Scorn opens completely immersive option for those looking for unique gaming experience

Back on Nov. 12, 2014, the small indie company Ebb Software announced its upcoming game Scorn Part 1 of 2: Dasein with a €150,000 or $147,912.22 goal; they didn’t hit the goal in time and the game went pretty much under the radar while still under development. (As of November 2022, one month after the game’s release, the Kickstarter is at €192,487 or $189,807.86 pledged of the €150,000 goal.) 

Oct. 14, 2022, the internet is blasted with Scorn, now just one game with both parts, and instantly the critics are skeptical. While claiming to be non-linear, the game follows an act system and is very linear in gameplay, while claiming no cutscenes, there are moments (and a solid amount) that people consider to be cutscenes, where you are not in control and feature the base aspects of a cutscene. 

Before we discuss the gameplay, let’s look at Ebb Software, a company based in Belgrade, Serbia, and founded on Sept. 1, 2013. This is Ebb’s first game, and you can see that they know what they are doing. “Ebb Software was founded in 2013 by a group of highly motivated individuals with the sole purpose of creating a different breed of video games. Currently, Ebb has fifty full-time team members as well as a number of freelance artists it cooperates with.” It is clear that Ebb had lots more planned for the release of Scorn and the game itself, but more on this later. 

After launching Scorn for the first time, we will be greeted with the main menu screen, and after starting a new game this menu transitions directly to the game, already helping with the immersive feel the developers were looking for. As the game begins, we awake as our (first) protagonist, and this character is sleeping on what looks like an alien landscape; as we gain our bearings, we break out of some tree-like roots that have bound down. Just in these first few moments of gameplay, we see the grotesqueness of the game, and it sets the tone for the rest of the game. 

Scorn and its atmosphere along with the architecture was heavily inspired and influenced by H.R. Giger, a Swiss artist credited with the creation of the Xenomorph from the Alien movies and many other horror monsters. He has created “biomechanical” sculptures and paintings, most famously, Necronom IV, Work Nr. 217 ELP I (Brain Salad Surgery) and Birth Machine. * 

After our character has broken out from the roots, we start to crawl forward; our vision is flashing between reality and what we assume is prior. In both situations, our character is crawling desperately trying to reach something, in the flashbacks we see an obelisk, but then the ground below us gives out and we fall into a pit, getting knocked unconscious in the fall. 

This is presumably how we get where we are now. Our eyes open and there is an alien-looking door in front of us. This is the beginning of Scorn

Now that we are up and in control, we can explore and begin solving the puzzles of Scorn. The game is heavily praised for its intuitive and challenging puzzles, lots of which involve a tool referred to as the wrist key, a neat contraption vital for progressing in the game.

After exploring our landscape and solving a few puzzles, we die. Our character is hit with a strange white fluid and presumably drowns/suffocates and dies, and we wake up as a new character. 

With no wrist key and no tool gun, we progress through the previous areas without our equipment. As we reach the area where our previous character died, a creature known as the parasite attaches with our second character, and this parasite functions as all of our tools and also our inventory for the rest of the game at the cost of taking over our body more and more, and as the game progresses, it spreads its roots through our body and digs its arms further into our stomach, eventually becoming a serious issue where we lose control of our arms being restricted to one weapon and not having access to our wrist key, having to sacrifice health for a few moments of freedom to open a door or flip a switch.

One of Scorn’s key aspects is its puzzles. Sprinkled (generously) throughout the entire game, these puzzles add to the empty but “lived-in” atmosphere. These puzzles used to be used all the time, but now they are rusted, overgrown, and abandoned. These puzzles also vary in difficulty, but there is no pattern it feels like, some of the later puzzles were the easiest, sometimes they were harder, and some of the first puzzles were the most challenging. 

One of the things Scorn has been struggling with is the rating department; lots of reviewers are saying that Scorns’s combat is slow, unwieldy, not fun, and uncreative. Your first time experiencing combat will likely be when you get the Bolt Rifle or the Tool gun, a simple tool that shoots out a prod, dealing damage to enemies while also functioning as a key for multiple puzzles in the future. This weapon is steam-powered; it has two shots, although it constantly refills at a rather quick pace, but for a decent portion of the game the combat consists of click, click, turn and run, hide behind cover, run at the monster, click, click — repeat over again, but I don’t think that the “boring” combat in Scorn was unintentional. 

