Scorn's Gross Setting Looks Incredible, But I Wish The Story Had A More Straightforward Setup
Scorn's entire intent seems to be to disgust, disturb, and unnerve the player with its terrifying imagery of fleshy hallways and unsettling biomechanical monstrosities. And to that benchmark, the game seems to very much succeed--this is a game that I and my normally fairly strong gag reflex have struggled to look at from the earliest trailer. It's a gross-looking game that delights in its grossness.
Developer Ebb Software says that it pulled from the works of Swiss artist H. R. Giger and Polish painter, photographer, and sculptor Zdzisław Beksiński when constructing its part flesh, part machine world--injecting Giger's biomechanical art style into Beksiński's dystopian surrealism. Composers Billain Aethek and Brian Williams created Scorn's soundtrack, which is really the only thing you'll be hearing throughout your runtime as Scorn has no dialogue to (not) speak of. Instead, the entire narrative is told through the game's environment.
In Scorn, you play as an unnamed person who has become isolated in an unnerving place where viscous-looking living tissue and twisted mechanical contraptions have been combined in an uncanny relationship that seems symbiotic in nature. There are some moments of first-person shooting and elements of horror in Scorn, but the game is more focused on puzzle-solving and exploration, not action or scares.
Scorn has an incredible visual style--this game has been immediately recognizable to me since its original 2014 reveal. The not-quite-living but definitely-not-dead nature to everything curates this uncanny sense that the protagonist is never truly alone. Even the very walls give off the impression that they may be watching you, funneling you towards something eerie and terrible. Scorn looks and sounds like my favorite kind of horror game: an experience that is going to genuinely unnerve you, not try to make you afraid with frequent jump scares. The sick part of my brain that loves games like that can't get enough of what Scorn looks and sounds like.
The lack of dialogue further supports the unsettling sensation of Scorn's imagery, but it seems to largely contribute to Ebb Software's goal for the game to be an experience built with discovery and exploration principally in mind. There doesn't seem to be anyone or anything in Scorn that will tell you what to do or give you a detailed explanation of what's going on--there's very little in the way of any sort of guidance. There's not much in the way of narrative setup either, so you don't really understand where you are or what you're supposed to be doing. You have to discover that for yourself, searching for the way forward by finding solutions to puzzles.
Sacrifices must be made.
I assume the goal in Scorn is to escape wherever you are--whether that's Hell, an alien planet, some terrifying vision, or something else entirely--but I genuinely could not tell you if that's the case. The game gives you nothing, relying on your blind curiosity to encourage you forward.
This isn't altogether a novel concept. From Software's Soulsborne games are perhaps some of the best-known examples of games that do a lot of showing and almost never tell, tasking players with spending dozens of hours piecing together what's happened prior to the start of the story and how that relates to what you're supposed to do next. And there are plenty of other examples where the narrative throughline is difficult to discern--especially early on in the story--like Hollow Knight, Inside, and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
Scorn, however, may be a bit too opaque in its storytelling and level design. It's definitely too soon to say for sure. GameSpot was only shown the opening section of the game for this preview, so there's a good chance that Scorn's plot and what you're supposed to do in order to beat the game becomes a lot more coherent later on (given that this is the case with a lot of games with unclear narratives, I assume that is true here). Regardless, it's too unfair to judge an entire game based on the opening minutes, so I'm not going to do that.
Click To Unmute 13 Minutes Of Exclusive Xbox Series X Scorn Gameplay
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But I can critique what I have seen, and that has largely been a game where I'm confused as to what the player is striving for. And my big issue with that is that it doesn't exactly convince me to want to see more. Maybe I'm just missing a hidden detail or two, but I'm not getting any sense that Scorn has a story beyond being lost in an unsettling world. Ideally, I want a little bit more, like a mystery to solve or a threat to defeat or a moral to learn. And, granted, Scorn could include any or all of those narrative threads, but the game doesn't seem to even be hinting at any of them from the get-go.
So instead, Scorn seems like a showcase for the truly disturbing world that Ebb Software has created. And while that world is intriguing and seems interesting enough to explore for a while, I'm not convinced that such a surface level of curiosity can pull me in for a full game. There could be something really cool in regards to Scorn, and I hope that there is, but if it's there, Ebb Software has done such a good job hiding it, the studio has effectively kept me from becoming invested in the game. As incredible as the visuals and audio for Scorn are, for now, they aren't enough for me. I want a little bit more narrative meat on these gross-looking bones.
Scorn is scheduled to launch for Xbox Series X|S and PC on October 21. The game will also launch on day one on Xbox Game Pass.
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This story originally appeared on: Gamespot - Author:Jordan Ramée