Eldritch horrors and H.R. Giger's designs have always been some of my favorite aesthetics in horror movies and games. It's because of this that I've been looking forward to playing Scorn since I first began seeing trailers for it before the launch of the Xbox Series X. With so much riding on this game's esthetic, does it manage to pull off the complete package though?
This story for Scorn takes place in some kind of post-apocalyptic biomechanics setting. It's impossible to know whether this is meant to be a future Earth or some unknown alien planet. Our adventure begins with the player character pulling themselves free of a mess of wires and crawling towards a monolithic structure ahead of him your character falls into a deep network of tunnels. Over the course of this game, you'll explore weird pulsating corridors, infected structures, and a derelict ancient city.
One of the biggest issues that I have with Scorn's storyline is that there is just none. Playing a video game I understood that there was a need to progress forward but as to a "why?", it was never made apparent. It's not uncommon for a game to tell a story through environmental clues or collectible notes, but Scorn has none of this. In my preview, I noted how minimal story there was and how I hoped that that would be expanded on in the full release. Unfortunately, there was never anything more. I still know nothing about the world, its inhabitants, or how it got to be that way. Even the ending left me scratching my head as to whether I'd even finish the game, I had to check that the most recent achievement earned was called 'Fin.'
Scorn is first and foremost a puzzle game, with some minor shooter elements. Each new area you reach, you'll find a blocked doorway or a maze to follow through to reach your next goal. The puzzles early on might be a sliding puzzle game but later on, involve a multi-step process of moving an orb through a labyrinth of equipment and tools to create a new passageway. The puzzles are fun, though, at no point did I feel really challenged. The few times that I did feel stuck, I just needed to explore and find another room with a new piece to the puzzle. With so many similar-looking hallways, it can be a bit disorienting, but just keep walking, and you'll find the solution.
There is some added stress to these puzzles as enemies do appear. These enemies take the shape of freaky creatures that will spit acid or charge at you. At the start of the game, there's very little you can do. As you progress, you do get a shotgun-like weapon and a grenade launcher, though ammo is fairly limited. At most these enemies will act as an ever-present pressure for you to keep moving in the same way that Mr. X does in Resident Evil 2 Remake. There is an earlier pistol weapon that you can obtain, but I missed that in my playthrough. Aside from the grenade launcher, which is required for a single boss fight and some environmental puzzles, guns could be completely ignored in this game, and it would change very little.
The elements where Scorn truly shines are in the art and sound direction. It's easy enough to take one look at Scorn and see that it takes heavy inspiration from H.R. Giger. For those not familiar with Giger and his works he specializes in biomechanical pieces showing terrifying interpretations of the human form, you'll likely be most familiar with his work on the Alien franchise contributing much of the Xenomorph design and architecture. Every switch requires you to insert your fingers into fleshy holes, every depiction of a human is a part-machine part-flesh amalgamation, and Scorn is also no stranger to H.R. Giger's phallic representation and insertion fascination. Entering new areas, I would find myself staring at different art murals on the wall or different contraptions trying to understand their function more than I was interested in progressing through the game. The derelict city near the end of the game with its giant murals is truly a masterpiece.
This uneasy architecture coupled with the disturbing, squelching sounds of biomechanisms, tops off the experience. Well before the introduction of any roaming enemy, I was already checking corners, as I would hear odd noises shifting in the building or even my own squelching. This is definitely the kind of game that you want to play with the speakers on and loud. As you interact with the world or even recharge your health in gross ways, this audio design is so consistent throughout the final product. An unfortunate downfall of maintaining this eerie tone so consistently is by the end of your 8 hours with Scorn you'll likely be desensitized to a lot of it.
Scorn Review | Final Thoughts
Scorn is a game that understands its aesthetic and visual hook so incredibly well, recreating the unnatural artwork of HR Giger with pinpoint accuracy. Unfortunately, once you get past the look and sound of the game, there just isn't much left. The puzzles are entertaining but mostly linear, the gunplay, while not a gameplay focus is adequate, and the story is unfortunately non-existent. Even as a shorter experience if the artwork doesn't pique your interest as a player it's not likely the rest of the game will.
TechRaptor reviewed Scorn on PC with a copy provided by the publisher. The game is also available on Xbox Series X|S.
- Nails Geiger aesthetic
- Lack of plot
- Unease wears off
- Linear Puzzles