Publisher: Kepler Interactive
Developer: Ebb Software
Release Date: 10/14/2022
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Scorn is a game that’s been in the making for a long time despite my only knowledge of it being shown at E3 earlier this year. I’ve been hyped for this game since and stayed up until 3AM on launch day to play it. The gameplay videos were misleading. It looked like a very atmospheric and macabre FPS, however, nothing was said about the heavy puzzles, short length, and complete lack of story or context.
The opening is similar to God of War. The menu is in real-time and when you start a new game you awaken from the main menu. I didn’t suspect anything during the first hour of the game. I expected the game to open up slowly and thought the slow pace, long hallways, and lack of any story, voice acting, or context was just the beginning. Sadly, this is the entire game. There are five main acts in the game and each one is just a giant level full of puzzles, backtracking, and terrible combat. Combat isn’t actually introduced until act 3, but I digress.
The game doesn’t start out well with an incredibly frustrating slider puzzle. You must move pods around a wall and I had to look up how to try and solve it right away. The first act took an hour to complete because of all the backtracking and trying to explore the level and see what parts of this puzzle I should tackle first. This quickly takes your focus away from the fantastic art design, infrastructure, and alien mystery of the game. I was running around pulling switches, pushing carts, and sliding puzzles for an entire hour. There was no reward to this except an incredibly disturbing and gory cut scene of a poor creature pleading for help only to be sacrificed to progress to the next level. I thought during the E3 videos that this is what Scorn was full of. Incredibly gory scenes, but there were only a few of them spread throughout.
As you progress on to act 3 to pick up your first weapon you realize that this is all the game is. Puzzle after puzzle, endless rooms, and hallways, no exploration, no side quests, nothing. The first weapon is some sort of jabber thing that give you two hits before it needs to charge. This is where combat falls apart. The enemies are fine. There are three or four different kinds ranging from weak two-hitters to massive dog-like ones that need projectile fire. The combat is just so slow. You need to aim, jab the creatures, then run away and let it recharge just to turn around and do it again. It’s clunky, I died way more than I wanted to, and health is way too scarce for this type of combat. Later on, you get a pistol and then a shotgun, but ammo is so scarce for them that I often just had to run from enemies. You eventually have to take out everyone as there is a lot of backtracking needed to find keys, go back and insert them into the correct spot, then go back and do something else.
Reloading is really slow and you’re vulnerable. If you thought Killzone’s reloading animations were long this is worse. There’s no jump button, no crouch, but there is a sprint button. You can just run away, turn around shoot, and hope your shots don’t miss. If you’re caught with an unloaded weapon you’re dead. Normally this would be forgivable, but there’s no reward for doing anything. The occasional gory torture scene doesn’t cut it and they are short and spread very far apart. I actually enjoyed the smaller puzzles more than the large level-size main puzzle, but some were just way too complicated and difficult. I frequently got lost in maze-like hallways and act four was excruciatingly difficult due to all the enemies around and scarce ammo. I had to strategize what ammo to use on what enemy.
There is a final boss fight which was more annoying than frustrating, and I did find several bugs in which I couldn’t activate switches, and my game crashed my whole PC once. Checkpoints are unfairly spread apart and you are forced to restart entire sections, and go through the same animations, and small scenes, just to die again. Even the ending didn’t save this game at all. There’s no satisfying conclusion. I kept telling myself, “Okay this is the moment! This is it! We’re going to see why you’re in this alien world trying to survive!” Only to get nothing. The game pretty much just ends without spoiling it.
I did enjoy seeing this game though. Playing it another story. The game has some of the best art design, technical visuals, and sound design I’ve ever seen. The late H.R. Giger (Alien) inspired architecture is fascinating to look at and I wanted to stop and look at every new thing I came across. This game is a work of art, and I feel if they either went all-out with the combat Quake style or cut it out completely it would have helped this game immensely. The combat doesn’t add anything to the game at all. It just hinders puzzle-solving and backtracking and makes the game take longer to finish.
Overall, Scorn is a pretty big disappointment with many shortcomings. The complete lack of story or context, awful and sluggish combat, scarce gory scenes, and maze-like levels hinder the game at every turn. The game’s only saving grace is the amazing sound and art design. It’s a visual masterpiece. The game’s short length is in its favor because of these issues. Clocking in at around 6 hours to finish the story makes it less painful of a pill to swallow.