I was disgusted, curious, fascinated and a little giddy

Few games sell (or don’t) as fast as Scorn. You probably already have a strong reaction to the image at the top of the review. And I have no doubt that this is the strongest point of this game. Whether you like it or not, your reaction to this game will hardly be indifferent. It’s practically a breath of fresh air (aka crappy air) that can be a nice escape from the monotony of the game industry. Or maybe it’s better to stay away.

We describe it better in the rest of our impressions with Scorn, this indie game developed by Ebb Software and published by Kepler Interactive, available for PC and Xbox series. We did our tests on PC (AMD Ryzen 9 39000XT + GeForce RTX 2070 Super) and, interestingly, on Steam Deck (review coming soon).

Everything is beautiful and ugly

Scorn is an amazingly scary game. The aesthetic is inspired by Hans Rudolf Giger, who combines surrealism and horror with classic touches. I have no mouth and I have to scream. O game and constantly keep the player in an uncomfortable situation. All of the game’s structures and elements have the strange duality of looking extremely organic in their composition, but acting extremely mechanical in the movements, weights, and sounds they bring to the animation. This game takes the valley of the uncanny, moves in, and calls it home.

This game takes the valley of the uncanny, moves in, and calls it home

The aesthetics and graphics of the game are very important pillars of the game because the setting is the essence of the game experience. The player finds himself dropped into this surreal reality with no clear instructions as to who he is, why he’s there, and what the hell is going on around him. The graphics are at an excellent level of detail and quality, maintaining the experience of surprise, which is the goal of the game developer, especially important in the simple and easy violence sections that occur along the way.

Another element that contributes to this sense of oppression is the soundtrack. You can’t even call it music, but it has a synthetic sound in the background that sounds a lot like organic sounds, which fits perfectly with the rest of the game’s aesthetic. I highly recommend playing with headphones or a bass-boosted sound system to get the most out of the synthesized “slowly twisting bowels” sound, or any other interpretation that fills the atmosphere with curious sounds.

You are lost and you are not alone

While the aesthetics already set the tone of the game, Ebb Software made some wise but risky choices to immerse the player in this world. The first is the virtually complete absence of a HUD or map. The player has to pay attention to the small details of the scenarios, and with the aesthetics being so busy, it’s easy to miss something important several times before you realize it.

Here comes the game’s dangerous gameplay: you will get lost several times and may need to rotate the map several times to find the object. While most modern games do their best to avoid this frustration on the part of the player, using features such as lighting the path wherever they walk, or placing algae and moss to indicate parts of the wall that the player can climb, such as Scorn. He will not make this kind of concession. A player who explores more carefully because there is no flashing orange on top of the key, let alone a map with a dashed line leading you to the next objective. In fact, you don’t even know what your purpose is.

While most modern games go out of their way to avoid frustrating the player, Scorn leaves you at a loss and won’t come to your aid.

Of course, the developer didn’t let the player down 100%, and some level design decisions help keep the experience from getting worse. Despite having no more “face” references, the camera architecture sometimes has focal points that leave a slight indication of where something is relevant, but it’s not permanent. Sometimes it will even be in a corner so that nothing can see the next lever you need. Another concern is that there is only a light HUD when you approach objects that can be activated, but this is a very subtle detail and only appears when you are already on top of the gear and far enough away to help you if you get lost.

This causes Skorn to become frustrating and disorienting, not as a design flaw, but as a goal of the game. There are rare moments where I’ve safely progressed through an area and only understand the puzzle more clearly in the final stretch of its solution. During the process, the feeling that this game is playing out is doubt, insecurity and a bit of dizziness, as I will comment later.

There is an interesting care in the areas of blocking and unblocking. Although everything is interconnected, the developer has several locks on specific areas of the map, which prevents the player from having too large a search area, which is very important when you have to rotate the map two, three or more times. Until you know how to solve the puzzle. This has another interesting effect: to tell a story The game is very indirect, through the map and its objects, and because the player is forced to be thorough, he ends up absorbing the details of this – horrifying – world of Scorn more effectively.

Laughter strikes the perfect balance between the feeling of extreme loneliness and the uncomfortable feeling of being followed.

Scorn strikes a perfect balance between the feeling of extreme loneliness, enhanced by large empty structures, mostly ambient sound and the absence of dialogue or text of any kind, and the uneasy feeling that you’re being watched. With the logic that “waiting for a bullet to explode is worse than being shot,” you’re always under pressure that something violent will happen to you—after all, it’s what’s happening around you—but that event never appears. to happen The feeling of being chased worsens the game’s surreal aesthetic, with very busy shapes that look organic, so many times you’ll think a wall or pillar is a person or a monster, or it’s human shapes but piled up corpses. stacked on top of each other. Dozens. Yes, you won’t have a moment of peace during this game.

Puzzle everywhere and a bit seasick

At the core of Scorn’s gameplay are puzzles, and I mean that in a pretty big way. In addition to the traditional “push here, pull there”, finding items to unlock passages and lots of observation to see the impact of your actions on the game world. It’s very thoughtful and patient gameplay, and of course with the game’s aesthetics, it’s not for everyone.

The puzzles are varied and interesting, but the movement is abysmal

Since the game has virtually no visual cues to help the player, it’s necessary to look at the muck that makes up the game and understand how each item works. The solution is trial and error: you activate the panel, keep turning the mechanism until you know where it’s going and how it can help you move forward. The challenge here is moderate, so I wasn’t disappointed when I couldn’t solve the puzzle, but I was challenged enough that solving it was rewarding.

But in the gameplay we have the weakest moments of the game and one of them is necessary. The movement, so necessary for research, is a little truncated and uncomfortable. I had to get used to adjusting the mouse sensitivity a bit, and even then some segments made me a little dizzy. It was even worse on Steam Deck because I set it to 30fps to make it more stable and the result is even more motion sickness.

The best part of the fight is when you don’t have them

This ends up creating a sneaky combo with the weakest part of the game: the battles. In localized sections, the player will have enemies, and the failure of the character makes this fight worse than the visuals of the game. I understand that map harassment would be empty if something didn’t attack us eventually, but it’s easily the weakest point in the game and could have been missed. The game is theoretically designed to make you decide whether to fight or run, but all the weird commands and the lack of good stealth features, for example, make these segments the ones I just want to get out of.

Should you experience this game?

Is it worth facing the filth and unrelenting tension of Skorne? It’s always a plus point to be in Game Pass at launch, as it will be a click away for platform subscribers to play. For those who don’t want to subscribe, the price of R$75 is quite reasonable for the 8 or so intense experiences the game provides. And considering how heavy it is, it’s even better that it doesn’t last too long.

I certainly wouldn’t recommend this game to most people, it’s very experimental and daring, but there are things that make me love it…uh…love. The first is precisely its destructive way, going against the grain of an industry that cares too much about providing convenience and a society in which we practically create entertainment productivity goals. Who doesn’t start the weekend with goals for episodes to watch and games to end? Skorn doesn’t care about that. You will have to be patient and pay attention. There’s no multitasking, and if you get achievements, you’re missing out on a major part of the game experience.

Laughter is a wonderful experience that is not for everyone’s stomach.

The second is that this game respects the player. He doesn’t try to comfort you or help you. It gives you time, allows you to go through the world and find your way. This game doesn’t even explain itself: it’s up to you to infer whatever you want. Will you know that this civilization has collapsed? Or is this residue you see something damaged and it’s good to be done? Space is yours to think and feel what you want, and if there’s one thing Scorn gives you, it’s space and time.

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