Scorn Xbox review: Unsettling, atmospheric, and a bit slow

A hauntingly gorgeous sci-fi world, unlike anything you’ve seen before.

Scorn Character
(Image: © Windows Central)

Windows Central Verdict

Scorn presents one of the most visually striking and untouchably atmospheric game worlds in recent memory. Ebb Software also admirably challenges horror gameplay conventions and profoundly examines humanity's insatiable desires. Unfortunately, the crawling pace might deter players from seeing it through.

Pros

  • +

    + Untouchable atmosphere

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    + Disgusting, captivating world

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    + Cryptic, compelling experience

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    + Ethereal soundtrack

Cons

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    Molasses-like slow burn

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    Tedious combat segments

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    Repetitive puzzle design

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Scorn’s journey to release has been a lengthy one. This H.R. Giger-inspired psychological horror title was revealed in 2016 and originally planned to launch alongside the Xbox Series X|S. Genre enthusiasts like myself remained eager to inject themselves into the juicy environments Ebb Software demonstrated in the trailers leading up to launch. After a handful of delays and years of anticipation, Scorn has finally made its unsettling debut.   

I’ve spent the last week exploring the atmospheric world crafted by Ebb Software. As a tremendous fan of other H.R. Giger-influenced works like Alien, I entered my initial playthrough expecting a cacophony of repulsive imagery, unimaginable creatures, and otherworldly architecture. On those fronts, Scorn powerfully delivers. However, I imagine even some diehard horror advocates will find themselves conflicted with the overall gameplay and pacing of the title.  

While Scorn is undoubtedly a gruesome jaunt through a series of unforgettable locales, it doesn’t fit within the confines of conventional horror. Ebb Software demands players carefully and laggardly investigate the ruins of a shattered civilization. Combat, scares, and cohesive narrative take a distant backseat to atmosphere and exploration. I thoroughly enjoyed the dismayingly disgusting moments and philosophical questions about the purpose of existence in Scorn, but reaching the poignant climax requires ample perseverance. 

Scorn: What you'll like  

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From the opening 30 seconds of discordant confusion and revolting morbid curiosities, Scorn's atmosphere completely and abjectly absorbed me. The humanoids, structures, tools, and corridors displayed felt familiar and human in nature, yet infectiously alien. I spent tremendous amounts of time awe-struck by the striking features of my haunting surroundings.   

Dense, cosmic fog and brilliantly executed lighting elevate every scene in Scorn. From trudging through hallways made of bone and moist flesh to the engrossing and unfathomable depths of brumous vistas, the visual presentation in this surrealist horror tile is unlike anything I've experienced in a game before. Despite the uniform nature of the bio-architecture in Scorn, every object and stray beam of light felt purposeful and meaningful to my discomforting expedition. 

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CategoryScorn
DeveloperEbb Software
PublisherKepler Interactive
GenreHorror
Install Size29.61 GB
Players1
Playtime6-8 hours
Release DateOctober 14, 2022
Price$40
PlatformsXbox Series X|S, PC
Xbox Game PassYes - Xbox and PC
Reviewed onPC

Like its atmosphere, Scorn's approach to narrative is shrouded in mystery. Players are granted absolutely nothing regarding dialogue, text, waypoints, or primary objectives. Ebb Software encourages participants to unabashedly delve into the puzzles and challenges posed throughout the six-to-eight-hour endeavor by using environmental clues and taking the time to understand the foreign fundamentals of this grotesque universe. 

(Image credit: Windows Central)

Without text documents or voice logs dictating my direction, I was forced to genuinely investigate my surroundings. Shocking mechanical devices seemingly designed to saw through skulls or scoop intestines served as more than simply environmental storytelling devices but as crucial hints for my progression. Not every puzzle solution was intuitively obvious, but in a time when games are loaded with objective markers and side quests, I found the simplicity of Scorn rather refreshing.  

To avoid spoilers, I won't be relinquishing many details on specific moments in Scorn. However, for gore junkies or general mavens of the macabre, this world is brimming with horrifyingly disgusting locations and appalling sequences of violence. If you're someone with an aversion to watching small creatures get blended into a paste or witnessing unspeakable beasts rend masses of flesh, I'd prepare those guts for a sensory assault. 

