An Hour Of Scorn That Left Me Feeling Uneasy...

We had a chance to check out the first hour of Scorn meshing Geiger's Bio-organic horror with puzzle mechanics. It was definitely off-putting but we're still not sure what we think.

Published: September 21, 2022 9:00 AM /

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The protagonist from Scorn on the start screen of the game. A gruesome man with scarred flesh and missing lips.

From the New Game screen the camera zooms and tilts towards the face and hand of a grotesque man, half covered in fleshy roots. Awakening and pulling himself free of these tethers the man with no lips and bloody frail skin drags himself over tendrils and rocks towards a monolith before the ground falls out from underneath him sending him tumbling into biomechanical catacombs. Before you can even truly hit the "New Game" button Scorn immediately puts you in a place of unease.

I had a chance to get an hour of hands-on gameplay with Ebb Software's Scorn, originally announced back in 2014 this game has had quite a ride from a two-part title, through a failed Kickstarter before being continually worked on to release on Xbox Series X|S and PC next month. PlayStation fans will get to get in on the Scorn action at some point too as it has been confirmed that Scorn is only a Timed Console Exclusive.

A switch mechanic is Scorn that required the player character to insert his hand into bio-mechanical gauntlets to open a door
There's nothing pretty about this door opening mechanism...

The Demo began at what I could assume is the beginning of the game, the protagonist awakens in the catacombs with nothing but a will to persevere. The demo itself consisted of three different puzzles. The first of which was simple enough, one switch would open the locking mechanism on a door while a separate one would allow you to spin open the door. Scorn doubled down on its influence from H. R. Geiger, not just in the eerie background sounds that would fill these tunnels, but in his love of fusing mechanical function with a very non-mechanical interaction. A switch isn't enough for the character to be able to pull down on a bar, instead, there are four separate holes that the character needs to insert each finger into and pull down to activate a door. Every door opened or item interacted with was grosser than the last, squelching foley topped off the experience.

While it was clear the first puzzle was to teach out about interaction with the world the scale of the second puzzle absolutely dwarfed the first. The next door blocking my progression was locked by two more switches. Unlike the first, the switches here required being activated simultaneously to get through so I was on the hunt for a friend in this nightmare world to progress. This puzzle took me through a series of gauntlets some more painful than others, but what was interesting is that these puzzles took me through a number of rooms. With so much of the tunnel's interior built like bones and fleshy panels, there were a few times that I managed to get lost trying to find prior areas. The first part of the puzzle consisted of obtaining what I can best describe as a man compressed into a ball from a sliding puzzle.

A sliding egg puzzle from the opening hour of Scorn
Move the arm to slide pods around the walls and get it to the exit to collect your prize

In the sliding puzzle you needed to move groups of one or two pods across an irregular grid of nodes. It was something like the Rush Hour puzzle game, where you had to move the lit pod from the far right all the way to the left. The puzzle was enjoyable, if not just the right amount of frustrating, and even included a few 'red herring' activated pods that would crumble when they reached the exit point. While it was interesting to have such a "traditional" logic puzzle appear in a video game it was a fun addition and I look forward to seeing what more they could add in. From there the activated pod with the man stuffed inside needed to be wheeled down a series of switchable tracks, before brutally destroyed in a buzzsaw. While I didn't quite understand how that was meant to solve the puzzle of opening the second door the secret was actually in... picking up the poor man's dismembered hand and using it to open the other switch on the door.

The next portion gave access to a new machine to access switches and panels that is held like a gun with a human-looking nose on top that ejects and retracts a rod. The imagery that this weapon immediately gave was of the extending mouth within the main head of a Xenomorph. This 'gun' also gave the first glimpse of basic combat against a series of sentry robots that simply sprayed a toxic mist in front of them. There wasn't much to dispatching them, though the range of the extending rod did leave a lot to be desired. It was just as a doorway was opening, revealing what looked to be a much larger passageway over that my time with Scorn was complete.

A deformed man stuck inside a pod that is part of a puzzle for Scorn
Thanks, I hate it...

An interesting aspect of Scorn that wasn't touched on at all in this demo, whether it was just not included in the specific build that was played, or if it truly has that small a presence is the story of Scorn. There are so many questions that immediately leap to mind like "why was the player character overrun with tendrils at the start of the game? What is the giant monolith that he was crawling towards? Where the hell are we even?" With no NPCs or hud markers to even get your grounding in this world, you feel truly lost as it begins. Alternatively, these kinds of answers might be exactly what Ebb Software plans to use to entice the player through the eerie passageways and fleshy puzzles.

While there wasn't anything I'd directly call combat to experience through the demo the atmosphere of Scorn kept me at the edge of comfortability. Not knowing what to expect around any corner the idea of combat presenting itself was a more tense sensation than if outwardly antagonistic enemies had been present throughout the whole experience. 

A part gun, part door opener from Scorn complete with a human nose
If there's no story point where you learn all of the guns are from recycled humans I'm going to riot

For a game that I've been looking forward to for some time now, I'm still not sure how I feel about it. I think there's a lot of promise in what was shown but I fear that the constant unease will wear off as the game extends into its second or even fifth hour. How many times can you stick your fingers into a creepily fleshy switch before you're desensitized to it? The puzzles were a fun aspect, especially as they expanded into multi-room ventures so the evolution of those as your progress through your journey will be fun to see. Combat for Scorn still remains a question mark though, it's part of marketing and some content has been shown but how some of the weapons types might function or whether it's smarter to run away from an enemy than try to kill them, such as in Alien: Isolation, we just have to keep waiting for the October 21st release to find out.

TechRaptor previewed Scorn on PC with a copy provided by the publisher. It will release as a timed console exclusive on the Xbox Series X|S

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More Info About This Game
Learn More About Scorn
Game Page Scorn
Ebb Software
Ebb Software
PC, Xbox Series X|S
Release Date
October 21, 2022 (Calendar)
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