Scars Above Review
For a game as promising as it looked, Scars Above starts with an emphatic blockbuster feel that slowly cascades to a rushed finish, ultimately feeling unsettled within its own lore. For a campaign that only lasts six hours, the title itself seemed to entail some lofty elements that would promulgate a lengthy action-packed third person adventure across the untitled Strange Planet. The introduction to the campaign gives us little to go by, connecting with a fleet of hopefuls upon the Hermes, and our main protagonist Kate Ward. The astronaut and her crew embark on a research expedition to learn of creatures that inhabit the extra-terrestrial planet, gauging fact on their attributes and how they survive.
The outlier within Scars Above being that it closely resembles a mixture of recent titles but makes little to no effort in knowing our characters and their connection to one another, a common trope that’s become a serious concern within cinematic games as of late. We’re given little to no knowledge of our group, but are evidently thrown into the deep end of the unknown without probable cause. It’s a jarring experience that gets the adrenaline pumping for the first couple of hours, as you explore this depleted and dystopian planet that seems auspicious to even tread upon, but we somehow manage to wake there with a mission in mind. Of course, there’s a catalyst that deploys the crew of scientists on their adventure.
As we traverse the Uncharted terrace in hopes of finding the Hermes, the SCARS – short for Sentient Contact Assessment and Response – are separated, with Kate following an apparition of what can only be described as an anthropomorphic-like alien, almost human. She stumbles across a shelter supposedly made by her commander after his belongings are left there. This leads her to believe the Hermes crew may have met an unfortunate demise after the spacecraft crashed on the planet. But there is hope after she receives an emergency signal. Kate follows Commander Robinson’s trail that lead through a bacterial infested river, where is she is then confronted by the Alluvial King, the source of Commander Robinson’s signal. Fighting off the alien, by targeting three glowing warts on its mutated flesh, she discovers that the creature was indeed her Commander.
Researching the Alluvial King’s corpse, she finds Robinson’s DNA is attached to it, after it had been transferred and infested with bileworms that began to decay then mutate his human form. The waters that she had crossed to get to the signal were the source of the bileworms that may have resulted in Robinson’s mutation after the crash landing. Onwards, Kate learns more about the planet and a cataclysmic event that seemed to have wiped the planet of some alien life. The apparition appears once again to tell Kate that the aliens were their people, and that the figure responsible for the massacre wiping out their species was known as The Custodian. With hope of other ship mates survival, the apparition guides Kate toward the Hermes not before taking her to the Grassy Plains where she’s told of the old world, a time before the planet itself was a peaceful place.
So with the plot outlined, we’re thrown into the campaign’s gameplay loop which at first is somewhat exciting to experience. A fleshed out array of weaponry to discover, a myriad of alien enemies to confront, and a slew of hostile boss baddies to blow up. But it begins to be repetitive after the first hour or so, and this is where my interest began to plummet. The colloquy and crafting that prefaces your expedition upon the strange planet gives us little to go by in connection to what our mission statement is. It’s straightforward, and barebones summary leaves more to be desired, and nothing upon its own deliverance. The SLD-36 Welder, also known as the Vera is your main piece of kit to carry across the planet, while looking for attachments to upgrade the weapon. Melee attacks are supported by a ‘cutter’, which was a blade that reminded me of a buster sword just hand axe-sized.
It’s basic button mashing swings were quite cumbersome, and a pattern that was monotonous to adjust with. You won’t use it past the beginning of the game, so don’t worry too much about that. As you begin to explore the lineal campaign, you will be confronted by beasts and creatures of many iteration, but of similar ilk. Mutants of many forms that will spout, spit or shoot bile toward Kate. Some will simply use their mammoth mitts and swing for the fences, while Kate will have to evade attacks by rolling or running to get out of dodge. Kate’s Vera will come with assorted elemental variations that will damage respective enemies through different biomes. Enemies that lay within deep waters are perfect to attack with electricity, while you utilise a chain-combo to freeze them, or even light them on fire.
How I got these Scars...
✔️ Interesting concepts for a tight-nit campaign.
✔️ Entails a great aura and aesthetic.
❌ Too short. Six hours is not enough to flesh it out.
❌ Too easy. With its length comes a sacrifice of difficulty and compounds ideas.
Interactive environments such as glowing growths on the planet’s surface acts as sticky grenades that can be activated by shooting them. They may either explode, or cause a spark to a flame and burn a hoard of lingering foes. However, while you may capitalise on this feature, it becomes a game of checkers-to-chess, simplifying the game’s difficulty with enemies trying their damndest to destroy you, but after a couple of hours, it’s no use as you discover that you’re almost invincible with your newfound capabilities.
The crux of it becoming a repetitive jaunt that’s easily beatable without thought or process. The beginning stages are of some variety which makes engagement a little more enticing, but after understanding the gameplay loop, and becoming acclimated to combos, elements and the environment’s advantages, strips any stifle or bottlenecking and leaves the player to their own devices, including a shield that is only good for five hits, but almost unnecessary in the long scheme of things.
Checkpoints are a plenty, and allows you to replenish your health while quickly checking inventory. Markings on the screen will direct Kate the right way, but it’s not too hard to gauge where you’re going with confined areas guiding you, but also restricting or gating you within altercations, which become more of an impediment than a proposed impasse. The game settles on some interesting takes on aesthetic and aura that’s laden or tropes are attached within sci-fi space adventures. The only issues are depth and design that are lacking somewhat. There are barren areas that are trying to tell a tale of being abandoned, but are rather bland to venture through. Rather, engaging on fetch quests to collect ammunition is what they’re primarily designed for, or elongating the campaign’s path itself. But as it stands from a design standpoint, the game could have been dealt with a some detail that gave our characters a more lifelike quality, rather than the smoothed out textures that are reminiscent of generations prior.
Scars Above may be a little on the repetitive side, and sure it’s not perfect. I wouldn’t say it’s not worth trying out, but I would also classify it somewhere between a quick fix to expect nothing too lofty. The characters are forgettable, the story is not important, and its mission statement is worthless to its protagonist in the sense that there’s no goal to attain, rather a moral standard to which in a dire situation as this would be a judgement call, rather than any level headedness applied. I can’t complain as I still somewhat enjoyed my time traversing the strange planet and its unusual altercations, but the game itself without anything bountiful to buy into leaves more to be desired than it having left anything concrete toward a legacy.
Scars Above Review
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Scars Above is a challenging sci-fi third-person action adventure shooter combining the rewarding feel of overcoming difficulty with a compelling and intricate story, set in a mysterious alien world to explore.