Scars Above Review
Even before jumping into Scars Above, I was interested in what type of game publisher Prime Matter and developer Mad Head Games — a company that I could only find to have made hidden objects games in the past — could create from a rather impressive gameplay trailer. After playing it for the first time, Scars Above is an above-average, lore-rich experience.
Scars Above is a third-person adventure shooter where you play as Dr. Kate Ward, an astronaut, scientist, and member of the Sentient Contact Assessment and Response (S.C.A.R). After her team interacts with a UFO dubbed the Metahedron, they’re left stranded in a mysterious world. Throughout the game, you must search for your missing teammates while the indigenous lifeforms try to kill you. Along your travels across interweaving territories, you’ll uncover the origin of the Metahedron and the fall of an ancient civilisation that once resided on the planet.
Starting the game with only an industrial electric cutter as well as a gun that shoots electric arcs, you unlock new ammunition by discovering naturally formed organisms that produce specific element types. The first plant you’ll find produces flammable projectiles; equipped with your gun after interacting with a bench near you.
Using benches to upgrade your weapons has become a common trait in videogames nowadays, as it helps with progression; however, Scars Above decides to give up on using benches once you find the ingenious ‘cocooned worms that drip cryogenic extract. At this point the game just gives you the adaptor for cryo shells — displaying a 3-D printer you hold a button to use.
The immersive world of Scars Above genuinely pulls the player into the game’s surroundings with its stunning visuals. The world-building, environments, and backgrounds — some previewing future areas to explore — bring out one of the better traits in the game, from the misty mountains, to swamps and grasslands where passive bovine-like creatures graze. Playing as a scientist, your first encounter with scannable structures and downed monsters will give you experience percentage points as well as some background information, with some entries displayed as audio files. Experience is also gained by finding one-time purple, glowing cubes, and defeating enemies.
Scars Above does have a skill progression tree, with perks that help with item management and the numerous boss fights. Some of the skills help; for instance, by providing improved health and ammo capacity buffs. Fighting off the aggressive creatures will keep you on your feet; you’ll need to switch between each ammo type as some enemies have glowing weak points that indicate which element will ‘pop’ the colourful pustules. The environment can also be used to deal significant damage to the creatures, for example, enemies in the tutorial swamp area will be weak to electric and frost ammo. However, the placement of every monster and ammo plant doesn’t change, which forces the player to remember where everything is, and when certain enemies will ambush you.
The array of creatures to fight include weak spider types, slug-acid spitters, heavy hitting apes (with a variation of armoured with rock or without rock), as well as the creatures that are on the scale between poorly designed hound to generic bosses. While fighting in Scars Above is meant to be kept in separated spaces, generally, combat consists of entering the enemy’s detection radius where you back away from them, until you pass the invisible barrier the creature can’t pass. They’ll then sit on the barrier to let you shoot them in the face while in static animation. The animations and lip-syncing to audio don’t always match up, but it doesn’t affect the overall generic experience while most of the time I was playing, I had to take breaks to read the ‘logs’ to try to find out where I was meant to go on occasion.
Scars Above artistically and narratively (not just the quality of them both but the almost board-meeting approved graphic style) reminds me of a mid-2010’s Syfy movie/TV series, like the game is meant to be some type of pre-sequel tie-in like Defiance had for its first season. It also doesn’t help that the tutorial swamp area is a near carbon copy of the setting of the planet Dagobah from Star Wars. Not to bring it down to basic commercial pandering from the whiteboards of a brain-storming session, but a game with every valued, almost essential mechanic in a third-person sci-fi adventure makes it seem more artificial than original. Except Scars Above isn’t a tie-in or a cash-grab. Rather a new IP which I believe could be a gem waiting to mature with time, regular bug fixes, and content updates. Unfortunately, right now, Scars Above is what I would think of if someone asked me to describe a generic sci-fi videogame.
Scars Above (Reviewed on Windows)
This game is good, with a few negatives.
Scars Above is a game that will help you turn off for a few hours, without needing to be challenged by gameplay while being entertained by the visuals and storyline — if your eyes haven’t glazed over by then.