A ‘Souls-lite’ action sci-fi adventure, scars above tells a fairly common story about explorers in space, stranded on an unknown planet and fighting for survival against savage creatures and an unexplained alien presence.
You wear Dr. Kate Ward, a scientist on the Sentient Contact Assessment and Response (or SCARS) team. After making contact with a strange object floating just above the earth called ‘The Metahedron’, Kate wakes up on a barren plain, guided by the face of an alien life form.
Without spoiling anything, you’ll find out what happened to your team and why this planet that once seemed to have intelligent life is now overrun by aggressive creatures.
As you roam, you’ll quickly equip yourself with your only weapon, the 3D-printed VERA. As the game progresses, VERA can be upgraded to handle four main elements: electricity, fire, ice, and acid. This core mechanic is the most interesting aspect of the game, but it never quite delivers on the highs of similar titles.
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Combat is straightforward enough. Every creature you encounter has a weakness to certain types of elements and a clearly defined weak point. Some of them offer an interesting challenge; the environment can be used against some to great effect, while larger enemies can have armor that you can peel with damage.
If submerged in water, VERA’s electrical configuration will deal much more damage and at a wider range, while using fire to melt the ice under an enemy’s feet will submerge them and freeze them in their tracks, leaving them open to attack. one death by gunshot.
When some of the bigger battles come, dancing between creating ice to walk on and starting fires in safe spots to fight hypothermia as you electrify groups of enemies is a fun experience.
Combat really shines during boss battles, which force you to strategize how to address key weaknesses and how to best utilize your combination of elements to take down enemies that tower above you. But while the combat is reliable, as are other parts of the game, it never manages to push the mechanics to their limits, with opportunities to experiment few and far between.
As you explore the world, you’ll find monoliths that, once activated, save your progress and replenish ammo and supplies, but at the cost of reviving all the enemies you’ve previously dispatched. Over time, you’ll open up shortcuts making saving a risk-free option; so while the concept makes sense, it’s never quite the challenge it appears to be.
Part of this problem is that survival never really feels like something we have to think about in terms of the world around us. Ammo is found in abundance thanks to the fact that it comes from plants found around you, and you find upgrades for your weapon so quickly that you always feel well equipped.
On one occasion, two weapon upgrades were found just steps away from each other, meaning that not only did we get a powerful new attachment, but it was already buffed before we had a chance to use it.
A small skill tree allows you to increase certain defense stats and improve ammo capacity and reload speed. Experience is controlled by increasing Kate’s knowledge, which can come from scanning enemies and parts of the environment – but mostly from finding ‘knowledge cubes’ scattered around the map.
This isn’t too taxing as, like ammo and plant life, cubes are everywhere. In fact, we end the game with a maxed out skill tree and several points left to spend.
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The semi-open world you find yourself in has the potential to offer some interesting ideas, but it doesn’t really encourage revisiting areas beyond a few very specific instances, which is a missed opportunity.
After initially having to find a workbench for upgrades, scars above abandons this entirely and opts to make the upgrade instantly accessible from the inventory menu. This left us wondering if, instead, needing to go back to a bank every time your weapon needed an upgrade would drastically up the survival gamble – especially as you’re forced to balance saving your progress at the cost of reviving everyone. enemies every time. .
Scars Above is a competent third-person action game. The story is interesting enough to pull you in, while the combat is solid enough that you don’t get bored with the moment-to-moment battles. There’s little here that you wouldn’t have seen before, but there’s some fun in its familiarity for sure.
It really is a shame that, in its efforts to be a solid action adventure, none of its ideas were explored further, as we would have loved to have seen the team swing for fences in one area or another to produce something truly stand out.
Platform rated at: Xbox Series X
scars above is available now for PC, Xbox Series X|S and PlayStation 5.