Offering a disgusting, gross, alien world filled with horrifying parasitic creatures, pulsating fleshy structures, and phallic-looking objects, Scorn features one of the most distinct videogame environments in recent memory.
Scorn will constantly have you looking around and questioning just what on earth it is you are seeing. Based on my playthrough of the game, prepare to ask yourself ‘what the hell is this?’ more times than you care to remember.
Almost every corner you turn reveals something absolutely mind-boggling, something that you couldn’t have imagined being possible, or something so gross that you may want to throw up (as I felt multiple times while playing).
That feeling is something I have never felt while playing a game before. Sure, I played Persona 5 and was amazed at its animation and style, or God of War’s cinematic moments, or the intense, free-flowing freedom of The Pathless’ movement, but I don’t think I can say I have played a game where every single part of the environment, world-building, and visuals left me both awestruck, disgusted, and confused in equal measures.
Fleshy towers wrap around the environment and skin peels off of them as the wind blows through the empty, cavernous halls you explore. Creatures rip open your chest, and you watch as you burrow deep inside, all while you groan in pain. If it’s not that, you watch on as various creatures get crushed to death in a mechanical blender.
The constant bombardment of otherworldly things is a lot to take in, but I found myself gripped to the screen because of just how unique and unlike anything else it all is.
Adding to that, it’s quite impressive that Ebb Software was able to do that almost entirely with visuals, as traversing the imposing hallways and corridors of the large alien structures is a hauntingly quiet experience. Very rarely is your time in Scorn met with music or even atmospheric audio effects, besides when a big cinematic moment happens. I have become so attuned to hearing music while walking around in games that not having it feels incredibly strange and only heightens the mood and vibe Scorn is going for.
What’s also fascinating is that this vibe goes beyond just the exploration of the environment – it permeates Scorn’s gameplay elements as well.
Puzzles are presented to you with very little in the way of a tutorial or guidance as to what to do, so it enhances the immersion of being in a place that is completely alien to you as you have to work everything out yourself. But despite the onus being put on the player to figure everything out, they are also fun to solve, quite in-depth, and challenging. And while I don’t want to go into detail about some of them due to spoilers, the beauty in Scorn’s puzzles is that they feel so in tune with the world around them.
Almost all of them have a through line of trying to understand the alien technology of this weird world, which is why there are no tutorials. As I sat there fiddling around with switches, claws, and factory-like processing arms with blades on them, I started to piece together what all these machines are meant to do and how they can help you progress, which was hugely rewarding.
Moreso, though, because a lot of the imagery in Scorn is inspired by the infamous artist H.R. Giger. As with Giger’s own work Scorn has a lot of the phallic and frankly shocking imagery that made his pieces a talking point. Like Giger’s art, Scorn bases a lot on the key themes of sex and reproduction. But instead of showing the interpersonal aspects of these, Scorn places it all on a massive scale: how reproduction, sex, and birth all feed into something else, and as you begin to solve the puzzles you start to see how these aspects form the alien world you are a part of.
While I enjoyed the puzzles, I did, unfortunately, run into a number of bugs and glitches that really took me out of the immersive experience Ebb Software is trying to create. I had objects in the environment not disappear when they were supposed to, blocking my progress. Grenades clipped through the walls and environment, forcing me to restart my computer in order to carry on.
The game is definitely in a less-than-ideal technical state, especially considering that most of these bugs haven’t been fixed by the day one update.
The combat in Scorn, though, is bad. Although, in a weird way, I think it’s supposed to be. Here everything plays into the large mechanical role and process that this alien race has established. Therefore, the weapons are slow, pretty clunky, and just don’t feel great to use, because they aren’t really built for going on a killing spree. Using them is an oppressive act because Scorn is just an oppressive game.
While I appreciate the commitment to world-building, with the guns having umbilical cords, literally breathing or moving in your hands, they simply don’t feel very good to use.
I often found myself feeling like I had hit a brick wall during the combat sections, so, I had to just opt for a cat-and-mouse strategy of landing a shot and then running away. On reflection after finishing the game, I would have much rather the combat was cut and replaced by four or five additional puzzles, which are much more engaging.
Throughout my time with Scorn through the ups and downs, I kept returning to its atmosphere, which is the standout part of the experience. I am so enamoured by how the game throws out any resemblance of worlds we have seen before and crafts its own disgusting alien pocket-universe for you to explore and discover. It’s fascinating and incredibly impressive, even if it is all extremely revolting imagery.
However, the technical issues I ran into and the combat in Scorn really thwarted my fascination with the game at times. While it’s incredible to discover new parts of Scorn’s jaw-droppingly gruesome alien world and even slowly begin to understand it, trying to actually make your way through it isn’t always the most enjoyable of experiences, which is a shame, really, given it’s arguably one of the best Xbox horror games we’ll see this year.
Xbox Game Pass Ultimate (1 Month) Xbox Game Pass Ultimate (1 Month) $14.99 $1.00 Buy Now Network N earns commission from qualifying purchases via Microsoft and other programs.
Scorn is a haunting journey through an alien world that asks a lot from players, both through its striking imagery and some smartly designed, unique puzzles.