In Scorn you’re not a hero, you’re not powerful, you don’t have superpowers, you are just a regular, if not below average character, and Youtuber aleckermit points out some great points in a video titled You’re Playing Scorn Wrong. “Every enemy in Scorn is basically the xenomorph from Alien Isolation, but less lethal. You’re supposed to give them space, hide, run and only confront them to stagger them or as a last resort. The widespread denseness of the majority reviewing this game baffles me. Scorn is a puzzle horror survival game, in EVERY aspect. The environments: mazes. Everything you interact with, including enemies: a puzzle. If anything you are OVEREQUIPPED to deal with enemies.” aleckermit said that he died in his playthrough of Scorn twice — once because of arrogance and a second time he was overwhelmed with enemies. He claims that you should not be dying when playing this game. “If you come across an enemy, nine out of 10 times he has not spotted you. He does not know you are there.” The creatures of Scorn are designed with bad eyesight and below-average hearing. These creatures are not bloodthirsty and craving violence. You are intruding in their home. aleckermit shows clips in the game of him following his own advice. Instead of fighting every creature you see, aleckermit said instead try observing from a distance. “You stand there. Maybe you back up a little bit, and if you watch him, he will follow a path because he lives in this little world and he’s going somewhere, and he will crawl into a hole. He will literally leave the space, and this happens 99 percent of the time when you encounter an enemy big or small. Even when you encounter an enemy in a very narrow hallway, all you have to do is back up into the previous room, and I promise you if you just wait and be a little patient, that enemy will either completely leave by going the opposite direction or go into the room you’re in and find a place to leave. These enemies are so easy to avoid. They have such poor hearing, such poor eyesight, and they will not track you through room after room. They will literally in every chance they’re given find a way to avoid you, so that’s all you have to do with them” 

Scorn is not a shooter. It’s not designed to be a “fighting” game. You are alien to these creatures, and they only defend themselves when threatened. If you stay undetected, you will have no problem. Although the combat is not the main focus of Scorn, it should still be fun and functioning, and I believe it is. The combat in Scorn is very coordinated. You should plan before you fight. Most of your enemies have ranged attacks like an acid spit, and you need to find a way to counter/avoid that. 

You can acquire your first ranged/projectile weapon in act 3, but lots of players claim to have missed this. This gun looks and feels like a pistol but with the biomechanical H. R. Giger aspects to it, all of your weapons have the same hilt. This hilt is in fact attached to the tail of the parasite, and the weapon part is also an attachment, and when you detach a weapon, it squirms and wiggles and makes your arsenal feel more alive. 

Ammunition in Scorn is interesting because you need to manage your ammo heavily. Before every enemy I found myself looking down, counting out my bullets and going through the fight mentally to ration supplies. Health is similar. Bullets are orange little pellets with stems that wriggle around, and health pods are almost like sacs you fill with a healing liquid.

Your inventory is all stored in a little pod-like creature, with slots for bullets and your health pods. We see our second example of the parasite being almost symbiotic here. The parasite uses its leftover arms to hold onto our inventory creature and any miscellaneous items we might be holding at the time. 

Scorn really focuses on what they described as “full body awareness,” and an example of this is the fact that you lack an inventory. Without the hud, you would have to look down and count out your bullets and health left, and I think this is genius. The game has no inventory menu, and you need to manually look down to see these things. 

You get more supplies through a very primitive method, done incredibly well. Across the landscape of Scorn, you will find these “resupply stations,” these vending-machine-esque machines that can give you health pods, pistol shots, and shotgun shots; the animations on these machines were probably some of my favorite in the game. The health is refilled by injecting our little pod friend in the back, and it will fill four (half) of its stems with this healing liquid. Each pod is equivalent to two bars of health, not to mention you can preserve old ammunition and health, so if you are good about rationing health, it shouldn’t be any issue for you. These resupply stations also have shotgun and pistol rounds, and they are emptied into a press, and then the ammunition is stamped into the pod creature. Something I enjoyed about the weaponry in Scorn was you had to take time to line up your shots, and as you waited, your crosshair narrowed and allowed you to be more accurate. 

One issue I have with Scorn is the monotony or repetition. I enjoyed almost every part of this game, but that doesn’t mean there are no critiques. When playing through some of the later acts of Scorn, especially acts three and four, both are very combat-intensive acts but still with loads of puzzles. The cycle goes as follows: enter a new area, solve very basic puzzle (one-two) typically requires lots of running back and forth, fight lots of low enemies, solve the very hard puzzle (which will take most of the act), “boss fight” (more enemies), enter a new area. This would work better if most of these features felt more polished but it doesn’t, 

My experience playing Scorn on my home laptop was relatively positive, there was little to no lag, and the quality was surprisingly good for my device to handle, My device specs are as follows 

Processor Intel(R) Core(TM) i5-10300H CPU @ 2.50GHz   2.50 GHz

Installed RAM 8.00 GB (7.83 GB usable)

Product ID 00325-81861-38311-AAOEM

System type 64-bit operating system, x64-based processor

I noticed one major bug that persisted throughout my entire playthrough through, whenever I loaded the game I would have my settings all reset, and all of my sliders set to 0 that includes sensitivity and brightness, this was annoying having to adjust everything every time I would simply load the game up at the time of writing this bug has been reported and there is no current fix.

In conclusion, I think Scorn is a masterpiece, as an interactive art gallery, as a way of storytelling, but I think where the game falls short is in trying to cater to multiple audiences. Scorn is trying to do too many things at once; it’s trying to have engaging combat while also telling a deep and intricate story, without cutscenes or storytelling trying to make it immersive. I think that for Ebb Software’s future projects, they need to focus in on one aspect and go all in, like for Scorn with the atmosphere and the hidden messages about birth, reproduction, sex, and the creation of life. This is where they focused the most energy and it came out well, but they need to tone back some of the other aspects, like the combat. I think this is a strong start for Ebb Software, but they need to find out what type of studio they are trying to be and double down.

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