Scathe Early Impression – The action shooter genre has been around for years now, but with the release and influence of Doom 2016, we’ve seen a lot of new entries into the space. Different takes on the genre have been met with varying success, with none really reaching the heights of Doom. While the guns and shooting mechanics are incredibly important, there’s also a dance to these games – a rhythm that has to be hit for the run and gun atmosphere to really click. Scathe, a new entry into the genre from developers Damage State Limited, is here to try and gun for the crown, but does it have what it takes to be something truly unique and special?
Well, the answer is…complicated. Scathe has a lot going for it, while also being met with design choices that I didn’t really gel with. Let’s start with the good! Scathe looks visually great, with awesome environments and monster design. Playing through the preview really did make me feel like I was in a never-ending nightmare, desperately battling for a chance to escape the Hell labyrinth that I found myself in. The frame rate never dipped, staying locked at 60 frames per second.
The music is another standout, as the drums are constantly thumping in your ears, pushing you forward frantically. The shooting mechanics also feel great. The gun you start with is an automatic with unlimited bullets, which trust me, you’ll need. Spraying and praying as I raced around the levels was nerve-wracking and tense, especially with the constant swarms of enemies around. The game feels fast and fluid, with the combination of visual, audio, and gunplay coming together really well…most of the time.
Lost in the Maze
Where Scathe starts to fall apart for me is the overall design. It puts you in a labyrinth and tasks you with finding Hellstones scattered around the maze, which is really easy to get lost in. I had to backtrack multiple times, especially after a respawn and a turn in the wrong direction. I really found myself missing a minimap. While I appreciate the choice to really amplify that maze-like feeling, it made me more frustrated than anything else.
The sound design for the enemies definitely needs some fine-tuning as well. The scuttering of the spider enemies was unnerving but didn’t really reflect how close they were to you. I heard the pattering of their footsteps, and would frantically look around trying to find them, only for them to be not even remotely close to my current position. There are ball-shaped enemies that explode when they get close, but the constant screeching as they ping pong around the environments got really annoying, really quickly.
Scathe Early Impression Gameplay
Which Way’s Up?
The progression aspect is another area in that I struggled to find much meaning. The game kept telling me I was losing lives without seemingly any real consequence. Moving from stage to stage wasn’t particularly rewarding or interesting. Coming across new items/weapons were too infrequent, making you stick with the starting gun for far too long. It made each level feel too repetitive, especially when the enemies didn’t change much between areas. I picked up an item I came across that gave me no choice if I wanted it or not. Also, the item had no description of what it did. The number of enemies was probably my biggest issue, as there was just a constant onslaught. The difficulty came from a constant monster closet of enemies but didn’t feel fun to attack your way through. There are issues from a design perspective that definitely need to be addressed here.
Scathe has a good foundation for something really cool in the action FPS genre. But definitely needs some work ahead of launch. While the game is cool mechanically and visually, the flow and rhythm should feel more rewarding and challenging, rather than just feeling overwhelming for the sake of it.
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