Title – Scorn
Platforms – PC and Xbox Series X
Release Date – October 14th, 2022
Developer – Ebb Software
Publisher – Kepler Interactive
MSRP – $39.99 (Day 1 on Game Pass)
ESRB – M for Mature
Disclaimer – This product is being reviewed on PC. A review copy was provided by Kepler Interactive for the purpose of this review. Gaming Instincts is an Amazon Affiliate and does gain financial benefits if you choose to purchase this product on this page. This review may also contain minor spoilers and Scorn is a game that is best experienced completely spoiler-free. We tried keeping the spoilers to as minimum as possible so your first experience is not ruined.
After nearly a decade, Scorn has finally arrived and I am quite ecstatic to what the survival-horror fans are about to experience. Now you might be asking me what exactly is Scorn? Well that’s a bit difficult to answer, but to sum it up in the simplest way possible it’s a single-player title that’s filled with mystery, suspense, grotesque horror, FPS mechanics and most importantly insanely good atmosphere and clever puzzles that are fun to solve. While that might sound like a typical horror game there is actually quite a lot more to it than that. All I can say is that Scorn genuinely surprised me in quite a few ways that I did not expect. Without further ado, welcome to our review of Scorn.
Before we get into the nitty gritty of Scorn’s gameplay and what makes it so special to me. I believe it’s worth discussing a bit about the background of this title and how it originally came to fruition. Scorn has quite the roller coaster of a development history. The game was originally announced back in 2014 that showcased pre-alpha footage for a Kickstarter campaign that was not successful.
Even though the Kickstarter didn’t go as planned, the developer continued to work hard on the game. Ebb Sofrware was planning to release Scorn in two-parts, but then in January of 2015, the company received private funding for their title and went into full production in February of 2015. In 2017, Ebb Software launched another Kickstarter with a goal of €150,000 (euros) that was reached in September of that same year.
Then in August of 2018 Ebb Software announced that Scorn would release as a full single packaged product instead of the original two-part release. Fast forward to May of 2020 the developer announced that the game would be published on PC and as a timed exclusive for only the Xbox Series X and Series S running at 4K resolution and 60 FPS. Ebb Software has also stated that they didn’t want to optimize or release the game on previous generations platforms because it would hurt the overall experience and be a waste of development time. Yes, Scorn is a game that is only available on the new generation hardware. With that short history lesson out of the way, its time we dive in talking about the game itself and why Scorn is such a horrific masterpiece.
The Gameplay and World of Scorn
Talking about Scorn is a bit challenging because the whole idea of the game is all about exploring, solving puzzles and getting past combat encounters. The game is not a walking simulator whatsoever and the story is told throughout the lore itself, exploration and the environments. Scorn’s storytelling reminds me quite a bit of how Elden Ring and the Dark Souls usually does it where you are just thrown into the world and no one is holding your hand or telling you where to go. You are the master of your own adventure and you must figure out where to go and what to do. Scorn is a much more linear game obviously and a bit more directed in terms of pathways, but discovering every corner and studying the environment is the key to success.
The world itself is designed like a labyrinth and it’s filled with grotesques looking alien lifeforms and organic fleshy material. The walls themselves are alive, you have no idea if the hallway you are about too walkthrough is safe or not or what’s hiding behind the next corner. Another really creepy aspect is the machinery itself, even the movement of metal and mechanical parts will scare the living crap out of you. Scorn blew my mind away at how good they managed to mix both organic material and mechanical together to give it that extra danger, horror factor and just how it adds so much to the overall art-style.
What’s also fascinating is that each area you walk into usually has some sort of a clue to a giant environmental puzzle that you have to solve. Then there are also smaller puzzles, like figuring out how to move a piece of machinery in order to gain entry to the next area. While I’d love to go into details of how some of the puzzles work themselves, it would actually be a disservice to explain them to you. Scorn is not a game that is to be spoiled, because once it’s spoiled its not as interesting to play-through and part of the fun is solving the puzzles themselves and then going “Aha….” The game is also filled with interconnected shortcut similar to the design of the souls titles, so if you are into that kind of exploration then you will be a happy camper.
Some people may be upset that the game doesn’t feature any kind of a map system or a way of being able to tell where you’ve been or where you currently are. However, that is part of the intended design. At first you might get a bit confused at what you should be doing and where you need to go, but after a while you will get used to it. Many areas in Scorn look similar, so its quite easy to get lost for a bit, but after you do a bit of walking back and forth the rooms will be imprinted into your brain, especially after you unlock the interconnected shortcuts. Do not be afraid to explore, this game rewards you for your discovery and I love that.
Scorn does have full-on FPS combat mechanics. At a certain point during your horrific journey you will come across weapons that will aid you in combat. The shooting is traditional and there are several organic weapons that you will gain access too. The combat itself is serviceable and nothing overly special. However, it is the art and the way these weapons are animated that I liked. The reloading animations are impressive and adds to the overall atmosphere.