(Image credit: Windows Central )

Ebb Software cleverly utilized the potent artistic stylings of H.R. Giger and legacy interpretations of H.P. Lovecraft to construct an undeniably memorable campaign...

Despite the cryptic narrative direction, I found myself fascinated by the world of Scorn. Ebb Software cleverly utilized the potent artistic stylings of H.R. Giger and legacy interpretations of H.P. Lovecraft to construct an undeniably memorable campaign beautifully accompanied by an effective ethereal soundtrack. This experimental approach to storytelling probably won't connect with casual audiences. Still, it's tough to fault the team for taking worthwhile risks.   

What is our purpose? What is the value of human life? What are we expected to sacrifice for our happiness, society, or religion? These are the eternal questions posed by Scorn, and I can't wait to see the discussions and theories unfold online. 

Scorn: What you won't like  

(Image credit: Windows Central )

In many ways, the vivid visuals, confident sound design, and ambient music do a bulk of the heavy lifting in Scorn. And, for the first 50% or so of the game, that will have to be enough to keep you invested. You're gradually introduced to an array of puzzle mechanics and traditional enemy encounters with disturbing, living weaponry. Sadly, the molasses-like slow burn of the first several chapters severely damages the pacing of this psychological horror title.  

For some horror fans, "walking simulator" is frequently used to describe or downplay narrative-focused titles with little to no combat. The Medium is a recent example met with mixed opinions on its pacifist sensibilities. Scorn certainly doesn't fall into this camp. The experience features a respectable amount of traditional gunplay, with bio-weapon archetypes similar to handguns, shotguns, and grenade launchers. Fighting and killing certain enemies is required to survive and even progress. I appreciated the agency these weapons provided but walked away from Scorn mostly frustrated by the tedious combat segments.

(Image credit: Windows Central)

After dispatching the same few bulbous monstrosities in eerily resemblant situations, the combat quickly grew stale.

In classic survival-horror fashion, players are limited to small, set allotments of ammunition and healing. With occasional segments featuring several encroaching enemies, this required careful consideration with every shot. Discovering the nuances of each armament was initially stimulating and satisfying. However, after dispatching the same few bulbous monstrosities in eerily resemblant situations, the combat quickly grew stale.   

While Scorn boasts what would be described as customary action, puzzle-solving serves as the primary gameplay mechanic in this title. Early on, conundrums forcing the players to maneuver towering machinery and mutilate surviving entities presented compelling brainteasers with imaginative solutions. Much like the combat, though, the charm rapidly diminished, and repetitious puzzles seemingly padded the central areas of Scorn. This replication only furthered the slogging sense of progression for the first half of this otherwise captivating excursion. 

Scorn: Should you play?

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With Halloween right around the corner, we're in the midst of "Spooky Season." The October release date for a strange, disgusting game like Scorn makes perfect sense, and as an Xbox console exclusive launching straight into Xbox Game Pass, it's a low-risk offering for fans of the genre. Seasoned horror enthusiasts might find themselves disappointed by the lack of palpable scares in Scorn. Still, the gore and nightmarish imagery definitely scratch that itch.   

Regardless of my criticisms surrounding the pacing, combat, and puzzle design, it's impossible to ignore where Ebb Software's latest title succeeds. There are structures and environmental flourishes I will never forget in Scorn. The stunning presentation and uninhibited visual feast of a conclusion make this a unique video game well worth your investment. I can't say that Scorn is for everyone, but for those looking for a horror title that's equal parts gross and heady, it's a wild seven-hour science fiction odyssey. 

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Scorn  

Scorn is a cryptic horror journey oozing with unmatched atmosphere. For fans of the genre, Ebb Software delivered something haunting and fresh. Slow pacing might be a deal-breaker for some, but the climax is worth experiencing.  

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Miles Dompier is a Freelance Video Producer for Windows Central, focusing on video content for Windows Central Gaming. In addition to writing or producing news, reviews, and gaming guides, Miles delivers fun, community-focused videos for the Windows Central Gaming YouTube channel. Miles also hosts Xbox Chaturdays every Saturday, which serves as the Windows Central Gaming weekly podcast.