Review of Scars Above: A charming atmosphere, but it's also a bit backward

Review of Scars Above: A charming atmosphere, but it's also a bit backward ...

Scars Above is a third-person shooter that has been narrated with passion and a playful mix that wants to provide a wide range of interesting genres and mechanics, with unfortunately imperfect results. Both during gameplay and during lengthy but varied cutscenes, we are talking about a dangerous planet.

The fact that an inverted pyramid is in Earth's atmosphere has alerted world powers, who decide to send a team of scientists to investigate its origin. We immediately take control of Kate, a scholar with excellent abilities of adaptation and improvisation. The situation worsens after a very brief training on basic movements.

The huge object attracts the human spaceship to itself, and the protagonist faints. Of her Gnomes are gone, and terrible visions of giants worthy of Lovecraftian imagery haunt her, while the sentient alien matter guides her into the unknown. What follows is the beginning of a long-awaited discovery: why is Kate so enthralled by a similar one? The lower quality human models, however, diminish the narrative's utility.

The beauty of what is a plot that never becomes too complicated, however, isn't sufficient to support a plot that on several occasions appears to have already been told, and which does not conceal clear references even to Ridley Scott's Prometheus (here is the review of Prometheus to clear your mind). Kate herself reveals little about herself for a good part of the adventure, and she fails to induce any genuine emotional involvement.

The neglect of anti-climatic black bands is unreliable. There are occasions, in fact, when the title offers a real-time fusion of gameplay and storytelling, leaving us in charge of the protagonist. In this second instance, there are three or four instances of this type with an inspired direction.

The films have sometimes surprised us, genuinely intrigued, and, more generally, prevented the plot from developing uncontrollably. Sadly, however, the culmination of these events seemed rushed and inadequate to satisfactorily answer some of Kate's more age-old questions.

Scars Above's four – plus one – sections are detailed and immediately recognisable. From wading through wormy pools in the large gray marshes to surviving in narrow rock and ice caves that are crawling into claustrophobic mazes, there is no shortage of hyper-technological alien outposts and other very unwelcoming caves, the finished product is the real asset.

The maps, although small, are functional, but lack any verticality, as well as optional textual or vocal lore, and are relatively simple to upgrade. Oftentimes, though, it's a shame that the environmental interactions on which the title based its singularity – Returnal, or even better Remnant From the Ashes – are limited.

Except for the aquatic ones, all variations live on their own, without influencing one another, thus making it necessary to destroy monsters with obvious vulnerabilities to a secondary effect. Does this suffice to declare that in Scars Above, you must "exploit every resource in the area"? The promise, made by the first in-game pop up tutorials, is tempting, but not entirely maintained.

Kate's curiosity is reflected in a skill tree that she forms to replenish weapons or to enhance other combat weapons.

The advancements in his abilities are simple, purely statistical, or tied to certain percentages. The astronaut is also capable of manipulating mechanical components of different origins into deadly weapons and recombining molecules discovered on the alien planet to make consumable instruments. The crafting component, however, is far from what one might expect.

The assembly of resources is automatic, unlike a traditional survival game: there is no mini-game, recipe, or active fusion screen. In all, we had to touch some item in the menu, looking and turning its 3D model to find a removable part.

Only a few investigations of the surrounding environment alter a game that is otherwise based on shooting. In reality, the moments of analysis are well-organized, but also all too elementary, since they involve simple first-person interactions, which in no way require sharpening one's senses.

The elemental weapon and ammo system is efficient. Even when the aim assist is set to maximum sensitivity, the aim assist isn't the best: the most efficient strategy is almost always to start shooting from a distance, then switch to tools with a higher DPS (damage per second) at point-blank range, such as the poison shotgun.

Moreover, most encounters aimed at immobile targets are "cold" due to our frost-type equipment. Once unlocked, the explosive grenade, which resolves all the remaining situations, becomes invaluable. When there's more than one giant alien filling the screen, fire is always the answer, and the use of these tools is straightforward and painless, since time is perpetual.

Scars Above' challenge curve may be varied from very straightforward to extremely challenging. The middle choice is certainly the most balanced, but it is not without sudden (artificial) difficulty. This is partly due to the desire to keep the final stages as long as possible, thus forcing us to repeat certain sections several times. Another issue is the harmful consequences of the forbidden things.

Although there is no shortage of variation on the purely aesthetic level, we have observed many "reskins" of previous opponents that were enhanced by armor or modifications in the moveset.

Only because of their inability to complete explosive assaults in the final seconds, we can think of some particularly difficult specimens. The boss fights are played with less "injustice," few, and are distributed in various stages of increasing difficulty.

Scars Above is a decently constructed game, with no frame-rate drops, visual glitches, or annoying pop-up issues. It's also uninteresting to look at the aliens, which are more realistic, due to the ambient sounds and background music.

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