Will SCUM Rise To The Top?

 

 

 

To answer the question outright, yes and you heard it here first (maybe).

It seems like SCUM is set to rise to the surface of the pond that is the survival game genre, selling over 250,000 copies in its first 24 hours and amassing 700,000 sales in the first week – in what has been Devolver Digital’s biggest release to date.

But what is it you ask? You can get up to scratch on the ins and outs of the game by reading this article or instead enjoy this one line summary;

SCUM is a multiplayer survival game set in a dystopian future where corporations force prisoners to compete in a murderous blood sport reality TV show.

And if that doesn’t tickle your fancy then you probably shouldn’t bother reading this review. It’s a project that in many ways is looking to change the face of the survival genre and from my interpretation of its mission it’s looking to make survival games less futile. Something that as a fan of the genre, I argue is all too often the case. This is the biggest reason why it’s so appealing to me and so I’ve been eagerly awaiting its release ever since I found out about it.

The sheer scale of the game is as such that I feel to cover everything would take a small dissertation. So for the purpose of this review I’m going to be focusing on what I know has been of importance to the community and what you as a potential buyer should know.

 

 

First Things First

This has to be stressed, as I feel a lot of big names that reviewed this game have missed out this important detail or not stressed it enough.

SCUM is in early access and there is a lot more planned for it. Overlooking this fact has led to a lot of harsh and unfair criticism being levelled which doesn’t match up to my playing experience or expectations.  Stating this fact most likely won’t inspire confidence in many of you and I understand why…

Having personally learnt of the perils through games such as H1Z1 and DayZ, like many others I tend to avoid them and am rightfully suspicious of any upcoming early access releases. That being said I’ve wholeheartedly backed SCUM which released at the reasonable price of £15.49. However I decided to back this horse the whole way, so I forked out a further £7.19 and got the extra supporters pack.

Why did I spend more money? To put it simply, the USP and team behind this game have really inspired confidence in me in the run up to release. Since my first week of play and the proof from the pudding so far, that confidence seems worth doubling down on.

In the run up to release developers Gamepires and producers Croteam have been pretty transparent with what they have in the woodworks and their intended goals, doing wonders for my distrust in developers of early access games, even if they admittedly have been a tad bit vague. They’ve been interacting with the community and taking heed of feedback, a trend that has continued since going live,  listening and taking points on board they’ve been quick to hot fix issues and release patches.

With more reputation at stake than other developers who’ve cashed in on the survival genre and legged it, as well as having a sure-fire hit on their hands, means I have high hopes for this game that I am confident isn’t just pie in the sky.

 

 

The Detail In The Realism

The massive level of in depth realism is something that to my knowledge is unprecedented in survival games.

Through the ‘BCU implant’ the puppet masters at corporation TEC1 have bestowed you with, you can monitor everything about your character. Just check out how much info it gives you;

 

BCU.png

 

 

From skill progression, to current injury/ailment, your vital signs, number of teeth, calorie macros, to the volumetric content of your stomach, intestines and colon – just for example. SCUM has a lot of really impacting character micromanagement.

This takes the survival aspect to a whole new level in a ground-breaking way. You must account for so much that will genuinely effect your character and gameplay meaningfully. Everything from your diet, your health, the weather to your physical fitness and beyond.

If you don’t watch how much you’ve eaten, you’ll vomit. If you don’t monitor your bowels and bladder, then my friend you will drop your weapon and your kecks to shit or piss in the middle of battle. If you don’t stay dry and warm, you’ll get hypothermia. You’re getting rained on without waterproofs, your stamina is effected as your gear gets heavier. Get in one too many fist fights and lose your teeth, you ain’t eating well.

Even the inventory menu and how you interact with objects acts in a way that lends itself to reality.

 

Inventory.png

 

 

For example, if you want to load your weapon you must first bomb the magazine up, inserting the rounds and then ensuring the right weapon is in your hands you can drag the magazine over to the free slot to load it. You can’t move items en masse from your inventory meaning that even looting has to be carefully considered and is realistic in that you can only move things one at a time when picking them out of a container. Anything you have in your hands will be dropped when completing actions or picking up new things if it hasn’t been assigned a space in your inventory. In this way I have dropped many, many weapons, losing them, for I am a fool.  You can even throw most all objects in your hands which has become kind of an obsession for me;

 

 

 

The sheer ambition in SCUM’s approach to detail in realism is a lofty but clearly achievable goal and is long overdue for this genre.

