Scorn Review

Giger counter.
Scorn Header

Scorn has been eagerly awaited for years now. The initial concept images attracted mass attention through their striking combination of European artists H.R.Giger and Zdzislaw Beksinski; sporting a nightmarish blend of organic and technological body parts and protuberances  to offer up a vision of a truly alien world. For a number of years that was all there was, but happily for horror fans, Ebb Software has finished their game just in time for Halloween. Naturally I strapped myself in, took a deep breath to steady my nerves, and got ready to immerse myself in Scorn’s squishy delights.

The aesthetics of Scorn are exceptionally well defined – the oozing and slimy surfaces mixed with alien technologies give the game a style that is equal to the sum of its influences. Everything that you interact with has a disgustingly tactile feel with your avatar’s hands being subjected to more unpleasantness than Ethan Winters.

While interactive objects are visually distinct and generally easy to identify from the surrounding environment there is almost no guidance given as to what they will do. The game is entirely dialogue free and Ebb Software have also taken the bold choice to provide no written or audio logs either. Everything that there is to learn about the world of Scorn has to be gleaned from the world you explore and the game deliberately doesn’t provide any clear answers as to what the hell is going on.

Scorn Preview

You mostly immerse yourself within environmental puzzles, many of which involve working out the order in which to push a series of levers, or finding alien objects to insert into disturbing orifices. On their own, these puzzles are fine, but wouldn’t be enough to carry the game. Taken together, though, they create a surreal world that has a logic of its own that you have to engage with to progress.

Getting stuck while trying to understand the workings of this world can disrupt the game’s pace, but fortunately none of them are so hard as to put players off. An early example sees you having to find a (literal) helping hand to open a door with two control panels. Without spoiling the solution itself, you are left with a choice of two paths to take, both of which will leave you feeling guilty about the consequences. It is a shame, though, that this was the only puzzle with alternative solutions, even though I can see why Ebb focused on more linear design in general.

Partway through the game you’ll find your first weapon – a pneumatic drill of sorts that is used as both offensive weapon and tool to solve puzzles. The first rounds of combat require you to use this close range attack but the enemies you face are a little spongy in one case and overly accurate in the other. The first look like inside-out dogs with phallic heads, whilst the latter are a mixture of anatomy manual and poultry. Across the game as a whole, there are only around 7 or 8 different enemy types but fortunately combat is never the real focus. That being said, there are a number of situations where shooting your way out is the only option, and the controls could be smoother here. Later weapons do improve matters a lot but it often felt that combat was included out of necessity rather than design.

Scorn Combat

The one boss fight in Scorn is a clear example of being trapped within the traditional construct of a ‘game’. Playing out like something ripped from a survival horror title such as Silent Hill or Dead Space, there is nothing exactly wrong with it, but it feels massively out of place with the mechanics and tone of the rest of the game.

Managing ammunition and health recovery is a key part of the latter two thirds of the game, but even this feels like an expected addition rather than central to Ebb Software’s vision. I would probably have preferred the game to remove the combat entirely. It is possible that a patch or mod might offer this option later – as was the case with the excellent SOMA – but at the moment there is no way to avoid much of the fighting.

Scorn is a fairly short experience, my playthrough unlocking all achievements in under 5 hours. For me, that’s enough to fulfil almost everything I hoped from it, but this is also the kind of game that many will bounce off or not be willing to try – being on Game Pass will help for fence sitters.

Scorn Machinery

Thankfully, game performance on PC has been significantly optimised since our preview last month, now running smoothly at a pretty constant 60fps at 1080p with a Ryzen 3600 and RTX 2060 (a good build but not cutting edge). There’s plenty of expected graphics options, so you can change the always divisive Depth of Field or disable excessive motion blur to suit your tastes.

Scorn is clearly a labour of grotesque love, feeling unlike almost any other game out there. The alien are satisfying, the lack of handholding adds to the sense of a hostile world, and the nihilistic drive of the game in subjecting your character to further degradation really makes it stand out. It is a game that will live long in the memory, but it is the very definition of a divisive experience.
  • Hugely distinctive aesthetic
  • Some well designed puzzles
  • Amazing evocation of an alien world
  • Disgustingly oozy and tangible feel
  • Combat is clunky
  • Checkpoints are unclear
  • Fairly short playtime
Written by
Just your average old gamer with a doctorate in Renaissance literature. I can mostly be found playing RPGs, horror games, and oodles of indie titles. Just don't ask me to play a driving game.


  1. “There’s plenty of expected graphics options, so you can change the always divisive Depth of Field or disable excessive motion blut to suit your tastes.”

    What is this BLUT to which to you refer?

    • Ah – this is a special setting that only applies to body horror experiences; Blut being the Germanic stem word for blood of course.

      Or, a typo…

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