From the dawn of time, (or at least a pretty young age,) I have searched for and played a variety of first-person shooters. Titles such as Serious Sam, Wolfenstein, and Severed Steel have enticed me to conquer many fearsome levels to obtain whichever oh-so-important reward was being offered. Equally, I’ve lost count of the number of rage-inducing enemies that kept me coming back for more. This being said, when I got Scathe to play through I couldn’t wait to indulge my trigger-happy fingers and bathe in the blood of my demonic enemies.
So what is Scathe all about, then? Well, let’s jump into the plot line and story. You play the titular Scathe, a gun-slinging, magic-wielding agent of a higher being called The Divine Creator. He has trained you and watched your power grow. This is probably a good thing because his brother the ruler of hell has decided to make a move to take over his realm. You are sent to not only stop him but to retrieve his staff whilst eliminating hordes of demonic entities. This sounds a bit familiar doesn’t it?
As you take up your quest to thwart the lord of the underworld’s plans you’re thrown into the pits of hell. Here you’ll have to navigate your way around this blood-drenched labyrinth, killing everything in your path whilst trying to survive the oncoming peril that could lead to your own demise. All pretty standard shooting fayre but also exactly what we’ve come to expect, so no complaints there.
If what you read in that last little statement sounded familiar then the gameplay and art design will solidify your suspicions. Does all of this strike you as being a little bit Doomy? If it does you’d be right in seeing where Scathe is getting quite a bit of influence from. Even with little aspects that try to make the game unique such as a very quirky action that allows you to wipe the blood and guts from your screen, (something that I very much enjoyed doing,) the game feels too much like its influence at times to really stand out. This forces you as the player to feel like you are continually comparing the two titles, which isn’t something any of us really want to do. This being said it’s only fair to take a deeper dive into the mechanics of the game.
From the beginning, I didn’t notice a great deal of variety in the enemies I was facing. Initially, I counted about five different types of demon and only a few variations on these. What was impressive was the badass-looking weapon I’d been given with which to strike fear into the souls of my unholy opponents; THE HELL HAMMER! Awesome name for an assault rifle, right? Unfortunately that name seems to be the gun’s best attribute. Shooting what should have been fairly squishy grunts with it felt like using a pea-shooter. This is turn, obviously made tougher foes feel like absolute bullet sponges. Luckily, the Hell Hammer isn’t going to be the only means of inflicting death at your disposal. Amongst the vast arsenal of killy things you can gather on your quest, Scathe introduces a magic element and you’ll pick up your first magic power after a couple levels. This is all well and good, but there is no guide or pop up to tell you how to use it unless you navigate the settings for your keybindings. In a game like this where immersion is key, you don’t really want to have to research how to use your most fundamental abilities.
While the maze of a map you get dropped into offers you different routes and branching pathways, there isn’t any indication as to where you are actually meant to go. With no solid guide, progression can feel like a bit of a headache. Making things worse I noticed that with some levels, it very much felt like I could just run past all of the enemies and more or less speed run the terrain to an exit. For me this sort of felt contrary to the entire point of the game. The majority of real danger that I had to actually face was environmental with the likes of lava leading to a one-shot death. The Divine Creator does give you some entertaining commentary when slaying demons which can be quite comical but this shouldn’t really be the reason why you’re going out of your way to kill monsters that can probably be avoided.
Scathe offers up to a 4 player co-op, which means you can pull your friends or other online players into your game and team up with them to help wipe the world of these pesky demons. The downside to this is that whenever I attempted to join a game I was either immediately killed by being thrown straight into a fight or disconnected on account of players kicking me from games. I completely understand that this is part of the multiplayer experience but it left me feeling discouraged and I just ended up venturing out on my own. This might be one of those games that’s far more fun to play with your mates than the general player base and it’s just my experience but still worth noting.
When look at the aesthetics of Scathe, it’s all rather impressive for an indie title. You can tell a lot of thought and work has been put into weapon design, making each of them look and feel unique. The levels are equally gorgeous and it all feels very in keeping with the genre. The soundtrack and effects are also very fitting which wraps everything up nicely. Unfortunately, this is a case of a beautiful game that’s lacking in a bit of soul when it comes to the actual mechanics and playability.
All in all, I very much wanted to enjoy Scathe, I have even revisited the game with the new update the developers have dropped, however, there still just wasn’t enough there to keep me coming back for more. Even though Scathe has some pleasurable graphics and audio the game itself just doesn’t feel unique enough in comparison to other games on the market. This is a shame as this title does show a lot of potential. I will be keeping my eye on Scathe for any further updates to revisit and hopefully draw me back in.
This review was based on a copy of the game provided by the publisher.
Looks can be decieving
Story - 3/10
Gameplay - 3/10
Graphics - 7/10
Sound - 7/10
Hell hath no fury
As a shooter fan, I really wanted to love Scathe. On the surface, this is a really beautifully rendered game with just the right amount of atmosphere to be a real winner. The problem is that there isn’t enough game to make you want to keep coming back for more. The coop element might be a redeeming factor but from personal experience, this is probably best indulged in with friends. All in all, this might still be worth a punt if you like the first-person thrill but don’t expect miracles in the long run.