 

 

Character Customisation And Progression

As with everything in this game the team behind SCUM have gone for depth and impact with this aspect. A lot isn’t readily available currently owing to the nature of early access but even so there is still a lot to consider when creating and customising your character.  Take a look at a quick glance in the video below;

 

 

A lot more to come but still in-depth despite the bulwark of customisation being currently unavailable. You must build your character wisely to suit what you want to get out of them for your playing style, do you want them to be smart enough to craft every single item? Want them strong or able to run faster and longer?  There’s a lot of different build styles and with more to come that will only broaden and allow you to focus on different areas, thought must be put into who and what your character will be.

Too slow with bad endurance? You’ll probably be the first poor sod to snuff it as your faster mates leave you behind as an insurance policy. Not intelligent enough? Resources will be scarcer for you as you can’t craft certain items.

Your characters skillset will progress with time and experience which remains after death when you’re resurrected, something I’ve personally not come across before in a survival game. Another factor that I feel sets SCUM apart and gives it a deeper meaning and something to work towards.

 

The Setting

The map is based on islands of the developers’ homeland, Croatia. As I said in my previous article they should be given a job for the Croatian tourism board because it’s absolutely stunning. Nice variation between rustic farming villages, larger towns, a prison, an airstrip and various military installations spaced out thoughtfully amongst beautiful landscape, making for a well-rounded and enjoyable setting. I’ve also found what appears to be a TEC1 headquarters which so far isn’t interactive, perhaps pointing to some of the lore and story that’s to be added as the game develops.

 

Scum setting

Setting

 

 

It is a big map, some say too large for the up to 64 player servers. However I still manage to run into potential friends and foes at a steady pace, so personally I think it does the game justice. Making encounters all the more special and lending itself to the realism dynamic, fight or flight must be carefully considered, this isn’t a run and gun game – it’s survival and it’s very unforgiving.

 

Desktop Screenshot 2018.09.07 - 16.15.18.22

 

 

The stunning landscape lends itself well for the sheer amount of walking, jogging, running and catching your breath you’ll be doing.  Something you should keep in mind if buying this game, the reality of going anywhere over a long distance is a bit of a hike especially if you’re not the fittest and fastest build.

 

Another notable point regarding the scenery of SCUM’s world, is the diversity in flora and fauna which really makes it feel more real and immerses you in the world. For example there are boars, goats, donkeys, horses, bears, chickens and deer that I’ve spotted so far with many more to be added as you can see in the crafting menu under meats. Dogs, cats, ducks, pheasants, sheep, geese, rats, cow, rabbit, wolves and small rodents for definite so far.  Without listing the different fauna you can consume and utilise this seems to be the most extensive list I’ve come across in this genre. Doing wonders for world building with its variation.

SCUM seems to consistently be bigger, better and more in comparison to its peers.

 

Graphics, Gameplay And Mechanics

One of the biggest issues and complaints levelled by the community so far is regarding poor performance issues and cheaters exploiting a weak anti-cheat system. FPS drop and server lag have been an issue for many, something the developers have been working on incessantly to tweak. This is something that is to be expected within the early days of an early access game, so of course we can cut them some slack. I personally haven’t had any issue with performance, however I have just upgraded my PC to a 1080 GPU and am getting decent FPS and splendid graphics, with a higher end machine it runs like a dream and looks like one too. Double check the minimum requirements for sure when looking to buy this one as it does seemingly take a lot to run without a hitch.

The gameplay and mechanics in my opinion are smooth and intuitive with the gunplay being nice and realistic enough, making shooting things a pleasure. Unarmed and melee weapon combat is also pretty smooth and tasty, I enjoy boxing with the Puppets (resurrected dead AI prisoners who attack you) as its pretty fun, as well as punching my mates.

 

 

 

I particularly like the way the 3rd person vision doesn’t give you an advantage and only allows you to see other players your character would see in 1st person mode. Allowing for 3rd person to be used without any unfair advantages. Camouflage and stealth work well and in my experience the camouflage system is the most realistic I’ve ever seen, in the fact that it actually works.

Awareness is also a cool and useful mechanic that has been done well, a skill that if you hold down the right mouse button allows your vision to focus and your hearing to sharpen. Depending on your characters level you can hear and see exponentially better, giving you an edge when listening and looking for approaching enemies. It can also be used for hunting animals, in that you can track their last direction moved when focusing as well as better hearing where they are.

