Scorn has endured many setbacks during its development, launching eight years after its initial announcement. While the game scored mixed reviews, it achieved its unique horror experience for the right audience. This title hit the right marks when it is considered experimental art and a tribute to H.R. Giger.
However, Scorn was lackluster as a video game. Weaknesses like half-baked combat and boring puzzles can interfere with the game's gorgeous visuals and excellent environmental storytelling. Unfortunately, these flaws prevent the game from reaching its full potential. It's a shame because Scorn only needs a few tweaks to be one of the greatest horror games.
10/10 Thematic Puzzles
Scorn's gameplay mainly consists of exploring alien ruins while solving frustrating puzzles. These puzzles aren't innovative and often require brute force rather than logic. Additionally, while these puzzles fit within the game's aesthetic, they don't incorporate any of the game's many themes.
A great example would be the first puzzle in the opening act. You'll need the help of the Moldman to open the door; whether it will be alive for it or not depends on how you'll proceed. This simple choice is a great way to showcase Scorn's themes of sacrifice, and it's a shame there weren't more puzzles like that.
9/10 Improved Checkpoints
Aside from the sluggish enemies, Scorn is a horror game without many life-ending threats. There are no fail states from environmental hazards or catastrophically failing a puzzle, so you'll be fine for the most part. But, if you do manage to go down, prepare for a long trek back.
These checkpoints can cause you to lose a lot of time. The worst offender is an area late in the game that can softlock your progress if you haven't stored enough resources.
8/10 Enemy Difficulty And Variety
One of the main complaints for Scorn is its mundane combat. The game's few enemies barely cause any danger and are easily managed. In fact, most of these enemies are optional for progress. Most of the time, you can go back to where you came from, and they will do that too.
While it won't fix the game's tepid combat, increasing their lethality will intensify the experience. Furthermore, there are some cut creatures shown in Scorn's official artbook that could have enriched the gameplay — like the Shells, who resemble humanoid warriors.
7/10 Interact With More Alien Objects
Aside from the occasionally grunting and screaming, Scorn contains zero spoken dialogue. Comparatively, other games like Scorn have audio logs or text entries to piece together the disjointed narrative slowly. The game is admirable because it tells a cryptic story only using its environment, but most of it is told through visual cues.
Again, the opening act is the perfect example. You experienced the story firsthand by operating the machine and processing the Moldman. It is more organic to depict a lost civilization through its objects rather than arbitrary puzzles.
6/10 Where Does This Key Go?
Scorn's visual art direction is the best part of the game. However, there are only so many organic machines, fleshy buildings, and sexual depictions someone can take before it all blends together. Backtracking can be quite cumbersome, especially when looking for the next path to progress.
Some emphasis could have been placed on the main objective. Upgrading your key could also hint at where to go next if you're lost. Additionally, a wall-mounted map in select areas could also help disoriented players.
5/10 Guns Were A Mistake
Ebb Software has previously emphasized that "Scorn is by no means a shooter." Despite the strange item design, your primary organic weapon functions as a traditional firearm that can transform into a pistol, a shotgun, and even a grenade launcher. If guns are involved in combat, it's a shooter.
For games like Scorn, guns shouldn't be the first solution to solving enemies as obstacles. After all, the game occurs in ruined infrastructures with ominous retro technology. One can only imagine the hundreds of ways to die if you could lure creatures into the assembly line.
4/10 Immersive HUD
Scorn's audiovisual design is top-notch. The clean UI also plays a subtle part in immersing players in its decaying world. But the health and ammo bar showing up during combat is distracting and reminds everyone that it is still a video game.
It feels like the HUD is a last-minute change because pressing the inventory button brings up the player's current equipment, including health and ammo. The game only needs a slight adjustment to make a more immersive HUD.
3/10 More Uncomfortable Body Horror
The unnamed humanoid protagonist doesn't seem to have a goal or personal stake in the story. You're compelled to escape the planet for survival, but that's about it. In the second act of the game, you'll be caught by a parasite that slowly morphs your body, and this event could have been a great way to instill a sense of urgency.
Scorn acknowledges the parasite by occasionally showing a scene where it guts your insides. You could see the changes in your body, but its effect on the story only happens near the end. The story could have been more intense and personal if hindering the parasite's control was a game mechanic.
2/10 More Choices And Endings
Scorn's metaphorical story deals with themes of fertility, societal collapse, alien intervention, sacrifice, and parenthood, among other issues. We experience most of the story through remnants of the barren planet, but the core narrative is over, and we're only here as observers.
Adding choices where you could alter the environment and attempt to rebuild society could work. At the very least, some tragic alternate endings would have further cemented the protagonist's cruel fate.
1/10 Adding Cut Content
Scorn's official artbook contains abundant information regarding the game — from lore explanations, masterful concept art, and early designs of the game. It also showcases all the cut content from the final product. Cut content that would have added more depth to the overall experience.
The two biggest downsizes were two whole levels: the Blasted Labyrinth and the Tower. The latter would have been a claustrophobic skyscraper with a giant creature on the top. While these areas were chopped and repurposed elsewhere, it would have been great to see Scorn remain true to the developer's vision.
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