This is for all intents and purposes a first-impressions ‘review’ since this is for a demo of a game. The things you see in the demo are all subject to change and/or revisions. This is, after all, still in alpha. The demo is currently only available to backers of the game, so if you wish to play it, head on over to their Kickstarter page. Links at the bottom.
Darkness recedes and you find yourself facing a closed door. You don’t know who you are and you don’t know where you are. The design of the door is alien and futuristic – but instead of interacting with the side interface your character brings up a strange control device with glowing lines carved into it. The door parts vertically and a derelict room is revealed.
Within the first minute of the game, you are shown what kind of experience to expect. Scorn takes place in the ruins of a seemingly alien (possibly underground) facility, transmogrified by some sort of catastrophe that happened at some point in the past. The facility is still functional, but the way the door was opened suggests a mystical element is at play – or perhaps that you are dealing with the proverbial technology that’s so advanced it might as well be ‘magic’. Whatever the case, the tone of this game is uncanny and weird and that feeling is reinforced the further you progress in the demo. The ambient sound and lightning adds significantly to the creepiness of the game and if you need more convincing, you need only look down and gaze at your own body and wonder, “Where’s the skin?”
The environment itself is something to marvel at. The building you find yourself in is dark and covered with flesh-like gunk from floor to ceiling, and places that have been spared this treatment look like they ossified over the years. The level design distances itself from the linear style that’s popular in modern shooters and instead provides you with multiple paths right off the bat; as you open your first door, three passages lie ahead of you. Scorn is more about exploring the different places and backtracking as you unlock doors that connect previously discovered rooms and new equipment. Personally, I would have preferred if the character moved a little faster as going back and forth tends to get boring, regardless of how visually stunning the game is.
The underlying aesthetic is extremely Giger-esque. Where the Xenomorphs are living weapons, slick and deadly, the denizens of this world are bumbling and grotesque. They drag themselves across the floor and vomit toxic blood at you, their very existence an affliction. You kill them not only to protect yourself but to put them out of their misery.
Speaking of combat, Scorn is actually a first-person-shooter. Your weapons are much what you would expect such a world to have. They’re live, wriggling aberrations of real-life guns. You fire and reload much like you would in any other game – except that in Scorn every action counts. The user-interface is minimalistic, to say the least – so to check your ammo count you need to examine the ‘gun’ itself. You bring it up and part the gun-creature in two, which reveals how many glowing ‘bullets’ you have left. As a side note, you’ll want to be frugal with those.
Everything you do in Scorn takes time. You move slowly and even running is not that fast. Reloading your guns takes forever, as does switching between them. This is not a negative criticism as the game is not designed to be an action shooter (but it’s not a horror game either). There is weight to your actions specifically because you are not a one-man army and must proceed with caution. For instance, you hold your gun by your side as you move and shooting it requires that you aim it, indicating that perhaps not all enemies you encounter need to die. Of the two enemy types in the demo, the one that looks like a mutated chicken will not walk towards you but will throw sacs of fluids at you instead. You can save up on precious ammunition by simply manoeuvring around them.
Scorn is disturbingly gorgeous. Everything from the world, the enemies and even your weapons are a squirming mass of flesh, but it meshes really well. It’s weird and outlandish, and I can’t wait to play more once it’s released. If you wish to get some of that early access pie, you can go on over to Ebb Software’s Kickstarter page and donate. As of the writing of this article, there are 10 more days to go to experience a thin slice of this bizarre and eerie world.