You’re alone on an alien planet, and everything you see is trying to kill you. You’ve got no weapons, no armor, and basically no hope of survival. You’ve got more questions than answers, and the only way to get those answers is to set out into this new world and try not to die on your way. Would you do it?
In Scars Above, there’s no question of “would” – you simply must. And while it’s a familiar premise, you’re at a serious disadvantage. You’re not playing some power-armored grunt with an assault rifle. You’re a scientist and researcher with nothing but your wits and the clothes on your back to keep you safe.
But with a bit of luck and a lot of analysis, you might well find yourself building tools and weapons to fend off the advancing aliens and give yourself a fighting chance at uncovering the mysteries of this new world – provided you don’t get wiped out by one of the enormous bosses you’ll then face. Let’s take a closer look at what to expect when you’re exploring the world of Scars Above.
First (and last) contact
Scars Above sees you playing as Dr Kate Ward, a member of the Sentient Contact Assessment and Response team (or SCAR for short), who has been sent to investigate an enormous alien structure known as The Metahedron. As soon as Kate and her team get close to the structure, they’re suddenly teleported to an alien world and separated from one another.
The Metahedron may have been terrifying for the humans who saw it arrive, but the alien world Kate finds herself on is home to a great many more horrors. Grotesque creatures litter its surface, all of whom want Kate dead, and will do anything to make that happen. Expect to be clawed at, jumped on, and have poisonous bile spat in your face from everything that moves on the Metahedron.
Yet it’s also an interesting, strangely beautiful world to explore. Scars Above’s action won’t just take place in dank corridors and slimy structures. There’s a vast array of biomes to explore, from frozen wastes to wide open plains, along with creepy underground tunnels and awe-inspiring alien structures. Wherever you’ve ended up appears to have at one point been quite a beautiful world, and as you hunt for an escape, you’ll uncover exactly what happened to turn it into a nightmare.
It’s not just nightmarish to look at either. The world is, of course, visually unforgiving – twisted trees rise above you in dark, dank marshlands, while brutalist architecture dominates the creepy alien buildings you’ll navigate, but ever-present and creepy sound design amps up the atmosphere, keeping you immersed in the world even as action subsides.
From the screeching of aliens to the very sound of your footsteps, everything is designed to hook you in and keep you on the edge of your seat. The only comforting sounds you might hear are the ones made by your varied weaponry, providing some safety in the knowledge that you have something to defend yourself with.
Tools of the trade
As previously mentioned, Kate isn’t a soldier, so she’s not going to be grabbing a giant machine gun and going ham on everything she sees. But as a scientist, she has an even better set of skills – the ability to research and understand the world around her, and use it to her advantage.
Combat in Scars Above is mostly built around discovering and exploiting elemental weaknesses in your enemies. Kate is a skilled engineer, capable of turning her knowledge into tools, meaning that once you’ve figured out how, say, an alien spits bile at you, Kate can build a weapon that spits that same bile back at them.
Poison damage is only one facet of a wide range of deadly elements on the alien world. You’ll be able to harvest electricity to electrocute enemies in water, uncover the secret of cryogenics to instantly freeze and shatter aliens, and more. Figuring out which elements combine to create deadly effects will be key to surviving this world.
And to figure this out, you’ll need to spend time researching. This isn’t a game where killing an enemy a set number of times gives you more info. Instead, you’ll need to use a scanning tool to learn more about the foes and fauna of the alien world, and even dig a little deeper to examine how their internal organs work together to keep them ticking. This extra insight can lead to bigger and better tools – which will be especially handy against the biggest and baddest bosses.
Not every tool has a violent purpose, either. Kate comes equipped with all manner of gadgets, including an AR rig that can reconstruct moments from the past to help her piece together the mysteries of the planet. And when all else fails, you’ve always got the option to try and melee your way out of a situation. Survival is the top priority – do whatever you must.
If the idea of scouring an alien world for supplies and researching its lifeforms to build better weapons for yourself gets your survival instincts running, then Scars Above is the game for you. Just be careful – you never know what secrets you might uncover.
Scars Above is available today on Xbox, PlayStation, and PC.