Scars Above PC Review

Scars Above has some promising ideas for a much deeper sci-fi action game. While it aims to be a Souls game, it ultimately comes out mostly as a decent third-person shooter.

By Rayan, Posted 02 Mar 2023

There has been a constant flow of new games under the Sci-Fi banner. Over the past few years, Returnal, The Outer Worlds, Control, The Callisto Protocol, Deliver Us Mars, along with Dead Space Remake all had their fair share of contributions to this genre. Scars Above, developed by Mad Head Games, is a third-person shooter with a science fiction storyline focused on exploration and action. It takes inspiration from the Soulslike formula while juggling other genres like puzzle, tactical shooter, and storytelling. Its setting, plot, environment, and gameplay bring a promising fresh twist to the genre's remote exploration of alien places and survival elements.


Scars Above, PC, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots, Dr. Kate Ward, Female Protagonist, Soulslike, NoobFeed
 

While Scars Above follows in the footsteps of games like Souls by utilizing a similar mechanism, it breaks new ground by combining several genres into one. It places the narrative framework front and center to aid its gameplay, even though most games in this genre rely on different contexts to convey the plotline. It's a compelling and difficult game that requires quick thinking, dexterity, and persistence, yet it manages to impress in its own way. However, good visuals and a wide variety of playable mechanics are offset by some limiting concepts that hinder their full potential.

Scars Above begins with the SCAR Team being dispatched to examine the surprising appearance of a bright extraterrestrial object in Earth's atmosphere called The Metahedron. You take the role of Dr. Kate Ward, a member of the SCAR team who studied biology and mechanical engineering. Your team was sent on a mission to make contact with the mysterious object. The mission, however, goes poorly, as expected in science fiction, and the SCAR ship crashes on an uncharted planet after being pulled towards it by the Metahedron. Kate wakes up on a strange planet, and the responsibility of reassembling the broken pieces falls on her. She has to overcome deadly alien creatures and learn the secrets of this planet if she is to find her crew and return home.


Scars Above, PC, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots, Kate, Final Boss, NoobFeed
 

While the narrative is a significant selling point for Scars Above, it isn't without its flaws while being mostly solid. Even though it has a very composed beginning and gradually becomes absorbing, her conversations often come across as forced and unnatural, as though they were only included to move the story along. Most of the information Kate needs to understand the world comes from audio recordings she finds strewn around the journey or from an alien hologram she is accompanied by. Even though the narrative can feel a little stiff at times, the sci-fi components are prominent, and the characters do an excellent job of making you care about the plot as it progresses. The narrative, however, fades into the background as the gameplay gets more intense, while you won't be disappointed when all the pieces come together in the end.

Scars Above's gameplay strictly adheres to the formula established by other third-person shooters, pitting you against various creatures wielding an equally diverse arsenal of weapons. The battles have a Soulslike feel to them, yet the four weapon aspects play a significant role in the fight to stay alive. This concept serves the game well, and the relatively brief running time helps the title maintain interest. The shooting mechanics are simple enough to be easily understood; aiming, shooting, and stamina-draining dodging. However, the ability to quickly change weapon attachments provides additional strategic options. The resistance of enemies is typically lower, and they often have a single, easily exploited weakness.


Scars Above, PC, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots, Kate, Boss Fight, The Alpha
 

While some strategy is involved because some creatures are weaker to certain attack types than others, the bulk of the gameplay consists of simply running, shooting, and dodging. Most creatures are vulnerable to certain elements or strike near targets that might be used to your advantage. For example, if a creature is charging at you across a frozen lake, you can use a heat weapon to melt the ice and effectively freeze it or an electrical shot at the creature in the rain for added wet damage. Several bosses and other larger opponents have nodes on their bodies that will take significant damage from weapons of the appropriate element if struck at the correspondingly colored node.

Scars Above is built on a foundation of strategy, and because the environment, creatures, and difficulties are constantly shifting, giving the game a Soulslike vibe. Pillars as checkpoints are found frequently, and they function similarly to Bonfires. In addition to restoring your health and ammunition, they revive any nearby enemies. Several weapons you find while exploring, such as a machete, can be used to quickly and easily clear a path across rugged terrain. The Vera, an electric-charge gun, and a Thermic Charger can be used to damage the creatures. In addition to being utilized as weapons, these weapons are also crucial in navigating the planet, such as unlocking gateways using their different element power types.


