A boring walk through Macabre art
Have you ever seen the art for classic Tool album covers? Like Lateralus or 10,000 Days? They’re psychedelic pieces of art that always explore an odd aspect of the human anatomy. They’re trippy, highly detailed, and designed so that they pull your eyeballs in and don’t let them go.
Scorn is a long, boring jaunt through an interactive Tool album cover.
The entire experience is trippy, highly detailed, and vaguely human. During your journey, you’ll be confused and disgusted and lose track of how many times you say, “What the !@#$ is that?”
We found Scorn to be a profound disappointment. In all of 2022, only one game was more of a letdown than Scorn, and we no longer speak its name. Scorn was hyped up to be a survival horror set in one of the most unique and twisted universes to grace the video game industry. Trailers showed combat, exploration, and players interacting with strange alien technology.
However, trailers were wise to leave out any mention of puzzles, lack of story, or how much time is spent simply running around a dead landscape.
Scorn isn’t much game, as there’s hardly any gameplay. It is, however, a visually stunning walk through grotesque alien artwork.
If you’re looking for intense gameplay, crazy enemies, customization, scavenging, boss fights, and a story to keep you up at night, play Dead Space some more.
If you want a slow burn of an experience, to ponder the futility of life and the utility of pain, and if you have a weird kink for pregnant alien chicks, Scorn may be the game for you.
Story & concept
There isn’t a story in Scorn. If someone tries to tell you there is, they’re a liar, and you shouldn’t trust them.
There are beats in Scorn, though. Some events take place but are not in sequential order; they are ambiguous at best and always open to interpretation.
If you see a YouTube video or an article of someone saying, “Scorn Story Breakdown,” they are merely sharing their opinions; there is no story to break down.
That said, some themes run throughout Scorn. And even though the game is left open to player interpretation, many bright gamers seem to hold the same opinion of what the developers were trying to communicate with their macabre body horror world.
Here are a couple of points everyone seems to agree on:
- Scorn follows an ancient alien civilization on the brink of total annihilation.
- There are multiple protagonists that players will control.
- The alien civilization was working to combat their imminent doom, though whether that doom came at their own hands or the hands of another is unclear.
- The protagonists are some of the last surviving members of this alien species. Everything players do throughout the story could be seen as an attempt to either resurrect the dead civilization or move on toward the next phase in evolution.
Throughout the game, the protagonist will be coopted by an alien that appears to be parasitic in nature. Though this creature helps the protagonist through several obstacles, it is most likely this parasitic creature that brought about the doom of this race.
Pain, pregnancy, and childbirth are symbolized heavily throughout the game. There is no obstacle that you can overcome without paying the price in pain. There are so many times you interact with a body/doll/robot thing that resembles a pregnant woman. And over and over again, you deal with eggs, newborn beings, or sad miscarriages.
So, after having absorbed all the themes present and studying the iconography of alien architecture throughout Scorn, one might say the game is about an alien civilization on the brink of destruction as they desperately try to impregnate themselves to carry their race beyond their current tragedies.
But in the end, the themes of pain, loss, and miscarriage overwhelm the theme of childbirth.
As I said, this game makes you think about the futility of life and the utility of pain. Kinda heavy.
The visuals of Scorn are the most impressive aspects of the game to us. It is literal art. It’s like H.G. Geiger’s wet dream come to life.
At the beginning of Scorn, the graphics and visuals tell their own story. A desolate landscape, empty, barren. Yet, at one point, a highly technical and wildly popular area. Every machine you encounter seems infected with something. Stringy, decayed flesh covers most surfaces, making buildings and machinery appear life-like.
If you cover just about anything in realistic flesh, it’ll appear life-like. But the impressive graphics of Scorn turn that fleshy, macabre horror into something vaguely alive.
You find places devoid of this fleshy parasite as you continue through the setting. By the end of the game, you enter into sanctums that are pure stone, with no flesh to be seen.
Since the setting of Scorn was given more importance than the gameplay or story, it shows. The design and graphics of Scorn are breathtaking in their presentation. The setting of Scorn is as much, if not more, of a character than the protagonists are. And the only way you’ll get hints about whatever story Scorn has to tell is by paying attention to your surroundings.
Sound & atmosphere
When we purchased Scorn, it came with a soundtrack for the game. 17 different tracks.
Here’s the weird thing: Scorn has no music. So when you boot up that soundtrack, it’s just weird atmospheric noises: the hum of machines and engines, a clang in the background, a pipe pushing steam somewhere. That’s it.
Don’t get us wrong, that lack of sound somehow enhances the confusion of Scorn’s experience. It would almost be weirder to hear music while going through this alien hellscape. What kind of music could capture this dead ambiance? There isn’t a kind of music that would work here.
But what does work here?
Tense silence that’s only broken by weird, distant sounds too distorted to make out.
The visuals already make a fairly complete atmosphere by themselves. But the emptiness of sound, the low hum of something working somewhere, only benefits the twisted atmosphere.
Ah, yes, the nuts and bolts of any video game.
This is Scorn’s most disappointing aspect: the sheer lack of gameplay.
There are two main aspects to what a small amount of engagement Scorn can offer: puzzles and walking. Scorn is one long puzzle. Since the game tells you nothing about mechanics, features, what to do, or where to go, the entire campaign is puzzle-like. You’ll spend more time figuring out where to go next than actually doing anything. What’s worse is the puzzles are alien puzzles, as if regular human puzzles aren’t hard enough.
Aside from figuring out where to go and what to do (and literally everything else), Scorn is a game where you run around. A lot. It’s a big world to explore. And you explore it in multiple ways through different sets of eyes, so it’s doubly big.
Through the gameplay, players will experience the themes of Scorn, and everyone can come to their own conclusion. Is the point of Scorn to display the uselessness of life and force gamers to feel it firsthand? Is it to illustrate what the last throws of an alien dynasty felt as they desperately tried to solve for zero? Is it to show us, for the first time in the history of video games, what an alien dick looks like?
Perhaps. Perhaps all of the above.
It’s up to you to decide.
For us, Scorn sits at the bottom of the spectrum regarding its replay factor.
While we honestly wouldn’t mind a short jaunt through the twisted painscape created by H.G. Geiger, we don’t want to experience all of Scorn again.
It’s not like other horror titles—Outlast, Dead Space, The Forest, that was so adrenaline-filled that we only focused on sprinting to the finish line. We know we missed the story’s secrets, items, and aspects in those titles. In Scorn, we know we experienced everything it had to offer, and we have no desire to go back and experience it again.
Scorn belongs more in an interactive art exhibit than it does on a video game console. It’s wildly imaginative and immersive. The themes are mysterious and macabre. What substance it offers feels foreign and ill and totally unique. But it fails to deliver much more than a haunting atmosphere. The enemies aren’t memorable, there’s no dialogue to relate to, and the combat is minimal.
That said, Scorn is interesting. We aren’t sure we’d recommend biting the bullet and purchasing a copy, but its artwork is more than worth the time it takes to look up.
If you’re looking for survival horror, Scorn isn’t it; otherwise, it may be what you’re looking for if you want a fleshy Rubik’s cube of pain and stillbirth.