These animations also showcase how grotesque the world of Scorn really is. As you explore this crazy looking organic world you will also come across health stations and ammo stations. As you can imagine, this is how you can replenish your health and restock on some of the ammo from your previous battles. The attention to detail to the way the player heals themselves and replenishes ammo is quite awesome. I love it when games take their lore very seriously and develop the mechanics around the lore itself.
Ebb Software made sure that all basic fundamentals of FPS gameplay is included in Scorn, but its done in such a way where it doesn’t turn it into a completely different genre once those mechanics kick in. Basically, they did a very good job at balancing the horror elements and combat while staying true the sense of danger, feel of the world and the lore. Even though I knew I had weapons, it wasn’t always the best idea to use them and they didn’t really made me less scared either. A lot of survival-horror games tend to get a lot less tense once the player has gained access to some sort of a weaponry, well I am happy to say that Scorn does not have this problem and the game is still suspenseful and tense as ever.
As I’ve previously mentioned the universe of Scorn is quite disgusting, ugly, beautiful, disturbing and fantastic at the same time. Yes, I know that sounds strange, but that’s the beauty of it. The artists have put an insane amount of work and dedication to making this world feel believable and it absolutely shows, so massive kudos to the art team over at Ebb Software. The alien lifeforms perfectly fit the overall aesthetic of the game’s universe. They look like exactly what you’d expect them to look like in a world like this. Having consistency throughout your universe is very important and Ebb Software did a great job at staying consistent in the art-department.
The game is divided into five different acts, and each area usually changes the scenery, but its the later areas that are just jaw-dropping. If you are a fan of H.R. Giger who’s mostly famous for grotesque and disturbing artwork and the Alien franchise then you will absolutely fall in love with Scorn’s universe. I have zero complaints when it comes to the art-style of this game and its overall visuals. The game runs very well and looks beautiful while utilizing Unreal Engine 4 even on my outdated Nvidia 1660 Ti GPU.
The Audio and Ambience
One of the most important aspects of any survival-horror title is the audio design. Scorn’s audio engineers deserve multiple platinum medals in this department. Don’t worry artist, you do as well! The audio design in this game is mind blowing. The ambience in this game is out of this world. When you walk into a new room or witnessing some sort of a new important lore reveal the audio ques start kicking in and it just sounds absolutely incredible. Not only does it make the game more scary and atmospheric, but it also gets you both excited and nervous cause you can’t wait too see what happens next, but at the same time you are afraid to take another step forward. Basically, the audio does a phenomenal job of making you uncomfortable and completely messes with your head and that is exactly what a survival-horror game should be doing.
Earlier I mentioned that the movement of machinery adds a lot of the art-style and feel of the game, but it’s when you combine it with the awesome sound effects of metal and steel kicking into gear that really gives it that full horror effect. Scorn is filled with a ton of elevators that you will be using to get across a variety of platforms and rooms, the sound of those elevators just gives me the creeps and shivers.
The alien creatures that you come across also sound very disturbing. I don’t know what’s more impressive, how Ebb Software has perfectly matched what the ugly looking aliens sound like based on their looks or how just creepy their noises are when they are crawling up on you or getting alerted. In combination of all the sound effects, background ambience and the storytelling Scorn ends up landing in a league of its own and is far above the rest when it comes to the overall atmosphere.
There is really not much to complain when it comes to Scorn. My only real gripe is that the adventure is over a bit too soon. If you are decent at solving puzzles and good at figuring stuff out quickly then you can get through this horror of a journey in roughly four to six hours with five most likely being the average length that it would take to beat the game. However, what you are going to experience in these four to six hour is nothing but pure quality, out of this world atmosphere, a ton of disturbing and gross moments and most importantly just a fantastic experience overall. If you are into games that is filled with exploration, discovery, cleverness, patience, immersion and a lot of jaw-dropping moments then Scorn will be right up your alley. To sum it up, I need a sequel as soon as possible.
Although, I must be transparent here that Scorn is not for everyone. If you are not into getting your brain teased or you do not like getting easily lost and you find the lack of a radar map frustrating then this game might not be up your alley It’s also worth mentioning that the pacing is quite slow, and if you are looking for more of an action horror-survival title then this game is 100% not for you and I suggest you look elsewhere. I however, love a variety of horror games and as long as the game is well designed in what its trying to accomplish then I am all for it.
I personally fell in love with this game from the beginning and all the way to the end. I think its designed very well and you could tell it was beautifully hand-crafted with lots of labor of love and soul in terms of its art, audio, level design and gameplay systems. Scorn was designed with a clear goal in mind – which was to create a believable, disturbing but yet interesting and horrific world with clever puzzle mechanics and unique ideas that is being begged to be explored and it sure has achieved the primary objective. With that being said Scorn will be receiving a final verdict of a masterpiece that is 10 out of 10. Kepler Interactive thank you for supporting Ebb Software on their journey in creating this magnificent experience for the horror fans, now please tell them to go back to work and make a sequel after they are done celebrating.