Scars Above, PC, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots, Locked Gate
 

The shooting in Scars Above is sadly mediocre and can be incredibly unbalanced at times. The control during the fights might feel awkward, especially when trying to shoot targets with colored weak points. Also, creatures appear out of nowhere too frequently, swiftly depleting your health to zero and requiring a return to the last Pillar. Restarting from the last checkpoint means that all the creatures you've killed up to that point will respawn, which can be pretty irritating if they were placed poorly and you had to reverse a lot of progress. This becomes frustrating because killing them multiple times doesn't grant you additional XP or collectibles.

And, apart from some irritating deaths due to awkward camera angles when dodging, it is not unduly demanding on your skills. The game's slow shooting mechanism, especially during the heat of combat, makes the game more challenging. To make matters worse, you can only run, dodge, and use melee attacks before your stamina runs out. This will be filled in automatically a few seconds after the last action, but you need to put it to good use where appropriate. As a result, you have a combat system that is quite well-rounded, offering a high challenge level and a wide variety of options for dealing with opponents.


Scars Above, PC, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots, Final Stage
 

While the core gameplay consists of moving through a linear map and facing off against various creatures and obstacles, you won't just be armed with guns but a whole arsenal of gadgets to solve puzzles and engage in combat with them. Time phasing, slow-motion bubbles, gas bombs, and decoys all come in handy; some even allow you to employ your creativity in battles. There are no optional quests, but it will be worthwhile to investigate the artifacts and mythical parkways that connect the surviving Hermetic crew members. Although they are not particularly innovative, the dramatic sequences and animation set the mood for you to move forward.

Throughout Scars Above, you'll discover an abundance of collectibles, like knowledge cubes, audio files left behind by your crew members, and elemental plants as a source of ammo and fiber. Also, increasing Kate's resistance and weapon improvements requires collecting knowledge cubes, scanning dead monsters, and killing them. There are purple cubes hidden across the map, and when they are analyzed, they unlock bites of information that can be spent on modest upgrades for Kate. Since she's a scientist, you'll also have to keep an eye out for exotic plants and gadgets that could inform your research and help improve the equipment.


Scars Above, PC, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots, Kate Skill Tree
 

Since XP isn't earned by conventional means by killing enemies, leveling up didn't seem like a hassle. Knowledge here is effectively the XP since each cube is added to a bar that fills up as you gain more. When the bar is full, Kate gains a point that can be used on an extensive skill tree to improve her defenses or her ability to damage. Nonetheless, this is Scars Above's primary leveling mechanism and helps mitigate the game's otherwise pervasive sense of pointlessness. Even so, you'll pay the price if you don't scour every corner of the map, as certain end-boss encounters call for certain upgrades to your skill tree. A few interesting concepts are sprinkled throughout, but ultimately it all boils down to grabbing items and creating or upgrading stuff.

Overall performance and visual quality of Scars Above are good. Although there are some hiccups here and there, they never interfere with the actual gameplay. Kate travels through several unique and interesting places, including a frozen wasteland, some alien architecture, dark caves, and tunnels, all portrayed nicely by the designers. Although the visuals are generally good, a few issues still need to be addressed, mainly related to the facial animations. Kate's movement could've been more realistic, especially when jumping down from rocks or higher places or sprinting, and the camera movement could do some fine-tuning when dodging enemies in close-quarter combat situations. Apart from these, the music matches the sci-fi atmosphere, the audio is good, and both nicely reflect the game's alien universe.



 

Scars Above has some promising ideas for a much deeper sci-fi action game, but not all were fully utilized. While it aims to be a Souls game, it ultimately comes out mostly as a decent third-person shooter. It's true that the game isn't perfect and has its share of drawbacks; still, it manages to differentiate itself from the crowd of soulslike games by introducing some fresh concepts. The developers at Mad Head Games deserve credit for their effort. Its compelling story, good voice acting, and decent sci-fi settings will keep you going till the end. So if you're looking for some sci-fi shooter in a somewhat soulslike action, Scars Above is the game for you.
 

Azfar Rayan (@AzfarRayan)
Editor, NoobFeed

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General Information

Scars Above

75/100

Platform(s): PC, PS5, XBSX, PS4, Xbox One
Publisher(s): Prime Matter, Plaion
Developer(s): Mad Head Games
Genres: Third-Person Shooter
Themes: Sci-Fi, Action, Adventure
Release Date: 2023-02-28

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