Scars Above’s use of elemental weapons elevates a fairly generic combat system into one that is genuinely enjoyable to engage with due to its emphasis on combining different elements to increase your damage output.
One of the first and most noticeable instances of this mechanics is electricity-based attacks’ and their effects on wet enemies, including increased critical damage and, when in direct contact with water, a powerful rea of affect attack that can reduce multiple enemies to a pile of shared remains.
Additional combinations that come in very useful during Scars Above’s campaign are Ice + Electricity, Ice + Poison, and most interestingly, Fire + Poison which results in a chemical fire that deals immense damage over time and can drastically reduce the time it takes to deal with elite enemies and mini-bosses.
Scars Above is a very short game, and it can easily be completed in under 4 hours for someone who knows where they are going and roughly 6 hours for a player who is determined to explore the entire map and solve every puzzle without the aid of online guides or walkthroughs.
Because of this, I feel Scars Above would be the perfect type of game to join Game Pass and Ps Plus, as while many players may feel hesitant paying full price for a game that is shorter than some movies, many games would gladly give it a try if it were included with a service they were already subscribed to.
Scars Above is a very pretty game, and while it is not a current-gen exclusive, it is easily on par with some of the best-looking games of the 8th console generation (Ps4/Xbox One). Players who care deeply about visual fidelity are unlikely to be disappointed.
Scars Above’s narrative is pretty generic but takes enough chances to make it worthwhile. While the protagonist talks to herself far too much to keep the player “in the loop” with what is happening on screen, It is no more egregious than the type of protagonist narration found in titles such as Horizon Zero Dawn and Uncharted, which I feel are some of the best comparisons that can be made with Scars Above, despite its lower budget and much shorter run time.
Scars Above suffers from lip-sync issues during most cutscenes, which, when combined with, at times, comically exaggerated facial expressions, can cause issues with immersion.
Thankfully Scars Above’s gameplay mechanics and narrative are worth experiencing, even if cutscenes are best viewed casually and, if possible, while not directly looking at whoever is speaking.
While the vast majority of Scars Above players fine with a controller, including combat and navigation of the user interface, one area which needs a lot of work is the investigation system, which clearly was developed with a mouse pointer in mind; as a result, players whose play on console or use a controller on PC will find it difficult (but not impossible) to highlight smaller or partially obscured items during certain investigations.
Despite not selling itself as a puzzle game, Scars Above has some of the best new player-friendly puzzles, similar to those found in Uncharted, Tomb Raider and Horizon Zero Dawn. I enjoyed the puzzles as much as I did the combat, which is not always the case, with titles such as Biomutant’s obsession with low-quality puzzles quickly earning itself a place on my never replay list.
Scars Above is a very linear game; however, the developers have added enough secrets to each zone that I never once felt contained despite the limited scope of exploration permitted. Scars Above feels like an exploration-focused semi-open world game, despite that not being the case.
Scars Above’s protagonist Kate is one of the best-written and most engaging protagonists I have seen in an indie title.
This is particularly noticeable as most developers do not know what to do with female characters. As a result, they fall into the same overused tropes of sexy badass girl, damsel in distress, or overly “preachy to the point of parody” ultra-feminist.
In all three examples above, the story is moulded around the protagonist’s gender identity instead of the gender of the protagonist being secondary to their role in the story.
I would love to see more developers strive for inclusion by focusing their efforts on making a likeable protagonist, who happens to be X or Y, rather than making a character fit certain criteria without having a role for them to play.
Developers need to understand that telling gamers, “This character is cool because they are a black woman”, isn’t going to win over people who are on the fence or who (wrongly) fear that “woke politics” are invading their favourite hobby.
However, suppose developers invest in making a character that is interesting, likeable and, more importantly, critically important to the narrative and who happens to be from an underrepresented demographic. In that case, it’s far more likely that most gamers on the fence concerning diversity and inclusion will learn to support more inclusive game roles.
Simply presenting gamers with a badly written, poorly thought out character that has the personality and vocabulary of an early 2010s Tumblr user and telling them they are racist or sexist for not liking them isn’t going to win anybody over, especially when that same character would be not be liked regardless of its gender, sexuality or race.
While some people will never support diversity and are a lost cause without divine intervention, most gamers want a good time. Any steps we as a community can make towards improving both the quantity and quality of inclusive characters are worth taking.
Scars Above is a action video game developed by Mad Head Games and published by Prime Matter, it was released on 28 February 2023 and retails for $39.99.
Scars Above is available on the following platforms: PC, Playstation 4, Playstation 5, XBox One, Xbox Series X|S.
The developers have not been active since shortly after the release of the game, which is discouring when considering the rampant lip-syncing and controller issues that players have been struggling with for almost two months.
On average Scars Above takes between 6 and 9 hours to complete.
Estimated completion times are derived from various sources and may vary based on the skill level of each player.
The following peripherals are officially supported:
Scars Above is rated PEGI 12+ and contains the following:
I greatly enjoyed my time with Scars Above, and it’s, without a doubt, one of the most polished AA releases of 2023; however, due to its cost of almost $40 and run time of fewer than 4 hours (including cutscenes), I cannot recommend it at full price.