of hell?
Tomek Dutkiewicz: We've worked together in many different companies over the years. With time, our paths have dispersed and only the Agony prototype and the perspective of working on this unusual game brought us all back. We founded Madmind Studio and we started working on the first game that we could create from the beginning to the end.
Religion and pop culture have different interpretations of hell. What served as an inspiration for your vision of hell in Agony? What kind of research did you do and was there anything that surprised you during your research?
Tomek Dutkiewicz: Hell in Agony is not based on one concept known from any religion. In the game, there are many references to the descriptions of hell and demons, which can be found in literature, but Agony is not based on one specific mythology.
For more than 10 years, the subject of hell and the beyond has been my main source of inspiration and research. I tried not to limit myself to one classic vision of hell known from the "Divine Comedy", but to learn and compare the concepts of hell from other religions and systems of beliefs. I've been learning more about human imaginations of that and, depending on the era, how fear manifested in different ways. I've done that based on the assumption that the only option is not to duplicate already known paintings of other artists. Instead, I should be reaching inside my own mind and creating something new and surprising. That's why the hell in Agony is so unique and appeals so much to the recipient. I want the players to not feel comfortable by looking at our game, to find out what awaits them around the corner. Only by mixing many different concepts and adding our own ideas can we can be sure that the story told in Agony is interesting.
The depictions of hell remind me of a cross between Clive Barker, Event Horizon, and H.R. Giger. What are some of your favorite horror movies?
Tomek Dutkiewicz: Oh... I would really have to exchange a lot. I love watching horror movies. Especially those with a low budget—"B-class movies.” Certainly among my favorites would have to be The Exorcism of Emily Rose, San geng (aka 3 Extremes II), Hellraiser, Alien Resurrection, Saw III, Antichrist, The Exorcist, Kill List, Cube, Pi, The Silence of the Lambs, and Angel Heart.
One of Agony's main features is the ability to control other people and demons, as you try to learn more about your past and escape hell. Can you tell us a bit more about this mechanic and how important this is to escaping hell?
Tomek Dutkiewicz: It is indeed the feature which is the most important in Agony. By introducing this element into the game, we often allow players to choose their gameplay style. They can play the role of an ordinary martyr, talk to other tormented souls, and solve puzzles or become a powerful demon who paves his way through hell and annihilates everyone who stands in his way.
Visually, the game is impressive and gory. Do you have a favorite location or character you can talk about?
Tomek Dutkiewicz: Yes! My favorite location from the game is called “The Fractal Forest.” This is an unusual and visually very different fragment from the rest of the game, which was part of Agony from the very beginning—even in the early stages of the prototype. This is the weirdest and most twisted place in the whole game, both in the visuals and sound layers. This is a partially open level full of puzzles and secrets. It is also very diverse when it comes to opponents. You can meet different threats at every step. My favorite character is, of course, the Red Goddess, but it's hard to say anything about her without spoiling the game.
For the average person, how long will it take someone to complete the game? Are there optional objectives and additional difficulty levels?
Tomek Dutkiewicz: Standard playthrough in the story mode should give you about 12–14 hours of gameplay, but if you want to unlock all of the seven endings and find alternative passages, hidden chambers, and collectibles, you will have to spend around 35+ hours in the story mode. The game also has an “Agony Mode”, where you can play endlessly in procedurally generated levels.
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. Each of the demons controlled by the players has a specific type of attack, but their primitive nature does not allow them, for example, to solve puzzles. Those abilities are the strong side within skills of the martyr. Using a torch to get away from spiders and snakes and to burn blocking obstacle transitions, the martyr has the ability to find additional passages, chambers, or other tormented souls with whom he can perform a dialogue. There are several types of puzzles in the game, and the world is filled with collectibles that reward the most persistent players, developing the story presented in the game by finding notes, letters, pictures, figurines, or even a comic.
Does the team have plans for post-launch DLC? Can you talk about what offerings will be available?
Tomek Dutkiewicz: We're working on a surprise for fans of Agony, which we will show shortly after the premiere of the game. Currently, we do not plan any feature DLC. If, however, one day we would decide to make one, it will be free.
This has been a labor of love for the team at Madmind. After multiple years and all the blood, sweat, and tears put into this game, how does it feel to release it? What are you going to do to celebrate the release?
Tomek Dutkiewicz: It is an amazing feeling to hold a physical version of the game we've created. We are very happy with the results of our work and we hope that Agony will appeal to fans. For now we have too much stuff to do to think about celebrating!
*Note: This trailer is 18+ and should be considered NSFW