The Sci-fi genre has started to interest more and more people over the years, and with the demand, there are a good bunch of new projects being released related to a theme, that can be quite tricky to get right. The success of Returnal cemented this statement and with them, many were inspired and tried to drink ideas to create their own worlds. Scars Above comes a little along those lines, at least in terms of visuals and atmosphere, since its gameplay it’s quite different.
Scars Above follows the story of a team of astronauts, more precisely one of its elements, Kate, who was tasked with studying a strange artifact that appeared near earth. After an event that transports the entire team to an alien planet, Kate wakes up with no memory of what happened and separated from her team. Her mission from that point on becomes a search for answers to what happened. Guided by a humanoid alien hologram, Kate will have to make her way through different locations full of hostile animals, while looking for her companions and getting involved in an extraterrestrial mystery that thickens. I confess that, during the first few hours, the game leaves the player completely to their own luck, without much development in terms of story to feed their imagination. I’m glad that I managed to pass this point that can be a barrier for many players, since it is in fact, an interesting plot.
When starting her adventure, Kate only has the support of a gun that shoots a kind of lightning. Although, as expected, it is possible to acquire new weapons over time with different types of elemental damage. Divided between shots of fire, ice, or acid that burns enemies, all weapons will have access to a type of “evolution”. These upgrades are spread across the map, so exploring all its corners will always be a must.
In the defensive field, there is an ability that allows Kate to dodge enemy attacks and a range of defensive gadgets, such as a temporary shield, the expected potions, that are designated here as a kind of syringe, force fields that delay the movement of enemies, among others.
Scars Above’s gameplay is undoubtedly one of its strengths. Not only because of the need to use specific weapons in encounters against enemies that are weak against the element in question but, also because it allows the player to use the environment to their advantage. For example, the weapon that shoots lightning becomes even stronger if the enemy is in contact with water, either in a puddle of water or under the rain, or the possibility of using aspects, such as stalactites that when shoot at can fall on top of enemies, or fire bullets on the ice floor where if the enemy falls into the icy water, it will literally turn into an ice cube. Unfortunately, I didn’t find the melee combat satisfactory enough to make me land a few blows, largely because of the strange camera angles that can come from this action, and also because the applied damage was not very significant.
The skill tree is rather disappointing, lacking a great depth of options. By collecting “knowledge” inside small cubes scattered around the map, which are translated into experience points, it will give the possibility to unlock certain skills, essentially passive skills. These skills are divided between levels, which can reach up to level 4. At first, I really paid attention to which aspects I wanted to get a little stronger, but I quickly realized that there were too many experience cubes scattered around. I ended my adventure in Scars Above with all passive skills unlocked and with extra experience points that, as expected, it was not possible to apply to anything since there were no more options. It was indeed a strange aspect and the first case in which this happened to me.
Contrary to what many might think, Scars Above can’t be compared to Darks Souls or Returnal in terms of gameplay. Talking about Returnal, the comparison in visual terms is inevitable, it is really possible to notice that the inspiration derived from the ideas of Returnal and were applied here in a sublime way. Scars Above essentially carves its own path. It’s by no means a difficult game, even if played on maximum difficulty. What’s fantastic about this title it’s the variety of options that gives the player to manage to get out of tight situations. Even though it’s not a horror game, the dark environment gives space to some jump scares. That or I really am a scaredy cat.
Visually it’s fantastic, not just for the atmosphere created around an alien planet, but also the lighting, the effects of guns, and even the way that the different enemies are portrayed. Unfortunately, its cutscenes suffer from a kind of delay between the animation and the movement of the character’s lips. Still in this context, the facial expressions perhaps denote the lack of budget that always haunts an Indie title. Don’t forget that this is the first title from this small studio based in Serbia.
Scars Above is a remarkable experience that unfortunately suffers from a somewhat troubled start of the adventure, due to the way the story is presented. If you manage to get past that initial phase, it’s a title that opens up to a fascinating adventure that immerses the player in the mystery of an unknown world.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game for Steam, provided by Prime Matter]