Scars Above Review

Richard Walker

In Scars Above, you play as Dr. Kate Ward, one of four members of a space mission, sent to investigate a mysterious alien structure that's appeared above Earth, referred to as 'The Metahedron' – a big, inverted pyramid, hanging ominously in space. Naturally, the big scary alien pyramid spells doom for the mission, and the crew of your ship, the Hermes, is sent hurtling to the surface of an extrasolar planet, where the majority of the local fauna doesn't like you very much. Developer Mad Head Games wastes no time in getting things underway, and before you know it, you're blasting a furrow through hostile creatures, in an effort to find a way home. And it's none too shabby.

Scars Above is a roguelike shooter with a handful of Soulslike elements, so you'll solve some light puzzles, reactivate alien pillars that serve as checkpoints while respawning enemies, and wield Kate's 3D-printed rifle, 'VERA', to exploit weaknesses using elemental projectiles. Mad Head Games has crafted a nice, solid slice of third-person sci-fi shooter action – a straightforward and neatly designed single-player campaign with various status effects to take into account. For example, wet enemies take more damage from electrical rounds and hitting fiery orange weak spots with a fiery shot will cause a devastating rupture.

Kate can scan plant and animal life to accrue knowledge, with collectible 'knowledge cubes' providing additional points that can be used for ability upgrades. These cover everything from more effective health replenishment to better resource extraction, faster reloading, and improved stamina, while weapon upgrades can be found and fabricated, enhancing VERA with greater ammo capacity, damage output, and so on. Searching for her lost crew, Kate soon discovers that an alien race has been here before, and is led through the game by a mysterious apparition, who has seemingly suffered a similar fate.

At the heart of it all is a nefarious... something, known only as 'The Custodian', and from what initially seems like a rather unremarkable narrative, events gradually escalate, resulting in a fairly engaging sci-fi yarn. Those aforementioned puzzles involve using various ancient alien structures, and chapters are punctuated by large-scale boss battles, some of which can prove to be slightly irritating, patience-testing affairs. Executing dodge rolls and cycling between the correct elemental projectile, while managing your stamina is the order of the day, although the opportunity to use the environment to your advantage adds an interesting wrinkle to proceedings.

Using incendiary rounds, you can incinerate pods before they hatch, and melt iced-over water to send enemies plunging into the freezing depths, while frosty bullets create platforms to bypass bodies of water inhabited by flesh-eating alien worms, or freeze marauding beasts in their tracks. Corrosive acid rounds can chew through networks of pipes blocking your path and sear enemy flesh, while serving as the shotgun setting on Kate's trusty, all-purpose rifle. With her scientific know-how, you're able to conveniently extract ammunition from the planet's benign plant and animal life, so you can keep your weapons topped up, and scanning anything you've defeated grants additional, helpful knowledge of the creature that can be exploited when you meet it next.

Kate is also able to use all manner of gadgets, including a deployable hologram to lure monsters, flammable liquid that can be ignited to scorch multiple enemies, a doodad that temporarily slows time, and she can heal up or boost her abilities using consumables, which require 'fiber' scavenged from hither and yon. It's all pretty good stuff, until you start running into annoying little bugs, especially towards the end of the game – unfortunate, given how decent the rest of Scars Above is, that it fails to stick the landing. Or, it fluffs the landing, at least.

For what is essentially a budget title, Scars Above does an awful lot right, with an atmospheric synth soundtrack, versatile weaponry with gratifying third-person shooter combat, some half-decent puzzles, a nice diversity of enemies, and solid level design. And while it does nothing particularly new or revolutionary, there are far worse ways to while away seven or eight hours.

Scars Above

A perfectly decent chunk of linear extra-terrestrial shooting, with a sprinkling of mild Soulslike elements, nice puzzles, and plenty of exploration, Scars Above is a double-A budget game that's worth a look.

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Some nice science-fiction synth, suitably pew-pew shooty sounds, and some decent enough voice acting. Perfectly fine.


There’s a disconnect between cutscenes and gameplay, but Scars Above looks and performs solidly. Serviceable stuff.


Good, clean sci-fi shooter fun, with a mild strategical twist and a few puzzles, that will keep you engaged from beginning to end.


There are one or two mildly annoying bugs, and boss battles aren’t particularly well designed. But, you’ll find a solid seven-to-eight hours of game here.


A good list with excellent spread, which offers loads of achievements early on, then rewards exploration, and sticking around to the very end. Sadly, some appear to be glitched.

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