Played on the Steam Deck | 800p40hz High Settings.
Waking up in a world entangled by a machine of flesh and bones is a disorienting experience, one that immerses you so deeply by the sheer level of work put into the environmental story telling. Throughout my 5 hours of play, I couldn’t help but feel impressed with Ebb Software and how they managed to achieve this with sensible design. As I mazed my way through every corridor of puzzling consoles and mechanisms, I was left with wonder and needed to figure out my purpose here.
You play as a humanoid creature, absent of skin – exposed muscles and joints outlines the grotesque nature of this world. Without knowledge of what’s going on, you will be stumbling through a desolate land of an ancient civilization to figure a way out. There’s no dialogue or narration happening, not even text clues on where to go, what to do and how to do it. This Dark Souls approach fits well into this mostly FPS puzzle explorer – even more so when you’re trying to figure out a machine function by sticking your hand into it only to get rigorously punctured with strange needles, blood gushing out in all directions as your character screech in pain. And after all that, you’ve earned yourself some sort of….key embedded inside your entire arm. The immoral beauty of this game’s aesthetics and design is wondering why you had to do it, and what does it do – and for the first 3 chapters you will be doing just that.
A Kin of Blood and Guts
Scorn does an excellent job making flesh out of architecture, with strange organs pulsing through each crevice and seam, pillars made of bone and muscles, veins sweeping across like exposed network cables from ceiling tiles. It all makes sense and in quite the scale too. Sound design gives bone chilling sensation, I highly suggest players to use a headset – the 3D audio effect does wonders giving eerie squishing and often distant screams echoing across the halls in a high and low pitching frequency. In between the walls you will often see de-fleshed faces and body parts that would hum deeply as you walk pass without realizing – giving a neat twist to subtle jump scares. Scorn does a great job in environmental storytelling all through its campaign; it didn’t overstay its welcome and with the ending out for interpretation – it left me with a memorable experience.
There is combat in Scorn with 4 weapon types – a weird….hydraulic thrust with the shortest distance in the world, a revolver style pistol, semi and full auto. All designed with flesh in mind – you will be detaching the front portion of the weapon, which has internal organs, to swap to another. When looking down, you will see the view of your torso with your inventory visible, in addition to pressing a button to actually inspect it. As you progress through the chapters, you will become more susceptible to overall damage, which is one of the major mechanics. It doesn’t entirely get in the way because for the most part the game is rather easy.
Organs and Bullets
However, during chapter 3 you will face the most disruptive pacing of game – you will learn of one-time health stations and limited ammo refills. This is a clear indication of incoming combat, so be ready to be surrounded by creatures with immense health pools and damage outputs. All of this would be fine if Scorn didn’t suffer from terrible hit boxes and restrictive strafing movement. I understand the narrative element of hindering your character – and the game’s main focus with puzzles, but if you’re going to dedicate a whole chapter to shooting creatures that takes 2-4, restrictive movements, limited ammo and time to heal, the least you can do is make sure it’s balanced. You can easily tell that action was an afterthought and their main goal was to give serviceable mechanics with function progress with puzzles.
Scorn’s overall experience was engaging until the end with pacing that made sense, and puzzles that was difficult enough to have multiple “ahhh” moments – I don’t see Scorn’s shortcoming getting treatment considering the 4-6hr campaign length. I hope Ebb Software learns from it and makes a far more complete experience with their next project.
REVIEW SCORE: 7/10