A Scorn review done in a traditional sense probably won’t do the game justice. It is so rare when a game like it comes around and utterly defies the conventions of design and deliberately disregards the needs of general audiences. Some may consider Scorn pretentious, but it is ultimately aspiring to be a work of art.
Scorn is not going to be a game for everyone. It is a game made for a very specific niche of gamer who desire something more avant-garde than what is expected from most arty indie games.
If the idea of a very slow paced and miserable, first-person puzzle game with very sparse combat and a vague story with no text or dialogue does not sound appealing, then prepared to get filtered. After almost 9 years, Scorn has finally come out. Has the wait been worth it? What is it even about? Find out in this Scorn review!
Developer: Ebb Software
Publisher: Kepler Interactive
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, Xbox Series X|S (reviewed)
Release Date: October 14, 2022
Price: $39.99 USD
If you want a slow paced Doom with H.R. Giger art – you won’t find it here. Scorn has more in common with Myst or Riven than any traditional first-person shooter. There is some monster shooting in this game and Scorn-man does get a few different weapons, but they are a means to a higher purpose.
Scorn‘s narrative explains itself purely with nightmarish and ribaldry imagery. Thanatos and eros; sex and death are the core of the human condition and the pain of existence is one way to interpret the events of the game.
No matter where you look in the game, there is signs of atrophy, decay and evidence of a human-like civilization that commoditized life as something to be used and disposed of. A terrible and profane fusion of man and machine- seemingly indistinguishable where one begins and the other ends make the world of Scorn nauseating to look at.
The vile and heaving disgust felt while wandering around a confusing labyrinth made up of decaying rib-like cages, adorned with yonic orifices, is deliberate. This is a game that is firing on all cylinders, trying to put the player in the protagonists’ head space. Any wretch that exists in this world would feel like that.
As a wretched Scorn-man living in a Scorn-land, the player is dropped into the setting and is set loose to figure things out for themselves. It is as if it is a metaphor for being born and trying to survive in a hostile world that is utterly indifferent towards you.
First timers playing will be befuddled at everything they see. Scorn is set in what can be best described as factories or possibly temples and they are festooned with alien machinery that may or may not be a living thing. It is not explained, it is left up to the player to take it all in and internalize it.
As vague as the story may seem at first, the plot is very simple and easy to follow. The major events involve the player character(s), modifying themselves, and gradually succumbing to a horrifying transformation while also seeking ascension to a higher plane of existence. Hopefully, an existence that is better off than living in Scorn-land.
What elevates Scorn is its unbelievable attention to detail and effort put into the environmental story telling. This care is also applied to the puzzles and how the player interacts with the world around them, making for a very immersive experience.
Looking down, players can see all the nightmarish modifications done to Scorn-man’s body. It is a gradual process that occurs with major events in the story and really shows how far gone this guy is going to escape the existence he endures.
The puzzles vary from manipulating machines to light-up puzzles, to just trying to understand how any of the stuff in the environment works from contextual clues. Scorn is involving in this manner in that it invites the player to mess around with the boney gizmos to go deeper into its surreal world.
Some of the animation to operate some of the tools and machinery does drag on for a bit. It is for the sake of making the world feel weighty and make each action have a sense of gravitas, but after a while it can wear on you.
The few moments where Scorn has actual combat is also punctuated with the same slow and heavy movement. Scorn-man is appropriately weak since he’s a skinny dying man who is afflicted with all kinds of parasites, and plugged up with tubes.
He may have an excuse to be lethargic, but it does sometimes feel like the enemies got to chug a few redbulls. The foes in Scorn are nasty and are deadly shots when vomiting. These guys could probably snipe a loogie through the eye of a needle from a 1961 Lincoln Continental.
The battles in Scorn are far and few between. They are not the focus of the game and mostly serve to establish some threat, world building, and to make the setting have more believability. The overall experience is already short. For a first time playing, expect to clock in about five to six hours depending on how long it takes to negotiate a puzzle.
This may seem short, but Scorn‘s pacing is very drawn out and feels its length. Anything longer would make the game too much of a chore to finish. As is, Scorn is packed with plenty to see and do. There isn’t anything else that the game could do before it would lose sight of what it is aspiring to be.
If Scorn-man had more weapons and could run through massive stages, blowing up phallic monsters with his bone-gun, it would change the tone of the game for the worse. Scorn wants the player to feel every agonizing step this husk of a man must take to reach his goal. It really is a game that is about suffering.
The suffering itself is a sight to behold. Never before has such a transgressive and nihilistic indie game looked so good. It is no wonder why Scorn took so long to make, because it is one of the most beautiful looking games ever made.
Scorn is an example of an art team flawlessly executing a highly ambitious visual signature. Everything in the game world feels real. The atmosphere and thick air can almost be smelled and the dank, cavernous echo of nothing is almost deafening.
Scorn‘s graphics are guaranteed to get anyone’s attention. Most people who walk away disappointed or frustrated by the gameplay will only feel negative emotions because they will partially feel like they’re missing out on the awesome visual tour de force.
Scorn is going to be polarizing for many people. There are many gamers who expect it to be survival-horror, but the reality is that it has a lot in common with the kinds of games that Cyberdreams used to make.
Games like Dark Seed II or I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream were traditional point-and-click adventure games and Scorn feels like it carries on their legacy. There is a lot of overlapping DNA between all three of these games as seen in the art direction and nihilistic themes.
Anyone who enjoys the kind of games that Cyberdreams used to make will adore Scorn; bleak and surreal puzzle-driven adventure games that treat the player like an adult. It may cost a bit much (if you don’t have Game Pass), but it is the kind of game that stays with you, long after you play it.
Scorn was reviewed on Xbox Series S using a copy purchased by Nichegamer. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here. Signalis is now available for Windows PC (via Steam) and Xbox Series X|S.