To make sure you never miss out on your favourite NEW stories, we're happy to send you some reminders

Click 'OK' then 'Allow' to enable notifications

Scorn review: Giger-inspired gore nails the atmosphere but not the combat

Scorn review: Giger-inspired gore nails the atmosphere but not the combat

Gorgeously hideous

Decomposing bodies line the curved, Alien-esque hallways of a godforsaken labyrinth. Naked as the day I was born, my character, armed with seemingly organic weapons, negotiates the winding pathways, the sound of something lurking in the dark as my only apparent companion. Am I in hell? Is this an alien world or another dimension? More importantly: when will it end?

See the trailer for Scorn here

Scorn is an atmospheric horror game, to say the least. Heavily inspired by the works of artist H. R. Giger, fans of the Alien franchise and 2021’s Dune will revel in the game’s aesthetic throughout, especially if you like piles of decaying organic material scattered all over the shop. I mean, God damn, this is one hideously gory experience, which is glorious if you’re into that sort of thing. 

The game begins with the player character, who resembles a semi-skinless ghoul, being spawned into a desolate chamber. Alone, save for the noises in the distance, the protagonist is left to navigate the bleak surroundings, solving puzzles along the way.

Scorn /
Kepler Interactive

It’s here that I encountered my first problem with Scorn. The various puzzles feel different enough from each other and they’re challenging enough to be fun, but they too often feel long-winded. One early puzzle involved constant rejigging of pieces, feeling more awkward than testing, and it managed to bring the pace of an already slow experience to an agonising stroll. Bear in mind that I say this as an avid fan of puzzle games, particularly The Turing Test and the Portal series.

The real strength of Scorn is in its atmosphere. The sound design is incredible, and adds a sinister feel that combines expertly with the grim imagery of the game’s environments. Running through a HyperX Armada 27, the game looks stunning in QHD, and the high-fidelity picture only enhances the horrific sights found within. 

Scorn /
Kepler Interactive

The gory, gloopy sounds and visuals are hard to stomach at times, with an almost fetishistic focus on being clawed in the stomach at times, so the faint of heart need not apply. In fact, I’m fairly confident Scorn is aimed specifically at fans of body horror and the darker sides of humanity, because suffering is a key theme here. 

In one section, I was tasked with mutilating a wretched, humanoid creature in order to advance to the next area. Having to command my character to hurt this poor soul was horrible because the game’s excellent sound design made sure I heard every second of cruelty, both in the anguished cries of my victim, and the visceral, mechanical tones of the various torture devices at my disposal. 

In this respect, Scorn is truly brilliant at what it does, because I felt fully immersed in the action. The thing is, I don’t know why you’d want to feel this. The way the abused individual kept following me despite my constant maiming them was heartbreaking, and when I eventually abandoned them in order to proceed, the panic in their expressions meant a piece of my soul stayed trapped with them. 

Scorn /
Kepler Interactive

Now that I’ve told you how emotionally damaged I am thanks to Scorn, it’s time to complain again, but this time it’s the game’s combat that has incurred my displeasure. 

Now, at first glance, it may seem as though Scorn simply doesn’t need combat. However, until the weapons show up, it’s not a very scary experience, as no real threats appear. Sure, the environments are creepy, and there’s nowhere in the game that feels nice, but it’s hard to feel truly afraid unless death is present. After all, it’s a vital reminder that progress can be halted, and the fear of a game being unbeatable is always the scariest thing in a horror title, right?

When adversaries hit the scene, the weapons used to combat them aren’t perfect by any stretch, which is no doubt intentional. There’s a sort of pneumatic hammer/gun/thing which packs a decent punch but has a limited range, meaning you have to get right up in the enemy’s grill to inflict damage. Then there’s a handgun weapon, which I advise using sparingly as ammo is not plentiful in Scorn

Scorn /
Kepler Interactive

The weapons are mostly fine, but the real issue is how the game controls. When walking cautiously through derelict halls, it’s no issue that the player character is a bit stiff - if anything, it adds to it. However, the lack of fluidity when fighting enemies is annoying. Not scary. Not immersive. Annoying. 

The amount of times I died because an enemy out-manouvred me was infuriatingly high - albeit not as annoying as the two times I was shot behind a wall(!) - and the autosave points aren’t generous in Scorn, so each demise was further exacerbated by the long walk back. 

In the end, I opted for a cat-and-mouse approach, baiting enemies into areas where I had the advantage, or waiting for them to complete their patrol and leave the area in question. As Scorn employs elements of the survival horror genre, it’s not too surprising that the combat feels almost antiquated, but I can’t help but wonder if the game needs a touch up in some areas. Having said that, I triumphed over the troublesome sections eventually so maybe I should wonder about something else.

Scorn /
Kepler Interactive

At the time of writing I’m still not sure how I feel about Scorn. It’s an immersive game with some excellent sound designs, an aesthetic that will thrill many, and an atmosphere that’s sublime at times.

However, the problematic puzzles and combat kill the mood in a game that’s all about the mood, and that’s hard to overlook. At no point should I pause a horror game and say to myself “I just want it to be over” unless I’m referring directly to the fear it’s instilling in me. Then there’s the section of the game I referred to that tore through my conscience like a circular saw through a… I’ll leave that simile unfinished.

It’s undeniably that Scorn achieves something all horror games aspire to, but it’s not quite up to the standards of the horror genre’s best (which is Resident Evil 2, if you ask me). That being said, fans of dread-filled atmospheres and H. R. Giger-inspired aesthetics will not want to miss this one, so long as you have the emotional resolve required.

Pros: Atmosphere, sound design, incredibly immersive

Cons: long-winded puzzles, stiff combat, just a bit much emotionally

For fans of: Alien franchise, Amnesia, Outlast games

7/10: Very Good

Scorn releases for PC (version tested) and Xbox Series X/S. Code provided by the publisher. Find a complete guide to GAMINGbible's review scores here.

Featured Image Credit: Kepler Interactive

Topics: PC