Sometimes less is more, and sometimes there is so much less that it’s up to you to determine what the more is. Ebb Software has applied this concept to their recently released Scorn. Inspired by the art of H.R. Giger, whose style is most prominently featured in the Alien movies, Scorn is an unsettling experience that tests your willingness to keep exploring. All alone, your only choice is to survive long enough to see what this dark world has to offer. It’s not a destination for everyone, but it’s certainly memorable.
Scorn Towards What?
Games that focus on visual storytelling will occasionally ask you to draw your own conclusions based on what you find. In Scorn, you have plenty of stimuli that feed the overall mystery of what’s happening. When the story begins, you are a nameless, skinless fleshy humanoid who pulls themselves free from some sort of mold. From that, you’re free to move around a seemingly empty facility full of strange contraptions and remnants of unusual organisms.
This, perhaps surprisingly, is the core gameplay loop. What you’re looking for or even what you’re doing is, at first, completely unknown. It’s pure curiosity driving you to continue exploring and interacting with anything that will respond to your actions. The game is a puzzle, one you must be willing to solve if you want to understand everything.
The Positive Side Of Biopunk
Many titles make use of emotions and reactions, whether they be positive or negative. Even though Scorn skews toward the negative side, its gameplay has some positives. The first is the overall aesthetic. The artists did an incredible job of capturing the style and feel of H.R. Giger’s general and specific designs.
Everything feels like it’s a part of something bigger, because each place, object, and creature, feels like a piece of a body. Despite there being machines and what look to be robots of some kind, there’s always the sense that everything is alive — or at least was at some point. It creates an atmosphere of caution over what you want to touch, as anything you do could greatly disturb whatever’s in place.
This complements the pacing and tone of the game. Although you have the option to run, you really don’t want to, as anything you see could be important. Even as you’re exploring and looking for a way forward, in every place you find yourself are more questions. As a result, whenever you come to a machine, you want to interact with it just in hopes of getting a glimpse into your situation.
There’s never a point where you feel safe so you’ll want to keep moving, but this works against the desire to really examine your surroundings. This conflict affects you as a player as well as the main character in the game, which is perhaps the biggest mystery of all.
A Puzzling Experience
How the puzzles and mystery come together is also effectively conveyed. It’s common to enter an area and find the pieces of the puzzle at hand out of order. Sometimes you’ll find the end result first and need to work backward. Other times you’ll mind a part in the middle which can direct you either forward or back for more answers.
Then there’s the chance of actually finding the beginning of the puzzle before wondering just where it will lead. Each puzzle goes beyond simply finding the solution to move forward. They make you question where you’re going and why. Combine this with the fact that you’re aimlessly wandering around an unknown and disturbing place, the puzzles really do act as the missing piece to the whole experience.
Examining The Negative
Generally speaking, nothing good can ever come from acting on a bad emotion. Scorn is a powerful feeling, and the game shows how it leads to bad things and bad choices. The most notable is the fact that there is almost too little to go on when you start things up. The main character wakes, and there’s literally no motivation for them to be up and about. As a player, this can inspire curiosity but also confusion. There are a lot of impressive set pieces and scenes, but without any real context for them, they only have as much value as you’re willing to give them.
Combat Experience Not Required
Finally, the whole place is a maze, which is not necessarily a good thing. Giger’s style is distinct and creative, but also very difficult to navigate. When you’re outside, most of the world is obscured by some kind of storm, making getting around tricky. Inside the structures is even worse, since there are multiple areas that are plagued by too-similar designs. It can be very disorienting just trying to figure out where to go and where you’ve been.
Venting Your Scorn
Scorn is a 3D first-person puzzle game about navigating a bleak and surreal world that would make H.R. Giger proud. It has an effectively disturbing atmosphere, an all-encompassing mystery that you’ll feel drawn to solve, and interesting puzzles that add to the bigger picture. However, there’s so little information given that you’ll be wandering aimlessly a lot, with weapons that feel out of place, and a maze-like layout that constantly makes you feel lost. If you’re looking to wander through some twisted living architecture, you might be dealing with unresolved scorn.
Will Quick is a freelance media wizard living in Spain. When he's not gaming or writing, he's doodling comics or whatever else pops in his head.