Scars Above hands on preview – sci-fi soulslike with jump scares

Scars Above Preview

Scars Above is a sci-fi adventure shooter created by the minds at Mad Head Games. It promises to deliver challenging gameplay as players explore a strange, mysterious alien world as Kate Ward – a doctor who’s a member of a team known as SCAR.

We tried out their latest preview build of the game. With an interesting premise of an alien world which forces players to survive as a scientist rather than a soldier, does Scars Above have the promise it takes to deliver a strong gaming experience?

Fitting of a game promoting a world where little is known, the story in Scars Above also jumps in without much explanation of what’s going on.

Based on audio logs and tidbits of plot as you progress through the initial stages, it’s easy to surmise that something went wrong for Kate’s expedition when they got close to the strange space object.

There’s a lot of setup with some predictable plot points, but there’s also unexplained answers expected from a demo for a game launching early next year. It leaves enough to get people wanting more, but sci-fi buffs might already have a good idea of what is to come when all is revealed.

Jumping into the gameplay, I was surprised to see how soulslike, as some would put it, Scars Above was. Combat comprises of dodging attacks, managing stamina, and finding openings to take out foes.

All the while you have to keep health up with limited healing stims, which refill at conveniently placed pillars, which also respawn enemies when used – again very soulslike.

It’s simple, mixing in melee combat and the usage of guns. Players do have to stay on their toes though, as each foe has a best way to defeat them.

This means quick decisions have to be made in order to take out the aliens effectively while minimizing health loss, though the number of times they appear only to jump the player, dealing cheap damage, is annoying.

Other than that, going around also gives a few branching paths for players to seek. So far much of the bonuses give knowledge, which is how the game handles gaining new skills that buff up the player.

One thing that Scars Above promotes is that the player character is not a solider. Instead she’s a doctor, so they lean heavily on her knowledge based background with the ability to scan key objects in the world to learn more about where you are.

Chances are most people will just take much of what she says as technobabble we hear all the time in Hollywood films. I did find scanning to be a bit monotonous and too long to perform, just to hear her talk about things that seemed fairly obvious.

Though another aspect Scars Above throws in to break up combat are deeper sequences of scanning to determine what event occurred in an area, or to look within an alien organism. This could be a fun mechanic as long as it isn’t filled with pointers of what to scan as I felt the first puzzle was.

With all the efforts to push Kate more towards a scientist untrained in combat rather than one who fights for a living, she surprising is pretty good at fighting. During battles against bosses, the player, and therefore Kate, have to be able to dodge big attacks while aiming at weak points with the right weapon.

This also comes down in regular encounters where players can combo the various elements in logical ways to dispose of foes. These are a bit too much when it comes to them asking for skill shots of tiny spots on enemy bodies, while leaving nearly no time for players to react to their openings.

For the most part, the usage of elements are relatively elementary and aren’t new when it comes to gaming. Though hopefully in the later stages of Scars Above, players can truly seek multiple opportunities which work in dealing with the numerous hordes of enemies.

It is disappointing that far too frequently most of the times where a monster would get a hit on Kate is usually because of cheap jumps out of nowhere, most of which came in front of the player as if designed for overreactive YouTubers to scream at.

This is just unfair design in a game with small noticeable annoyances that add up, such as constant log updates on gameplay tutorials, or unnecessarily long scanning of objects to pad out game time.

Beyond this, Scars Above does appear to be a more linear adventure with sequences to break things up. It’s crafted well enough for what should be a solid experience looking forward, but it does need to have more things and small tweaks in the final product to become something really special.

Scars Above is set to launch on February 27, 2023 for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and PC (via Steam).

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Got into gaming thanks to a nice old lady who lived across the street. Enjoy most genres of games.

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