Available on: Xbox Series X and Series S, PC
Developer: Ebb Software | Publisher: Kepler Interactive
Release time: Oct. 21, 2022
H.R. Giger, a Swiss artist, is most recognized for creating the Alien franchise’s unique, frightening design. Giger combined biology, mechanical, and sensual images to create the series’ eponymous Alien monsters. The Xenomorph is a massive monster that is meant to convey primitive familiarity with its phallic head and vaguely humanoid body, but also an unsettling foreignness due to its machine-like exoskeleton. The Xenomorph’s uncanny valley is what makes him feel so, well, strange.
However, Alien was never truly about H.R. Giger’s work. In actuality, the film’s most prominent themes are far from alien: ordinary workers forced to suffer for the insatiable greed of megacorporations, dread of the unknown, the moral responsibility of science, and motherhood (Ripley and the Alien Queen are both, after all, mothers). These mundanely human themes are what made 1979’s “Alien” such a revolutionary sci-fi film. Alien was about truckers in space, in a genre that was normally viewed from the lofty perspective of a Starfleet officer or a Jedi Knight.
Scorn a first-person horror game developed by Ebb Software and released by Kepler Interactive, is not about truckers in space. I felt like I was going through a gallery of H.R. Giger’s paintings as I explored the nightmare universe of “Scorn.” It was an odd and at times breathtaking title. However, elements of the sloppy map design, rushed fighting mechanisms, and a particularly dramatic set piece in the game’s closing act made me yearn for a more concentrated, shorter journey — and even a more prominent trigger warning.
On the Kickstarter page for Scorn, Ebb described the game’s concept as “being tossed into the world.” (This is most likely a reference to German philosopher Martin Heidegger, who wrote about exactly that; “Dasein,” after Heidegger’s existential idea of being, was the original title of “Scorn.”) You take on the role of a hairless humanoid who awakens in a horrific yet brilliantly portrayed biomechanical environment. Walls that resemble taut sinew are supported by beams and rafters that resemble bones. Flaps of flaky, skin-like fabric dangle in tatters from the ceilings. Decrepit, skeletal machines are propelled by gunmetal intestinal tracts and steered by consoles rippling with industrial blood vessels. The desolate landscapes and towering, imposing structures obviously pay homage to the Polish artist Zdzislaw Beksiski.
Scorn Trailer and Official Release Date
Your character enters “Scorn” naked and uninformed, and you are no better off as the player. The game has a simple UI that disappears after you exit fight, and neither the creatures nor the locations you visit have names in-game. There is no conversation, quest log, inventory, or map. There are no evident aims or ambitions to achieve. The only thing you can do is move forward – because you can, in classic existential fashion. The numerous problems you’ll come across can only be solved by trial and error. “Scorn” achieves its concept of “being flung into the world” through this simple technique.
Scorn is a cinematic experience. Other critics will no doubt delve into Scorn for its buried high-minded commentary on the human condition, but the game’s attraction for me is how it made me feel rather than think.