H.R. Geiger, you may not know the name but you know his work. The best example of his work would easily be the multitude of upsetting images from the Alien movies. Geiger was an artist who used organic imagery to create truly nightmarish imagery. Well now that imagery is being used in a game, we here at Robot Republic are ready to tell you if Scorn is worth your time or not.
To say that Scorn has had a tumultuous release schedule would be a massive understatement. Developed by Serbian developer Ebb Software the game was originally announced in 2014 and was pushed into an unsuccessful Kickstarter. However, the game has finally been released and is available on Game Pass, but is this strange journey worth a look at, or is it one to miss?
There is a plot in Scorn…at least I think there is. There is no dialogue and nothing is explained to the player. However, this is all by design as Ebb Software wanted the player to be dropped in with no information. There are benefits to this kind of design choice, but there are also negatives. For the most part, the game appears as more of a visual journey that allows the player to make assumptions about what has happened.
However, the weakness is that it can be difficult to get players to really care about what is happening. That is certainly an issue that Scorn has, there doesn’t really feel like much of a payoff for the actual game. The game is only about four hours long, give or take, so it isn’t a huge issue. The lack of any real plot simply means that the game needs to keep players with the visuals, and that’s no bad thing.
Visually Scorn wears its inspirations well and the graphics are nothing to sneeze at. The world is organic and the rot and decay are all so well realised that it draws you in to the degree that you might consider washing your hands after playing. However, while it is visually impressive and some of the setpieces are incredible and mysterious, it is let down by the pretty lacking colour palette available. I hope you like dark muted colours because that is what you're getting. Also, moving through these organic-looking levels is impressive at first, but it gets old pretty quickly.
Now, these kinds of visuals are great for certain types of games especially walking simulators. However, Scorn has sold itself as a survival-horror game with first-person elements. It certainly has some of these traits but none of them is really examined very well and there are certainly some major hangups. First things first, there is combat in the game…eventually. Players will get access to weapons but they happen quite late in the game and you would be forgiven for quitting long before that.
The issue is that the puzzles are kind of hard to comprehend, but not in an entertaining way. A good puzzle is interesting and the challenge is never so much that it turns the player away. Scorn’s initial puzzles, however, do not have this trait. There is one at the start of the game that requires moving a certain egg-like object that looks exactly like every other egg-like object. It wasn’t fun, it was just a drag and the lack of any explanation really made it feel like the game simply wanted to pad its length. That is the main issue with most of the gameplay, none of it feels fluid and fun. The weapons are all slow and feel weak, the puzzles are wandering and tedious and it all just feels off. Honestly, the game would have been better off being a walking simulator with a few puzzles, rather than trying to shoehorn in combat.
Scorn is a hard game to recommend, especially if you plan on buying a physical copy. The game has a lot to offer for fans of the visual arts, but there’s not really a game here that’s worth playing. There’s no real pay-off, no reason to keep going and no amount of interesting design can save a shooter with no guns for the first quarter of the game.
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