If you're a fan of fleshy orifices that pulsate when you embrace them, then boy, have we got news for you. Scorn is finally out of its cage, and it brings more bone, bite, and barbarity than most modern survival horrors that bulk out the current Xbox Series X market. Question is, though, has its H.R. Giger-inspired biopunk world delivered what it set out to achieve? Or more importantly, has its crimson red and mechanical underworld amounted to the initial hype that Ebb Software carved out for it?
It's only been a week since the slightly unorthodox meaty-and-mechanical tale launched on Xbox Game Pass and PC. And yet, we're already inclined to believe that we've spent more than enough time with the alien planet to get the gist of its contents and the lore that preserves it. Did we get on with it, though? Or was the everlasting acute motion sickness a little too much to ignore? Here's how it went.
Scorn lays the foundations for a fantastic survival horror game by throwing you head first into a bloody abyss, all the while it refuses to hold your hand as you aimlessly meander about its opening chambers in search of clues that explain your whereabouts. Where are you? Well, that's just it. At no point in Scorn are you given a beacon of light to scoot you along your way, nor are you bolted to a HUD with a multitude of objectives to complete, either. It's you, and it's you alone, abandoned and without a companion to aid you in your greatest time of need. Or at least, it is for a short time, anyway, mostly while you gather your bearings and adjust to the motion sickness that comes from moving, tiptoeing, and playing leapfrog with fleshy millipedes and what have you.
Following a relatively short segment that requires you to shove your fingers into a pulsating pile of organic meat holes, Scorn lumbers you with a quirky, albeit incredibly vulgar cosmetic to take with you on your travels: a gooey key implant that lets you unlock doors and manipulate various mechanisms around the hell-bent realm. And from there on out, it's very much the case of having to mindlessly inject your hands into icky substances until you've either unlocked something, or unraveled some form of puzzle in a completely different area.
Fortunately, Scorn really isn't all that difficult to understand. Plot-wise, there isn't anything overly complex to keep up with, which means muscle memory and imagination are placed on autopilot from the moment you plunge into its world, to the second you depart in search of new adventures in faraway lands.
What makes Scorn the compelling horror that it is, weirdly enough, is its lack of direction. The fact that the story is pretty much tailored by how you play speaks volumes. That said, it does also beg the question: were the guys over at Ebb Software just being lazy when it came to constructing its nonlinear narrative, or was the silent protagonist and absurdly barren locale the precise niche they wanted to capture? It's hard to say, but atmospherically — it's bang on the money, and it does the latter remarkably well, even if it does sacrifice the former.
When all's said and done, though, one immersive locale doesn't necessarily make it anywhere within spitting distance of being perfect. There's a lot missing from Scorn, and it only takes a good twenty minutes of rummaging around shoving ligaments into skinless sacks to realize it. And while the world itself is a virtual nightmare with more than enough gore to satisfy the most tainted souls, it's definitely a novelty feature that wears off almost immediately. And honestly, once the spark has faded, it's difficult to picture the game as anything more than a glorified walking simulator with a few lackluster combat sequences to boot.
But what is the story? What is your purpose in this abandoned mechanical metropolis, exactly? Again, you're never really told why, nor are you given any major insights into its history, either. Scorn can be whatever you want it to be, which makes it something of an open book that invites anyone who dares enter to interpret it. All you need to know before entering, of course, is that there's a seemingly vacant hellhole to explore. The rest of it, as they say, is entirely up to you to thread together.
Scorn is as much of a walking simulator as it is a puzzle game, which bodes incredibly well for those who bathe in the idea or solving mysteries while on the move. And while there are a few moments that involve mythical beasts that boast more bark than bite, action clearly isn't the focal point that Ebb Software strived to execute. In a nutshell, Scorn is an episodic adventure, and one that asks only that you lend it an ear, and not an itchy trigger finger. Question is, did it overcompensate for keeping us in silence for the best part of six hours? Well, that's just it.
The problem with Scorn is that it relies a little too much on problem solving, which can, at times, cause the locomotive to screech to an immediate halt, leaving you to scramble around for a ridiculous amount of time before finally being able to progress deeper into the labyrinth. And unfortunately, this happens far too often, with the first instance being right at the beginning of the game after you receive your trusty implants.
Of course, if you waltz into Scorn with the impression that it's going to be a puzzle game with creepy aesthetics and nothing more, then you're bound to alleviate the feeling of disappointment. But if, however, you had high hopes of it being a chaotically poetic first-person shooter with more survival elements than exploration ones, then you're only going to wind up shooting yourself in the foot. And honestly, I for one couldn't tell which one would have suited the setting better.
You've Seen One Room, You've Seen ‘Em All
Like I said, Scorn's USPs are its fleshy undertones and mechanically-outdated rooms, which can often stretch far and wide to entirely different regions. Unfortunately, though, in spite of its multitude of explorable areas, Ebb Software made one poor decision when piecing them together: to cordon off just about every possible entry point and leave them to serve as reminders of what potentially could've been additional opportunities to capitalize on.
Disappointingly, Scorn doesn't leave a huge amount to the imagination, and it isn't long after you trudge through the first chamber that you get slapped with an immediate burst of déjà vu. The fact is, most rooms bear the same blood red textures and melancholic atmosphere — which is great. Or at least, it is for the first hour or so. After that, it becomes a bit of a bore, and it forces you to question just about everything that correlates with Ebb Software's surprisingly shallow lack of creativity.
When all's said and done, Scorn isn't a bad game. It isn't a great game, nor will it be in line to win any awards this year, but it isn't exactly laden with unintentional errors, either. Clearly, Ebb Software wanted to develop an atmospheric world — which it did, tenfold. But like I said, one intensifying realm doesn't excuse its lack of content and lackluster gameplay. And if there are two things that ultimately ring the death knell for Scorn, it's the lack of content and, you know, the lackluster gameplay.
It goes without saying that fans of H.R. Giger will find something to grasp onto here, but outside of the target demographic, Scorn really doesn't appeal to all that many people. It's borderline horror, but more or less a unique mixture of something else altogether — and I'm not entirely sure whether or not it's a concoction worth sipping.
Bottom line is this: Scorn is visually unique, and immersive beyond belief. But it's also boring, and the lack of diversity in the areas that you can actually explore make the journey feel like one intense case of déjà vu. Add the fact that the puzzles are a little frustrating, and that there's an awful lot of locked doors and orifices to manipulate, and you've got yourself a game that comes up just a little too short in just about every box it bends over backwards to try and tick.
Still, It's a Plus for Game Pass Subscribers
The good news is, Game Pass subscribers can get their hands on Scorn without having to fork over any additional pennies. Therefore, if you're set on exploring anywhere this coming Halloween and aren't willing to shell out on the bigger titles, then sure, Scorn is worth checking out. If you're not, though, then we'd suggest giving it a sharp miss until it reaches the post-seasonal sales.
You can pick up your copy of Scorn on Xbox Series X|S and PC today. For more updates on the game, be sure to follow Ebb Software over on their offices social handle here.
Scorn Review (Xbox Series X|S & PC)
H.R. Giger Would Have Liked It...
Atmospherically, Scorn hits the nail on the head. Unfortunately, though, it fails to hit the board in just about every other way, which turns an otherwise fantastic concept into a relatively short and painfully lackluster experience.