Scorn’s entire intent seems to be to disgust, disturb, and unsettle players through its gruesome imagery of fleshy corridors and disturbing biomechanical monsters. On this benchmark, the game seems to be very successful — a game that I and my usually pretty strong gag reflex have struggled to see from the earliest trailers. It’s a gross-looking game, but its grossness is delightful.
Developer Ebb Software says it drew on the work of Swiss artist HR Giger and Polish painter, photographer and sculptor Zdzisław Beksiński in building a world that is part flesh, part machine — injecting Giger’s biomechanical art style into Beksiński’s counter-intuitive Utopian Surrealism. Composers Billain Aethek and Brian Williams wrote Scorn’s soundtrack, and it’s really the only thing you hear throughout the run, as Scorn has no dialogue to (not) talk about. Instead, the entire story is told through the game’s environment.
In Scorn, you play a nameless man who has become isolated in a disturbing place where sticky living tissue and twisted machinery are combined in an uncanny relationship that, at its very essence, Seems to be symbiotic. Contempt has some first-person shooter moments and elements of horror, but the game focuses more on puzzle solving and exploration than action or scaring.
Scorn has an incredible visual style – the game has been instantly recognizable to me since it debuted in 2014. The incompletely alive but definitely undead nature of everything orchestrates the uncanny feeling that the protagonist is never truly alone. Even the walls give the impression that they might be watching you, leading you to something weird and scary. Scorn looks and sounds like my favorite horror game: an experience that really makes you unsettled, rather than trying to make you terrified with frequent jumping frights. The sick part of my brain that loves these kinds of games can’t understand how Scorn looks and sounds.
The lack of dialogue further supports the unsettling feel of Scorn’s graphics, but it seems to go a long way towards helping Ebb Software’s goal of making the game an experience that’s primarily about discovery and exploration. There doesn’t seem to be anyone or anything in Scorn that will tell you what to do or give you a detailed explanation of what’s going on – hardly any kind of guidance. There aren’t many ways the narrative is set up either, so you don’t really understand where you are or what you’re supposed to do. You have to discover this for yourself, finding your way forward by finding the solution to the puzzle.
I think the goal of Contempt is to run away from wherever you are – whether it’s hell, an alien planet, some kind of scary sight or whatever – but I really can’t tell you if that’s the case. The game doesn’t give you anything, relying on your blind curiosity to keep you going.
This is not a new concept at all. The Soulsborne game from Software is probably the most famous example of a game that does a lot of showing and almost never tells, requiring players to spend dozens of hours piecing together what happened before the story begins and what it’s about what you should do next . There are plenty of other examples where it’s hard to discern narrative straight lines — especially early in the story — like Hollow Knight, The Insider, and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
However, Scorn’s storytelling and level design can be a little too obscure. It’s too early to say for sure. GameSpot has only shown the opening part of the game in this preview, so there’s a good chance that Scorn’s plot and what you should do to beat the game will become more coherent later on (given that’s the case) there are a lot of games with unclear stories, I think it’s true here). Anyway, it’s too unfair to judge the whole game based on the opening time, so I won’t do that.
13 minutes of exclusive Xbox Series X Scorn gameplay
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But I can criticize what I’ve seen, and it’s a game that has largely left me confused about what players are after. My biggest problem is that it doesn’t quite convince me to want to see more. Maybe I’m just missing a hidden detail or two, but I didn’t know Scorn had a story other than getting lost in a disturbing world. Ideally, I want a little more, like a mystery to solve or a threat to fail or a moral to learn.And, of course, contempt Can Include any or all of these narrative threads, but the game doesn’t seem to even hint at any of them from the start.
So Scorn appears to be a showcase for a truly disturbing world created by Ebb Software. While the world is interesting and looks interesting to explore for a while, I don’t believe this ostensible curiosity will lure me to play the full game. There might be something really cool about Scorn, I wish there was, but if it’s there, Ebb Software has done a good job hiding it, and the studio has effectively blocked my investment in the game. While Scorn’s visuals and audio are incredible, for now, they just aren’t enough for me. I wanted a little more narrative meat on these rough looking bones.
Scorn is scheduled to launch on Xbox Series X|S and PC on October 21st. The game will also be available on day one of Xbox Game Pass.
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