Agartha (partially found build of cancelled Dreamcast survival horror game; 1998-2001)
Agartha is a cancelled survival horror game for the SEGA Dreamcast.
Agartha was going to feature a human protagonist, Kirk, and presented a single-player survival horror adventure story.
"During the winter of 1929 in a Romanian village that was partially destroyed by a landslide that occurred during a mysterious earthquake, a subterranean city exists called Agartha. This is where evil is being kept prisoner and is desperate to escape. Kirk the human hero will encounter a series of characters from villages, the living dead, fanatics from an evil sect, monsters, demons, soldier monks, priests, archangels and the Sentinel who is the ultimate personification of evil. As Kirk, you can decide to save as many innocent people as possible or to trigger the arrival of chaos on earth. As Kirk's morals waver between good and evil, this ambiguity changes the aims of the adventure and the narration of the story."
From the plot synopsis, it can be derived that the player would have had to make moral choices, bringing the game's narration to different conclusions. The role, emphasis, and implementation of combat is unclear, but an online capability was mentioned, featuring deathmatches or team play modes.
The name of the game itself is a city, which, according to esotericist literature, resides in the core of planet earth.
Commissioned and funded by SEGA, development was started by French developer No Cliché, which was acquired by SEGA in 1997. Creative direction was done by Frédérick Raynal, a pioneering figure in the establishment of the survival horror genre with the influential Alone In The Dark series. Development started in 2000 (possibly earlier, in 1999, although references to the game can be found as early as 1998).
One of its earliest mentions in gaming press occurred in September of 1998, comparing it to the style of the contemporary Resident Evil games.
A release for late 1999 was expected at the time. The game was first presented to the industry at the Electronic Computer Trade Show 2000 along with small development screenshots and the plot synopsis.
The small screenshots provided with the press release depicted a snow-covered setting. The once slated release for late 1999 has been moved until some time in 2001.
The moved release date coincided with SEGA's decision to discontinue the production of the Dreamcast.
On January 30th, 2001, SEGA announced that no more Dreamcast consoles would be manufactured. Games that were already in development at that time were supposed to be brought to completion, however. In spite of that announcement, Agartha never reached that stage of development. No Cliché stopped development on as per the order of SEGA Europe and ceased to exist soon after.
Sometime between May 26th and July 22nd, 2001, a statement appeared on nocliche.com, reading:
"Due to Sega decision to stop development in Europe, No Cliché stopped its activity. Almost all employees have been made redundant. Agartha the horror/adventure game is cancelled."
"The managing staff is working on the company's rebirth. News on this site as soon as we can."
In 2008, the website Unseen64, dedicated to documenting the history of unreleased video games, created an article about Agartha, documenting the little information that is known about the game.
In the comments, one or more developers shared some memories and insights developing the game. The website also acquired a clip of 15 minutes very early in-game footage, displaying the eerie mood and the technical and graphical prowess of No Cliché. No playable demo and hardly any footage are known to exist, more than 10 years after the cancellation.
In 2018, the game's 2002 E3 demo was discovered in an eBay auction for a Dreamcast game lot and was then dumped online.
In 2020, one of the developers, Didier Chanfray, shared a level design drawing he did for the game on a Little Big Adventure Facebook fan group.
- IGN article from 2000 that has new details Agartha. Retrieved 12 Apr '15
- Sega Retro page on the company No Cliché. Retrieved 12 Apr '15
- Unseen64 page on Agartha. Retrieved 12 Apr '15
- IGN article from 1998 that mentions Agartha. Retrieved 12 Apr '15
- BBC News article on SEGA ditching the Dreamcast. Retrieved 12 Apr '15
- Archive of No Cliché website, which announced that they will be ceasing development on Agartha (1/2). Retrieved 12 Apr '15
- Archive of No Cliché website, which announced that they will be ceasing development on Agartha (2/2). Retrieved 12 Apr '15
- 1st developer comment about Agartha. Retrieved 12 Apr '15
- 2nd developer comment about Agartha. Retrieved 12 Apr '15
- 3rd developer comment about Agartha. Retrieved 12 Apr '15
- 4th developer comment about Agartha. Retrieved 12 Apr '15
- 15 minutes of footage from Agartha. Retrieved 12 Apr '15
- A download for the game's E3 demo. Retrieved 29 Jan '17