Scorn has a uniquely fascinating world that uses body horror and disturbing monsters to tell a story that kept me guessing until the end! Mechanical puzzles were pretty challenging, but the otherworldly creatures were nothing like I've ever seen before.
- Sound is not required to experience the story
- Xbox controller support
- Remapping available for keyboard and mouse
- No Tutorials/Tips
- Sluggish controls and overwhelming combat
- Puzzle progression has no internal logic
- Useless inventory
Fight for your life as you escape a nightmare world made of flesh and bone! Scorn is a first-person horror puzzle game created by Serbian developers Ebb Software. It was released on Xbox Series X/S and PC, the Steam version is the one I’m reviewing. Scorn has a very high difficulty and it’s macabre visuals are not for the faint of heart!
The game takes place in a surreal biomechanical fortress and the surrounding areas. Scorn’s gameplay mainly consists of puzzle solving, fast-paced combat, and exploration. Players will control a skinless humanoid main character using strange organic weapons to defeat disturbing monsters throughout the environment. Scorn throws players into it’s bizarre world with very little context as they explore interconnected areas.
Bare Bones Menu
Much like how the story gives little to go on, Scorn doesn’t offer many gameplay options either. When booting up the game, I noticed three things including the credits, which were options to start a new game, load a game save, or access settings. Scorn doesn’t let you manually save, but it has an autosave system at certain checkpoints.
The settings menu showed individual tabs for the controls, video, audio, and language options. The Video tab had a brightness slider and there’s one Master Volume setting under the Audio tab. When I checked the Language tab, I saw at least twenty eight languages available, but this mainly changes the menu font because Scorn has no audible dialogue.
The Controls tab is where I found customizable options for the mouse and keyboard, camera settings, and controller options. Scorn does have controller support here, specifically for Xbox devices. (some players report issues when trying to use PlayStation or third-party controllers.)
Full disclosure, I was gifted a copy of this game and I was also able to play a pre-alpha demo of Scorn four years ago. I will fully admit that Scorn is not necessarily my type of game, although I love horror and very much enjoy experiencing games from all over the world. Having said that, Scorn was very difficult for me to play not just because of the tough combat, but also because of the chaotic puzzle progression.
Puzzles Are Perilous
There was an immediate lack of direction after I started the game and opened up a few sections of the map. It quickly became difficult for me to understand where to go or what to do next. Trying to navigate some of the puzzles’ controls wasn’t very seamless either.
Every directional button, plus holding down at least one other button is required for some puzzles, which felt needlessly complex. Although combat wasn’t introduced for a good while, I was constantly taken out of the experience (after getting stuck on a particularly challenging crane puzzle) by needing to look up information online for any semblance of a clue.
There’s no rhyme or reason to the difficulty of a puzzle, except that they usually give an item or allow players to move to the next section of the map. Thankfully, I didn’t notice many puzzles that also forced you to engage in combat while completing them. However, most puzzles required me to interact with different objects, in multiple locations, usually far away from where I was at the time. Some puzzles took less than 5 minutes to complete while others took up to 30 minutes!
Isolated and Lost
Players with visual impairments and those with cognitive disabilities will have the most trouble playing Scorn. Most of the game’s map consists of bizarre rooms with walls made of viscera and unfamiliar machinery–things that are not easy to remember.
There is technically an inventory system available in the game, but it’s not very intuitive. When accessed, the inventory only showed me what items I had collected and that’s it. If I wanted to know what any of the items were or what they did, then I was out of luck because the game didn’t offer any information there.
Due to the fact that Scorn doesn’t have any kind of reminders or tutorial whatsoever, I suspect many players will hit a wall when it comes to puzzle progression too. I can totally respect that Scorn is a game designed to challenge people, but at least having optional tips would have been a huge help for disabled gamers.
I didn’t fare too well with the combat in Scorn either. The keyboard and mouse can be customized for combat controls, but this doesn’t include the mouse scroll wheel. I’ve heard many players describe Scorns combat as “too slow”, and I agree, though my main issues with it has to do with the frequency of enemies and the sluggish controls.
After completing a few of the first main puzzles, I acquired something that resembled a melee weapon (I’ll call it the Meat-gun). The Meat-gun has a flesh like appendage that protrudes from the barrel, which can be fired and retracted to impale enemies. Eventually, I also found a more traditional gun that fired projectiles and I call it the Seed-pistol. The first enemies I encountered were passive drone-like creatures that moved in a pattern and we’re easy to put down. However, more aggressive monsters began to appear and they were tougher to deal with for sure.
Fighting with the Meat-gun proved challenging yet effective at first, until ranged variations of those enemies popped up. Ranged enemies shot acid from an impressive distance and worse still, they ran away as soon as I got close. Unfortunately, the Meat-gun has a very short range and after only two shots there’s a long recharge time. Waiting on the recharge made me very vulnerable to attacks. Using the Seed-pistol made it easier hitting enemies from afar, but it had an incredibly slow reload time and ammo was scarce.
Some players claim that enemies can be avoided entirely, but with my range of motion it was nearly impossible for me to get away from fast moving enemies. I’ll admit that this is a big improvement from the original demo, which had insta-kill enemies. However, creatures can still be overwhelming in the full version of Scorn. Also, with the game not having any difficulty levels to choose from I just don’t expect it to be easy for many disabled gamers with fine-motor impairments to play.
The Sounds of Silence
One largely positive thing about Scorn is how it handles sound design. Like I mentioned before, there’s no audible dialogue in the game and the only legible font is on the menu screen. This means experiencing Scorn is unique, and done through the visuals and game mechanics. I would even argue Deaf/HoH players could have an easier time playing the game because of this.
Like most horror games the soundtrack does a good job of building tension and atmosphere. However, I noticed most unexpected noises were just distractions from real threats. In this way, Deaf/HoH players could use that to their advantage during combat. Deaf players will still have to deal with the challenging combat, but completing puzzles never require sound.
Since there are no tutorials or tips in the game, some players will have trouble completing complicated puzzles in Scorn. Weapons have slow response time and fast moving enemies will prove difficult for those dealing with fatigue. Thankfully, Deaf players should have an easy time experiencing the story because of the lack of audible dialogue.