Scorn Review: A Grotesque Piece of Obtuse Art
A vividly gross journey, not for the faint of heart.
WACO, Texas (KWTX) -
Picture this. A biomechanical civilization with an overzealous love of puzzles leading to the detriment and eventual desolation of their own society...or perhaps a hellscape where you suffer for the transgressions you committed in your former life by solving enigmatic conundrums? I am not entirely certain what’s going on here, but there is one thing I can say with indubitable validity. Scorn released for Microsoft Windows and Xbox Series X/S on October 14, 2022 and was developed by Ebb Software. There is a plethora of disturbingly squishy things and blood involved so it once again falls to me to guide you through this cryptic realm. I’m Levi from Hardwired and you can consider me the Virgil to your Dante... (or maybe you can consider me your parent here to explain the birds and the bees to you...or something...)
*Reviewed on PC
WARNING: VIEWER DISCRESION ADVISED
Scorn is rated M for Mature audiences
Code provided by Developer
Scorn is by design a game where you are simply thrown into a world with no direction, and you must make your own path through the game. As the player you are also tasked with finding your own meaning in the story. So, allow me to preface this review by saying that there is no exposition given as to why your character is where he is. There is no dialogue in the game whatsoever. There is no surface story to the game other than your character trying to escape from whatever plane of existence he is currently entombed within.
Scorn’s graphics and overall aesthetic are great. The game’s art style is heavily influenced by two artists. H.R. Giger whose art style often consisted of blending the human physique with machinery. Giger’s most recognizable work would probably be the design for the Xenomorph from the Alien film franchise, and most of society only knows about something if there is a movie about it. His style can be seen in the early architecture of the game. There is an organic appearance to the various machines and puzzles that populate the world of Scorn. While the labyrinth and objects are clearly metallic in nature; it all seems to ooze and breathe to bring a disturbing feel to the game.
One such example is the weapon that your character comes into possession of early in the game. It initially just acts as a captive bolt gun, where it just sends out a forceful bolt that then retracts back into the gun to do damage in the immediate distance which essentially makes this your melee weapon. Eventually you can get other attachments that change the function of your weapon. When you dislodge an attachment from the weapon to swap to another there is a blood spurt. The first of these that you find turns your weapon into a rifle that can fire long range small shots at enemies. The second attachment basically allows you to fire a big shotgun like blast that can do devastating damage at close range. Eventually in the final act you get an attachment that turns your weapon into a grenade launcher. You also get a plumbus-esque object that holds your ammo and secretes a plasma fluid that you can inject into yourself to heal. There are various fount stations throughout the game where you can refill your healing and ammo plumbus.
The second artist they were inspired by is Zdzisław Beksiński (Zuh-Gee-Suave Back-Shin-Ski) whose style was best described as dystopian surrealism. His art often blended expressionistic colors with surreal architecture to form doomsday-like scenery. His influence can be seen in the environment in the many fleshy---almost fungus like tumors that adorn many of the structures seen in Scorn. The monsters that you fight in this game share that distinction as well. From the acid-spitting mole rat...to the bloody bone-spike-spitting raw chicken flappy creatures...to the weird giant fetus robot, being piloted like a Gundam by a smaller fetus.
The sound design in the game is adequately done as well, there is plenty of hissing, thumping, clanging, and whirring from the various machines that power the maze you are trying to escape. The squelching sounds are rightfully disgusting when you interact with the organic switches or when you are splattering the head of whatever enemy has decided to impede your journey. The game has almost no background music, instead opting for a more droning “soundscape” . In fact it isn’t until you make it to the “heavenly area” of the game that the game introduces slight background music, mostly just consisting of ambient chords.
As far as scariness goes, this game is not scary. There are no jump scares in the game, at least not any effective ones. Most of the tension in the game comes from being swarmed by too many enemies at once and having just enough ammo to be able to finish said fight. The game could benefit from some sort of dodge button, as it is almost impossible to avoid being hit by enemies short of ducking around corners to avoid the things they spit at you. So, the clunky combat is the scariest part of the game.
The puzzles in the game can start off challenging and a little bit frustrating but become easier once you understand what the game is asking you to accomplish with said puzzle. More often than not the very existence of the brain teasing puzzles will leave you with more questions than answers. None of them are too hard in the end, and you do feel a sense of accomplishment when you solve the riddle. That being said, to what purpose these puzzles served in the hive-mind like society that presumably lived here before I have no clue but hey, I completed Scorn in about seven hours, so it’s not a terribly long game.
As I said earlier, the game doesn’t have much of a blatant story and leaves the events of the game up to the player’s interpretation. As the game has no definitive narrative for me to touch on, I will be giving my brief elucidation of the tale. So, there are spoilers ahead?
At first, I thought that the game was a hellscape that my character found himself in. I assumed at some point I would find out why I was in hell through some sort of flashback, but it never happened. It wasn’t until I reached the end of the game that I realized that Scorn is actually an alien dating simulator.
It seems like the protagonist was ultimately just trying to procreate whether he knew it or not. It seems like when he makes it to the heavenly temple near the end of the game, they harvest his seed from him and impart on him a higher consciousness. With a courting system like that, it’s no surprise that the species seems to have died out. The only problem is that due to a parasite that your character had attached to you for most of the game, you never quite make it to where you are trying to go, though it was never stated where your character was going or what he was hoping to accomplish. So in my mind, our character is like a salmon, trying to swim upstream to his spawn point to reproduce, and the parasite is like a hungry bear. I guess the moral of the story is that no matter what grand machinations you try to set in motion, the parasites around you will always hold you back from achieving your holy grail.
Scorn is a pretty gross adventure, with some amazing visuals and some inventive gore. A week after completing its campaign and I still find myself piecing together fragments to build my own interpretation of its events, but I feel like the developers don’t want me to have the full picture. So initially, as the game was indifferent in providing me with a story, I was going to give it an indifferent score of 5/10, but honestly despite Scorn’s more toned down and lackluster game play, it really achieves its goal. I haven’t played a game in the horror genre that subverts more expectations...all of this with its artistic visuals, a brave narrative with nary a word spoken and a superbly realized soundscape. Plus, some truly standout gory moments...you know me I’m a sucker for carnage, and it does not get more brutal than a fetus juicer. Ebb software set out to make a horror game that was thought provoking and enduring, and Scorn more than hits the mark. I give Scorn an 8/10...it’s Excellent. For Hardwired, I’ve been Levi Barner. Please like and subscribe to Hardwired for more video game news, reviews and more. And hey, if you play Scorn, and have literally any idea what the hell happened here feel free to leave your interpretation in the comments below. See you for the next foray into the macabre.
Copyright 2022 KWTX. All rights reserved.