Mechs that guard the military bunkers and installations are a great touch, giving you more to consider than just blindly running in. The Puppets alongside the mechs give a nice PvE element on top of the PvP. You never feel 100% safe and always must be wary if you are to live long.

 

 Desktop Screenshot 2018.09.06 - 18.46.07.80

 

 

Fame And Events

Fame is a points system that your character can build up through kills, actions and just surviving day to day. They allow you to choose where you resurrect when dead, whether it be on your teammates for 100 fame points, random for 25, 75 for your home shelter or 50 for the sector you’re in. This means if you keep dying you will go into the negative and it will take a long time to build back up. This aspect of the game is nice as it stops people from committing suicide over and over to get the spawn they want to come back and get revenge or what have you.

 

 Events

 

 

If your fame is high enough you can spend some of it to join or initiate events such as TDM to gamble the possibility of winning more. This gives you more to do than just survive and is a fun way to break the game up and win rewards. If you join, your character will be safely logged out in the spot you were in until the event is over and you return. Nice little feature that I hope will be expanded on for more variety.

 

 

Backstory Lore And The Higher Purpose

All I have to say on this is, I want to know more and I want to know now! There is such a great potential this facet that I hope isn’t squandered.

So far the only logical and feasible higher purpose that I’ve seen rumoured to be implemented is to stage an escape from the island. Something that I hope is suitably convoluted but in an enjoyably difficult way so it’s not just thrown in haphazardly to match their promises of the ‘higher goals’ billed by developers for SCUM.

I want it to be engaging and lengthy enough to not feel arbitrary and hollow, like shooting a chicken when you’ve already got a full belly …

 

 

 

 

 

From where I’m sitting (incidentally that’s in front of my PC playing SCUM) the bottom line is, this game is a whole lot of fun with a whole lot of depth and meaning I’ve never before come across in a survival game besides, maybe The Forest. With the team behind it promising more, the best is probably yet to come.

With such a successful launch showcasing its potential for longevity and with much more in the pipeline, I feel it can become the pinnacle of survival gameplay. Either way it has the market cornered on bowel movement simulators.

Lovely to look at, immersive, realistic and with goals to aim for – but most importantly wholly enjoyable and a good laugh. These are the reasons why I’d recommend any fan of survival games and mental ultra-violent prison experiment reality TV shows to give SCUM a go.

It’s simply bloody SCUMptious and you should sink your teeth into it.

 

SCUM To Look Out For – An Upcoming Survival Game Looking To Change The Genre

 

SCUM is an early access open world PC survival game due to be released in 2018. Set in a reality TV gameshows’ second season, broadcast by fictional and questionable entertainment channel TEC1. The questionable part being, that in this gameshow – the locked up must throw down for the pleasure of a greedy capitalist society run by corporations, as TEC1 fight for their ratings and corporate sponsors.

In a dystopian profit driven society where inmates die for peoples’ enjoyment, you take control of a convict who is thrown into this gladiatorial style event, versus enemy players as well as hostile AI controlled by the TV network through BCU implants. Implants that can reanimate unfortunate runner ups turning them into mind controlled zombies. It is a fight to the death for your freedom, exploring the islands of the archipelago along the way, making alliances and using resources to survive. As the games tagline says;

‘Your life sentence is about to become your 15 minutes of fame.’

Although this type of scenario has been broached upon before in other games such as the culling, I think there is so much more potential in it, especially with the survival genre. And it seems like Croatian developers Croteam feel the same, as they are picking up the torch to make a survival game with much more to it – just check out this trailer!



 

This is why I think SCUM will be one to look out for and why I’m deciding to support it during early access. I’m going to take a closer look at some of the reasons that convinced me.

 

Backstory

If you check updates from the developers, you will have seen that the story elements surrounding this game appears to be quite important to them. They’re looking to create a world that is truly driven in all senses, giving it a setting and lore and so  making it much more multi-dimensional. This is something I think will stand it in good stead as a survival game, as there is more to it than simply kill, survive and loot.

It feels as if there will be potentially more going on with the game because of it, secrets to discover, an unfolding story with more heart and depth put into it. Something that most all popular multiplayer survival games fail to achieve, a good story that actually impacts on the game experience itself. It is set to be a hybrid sandbox survival game with ‘higher goals incorporated’ as the developers put it. I suppose we’ll have to wait and see just exactly what that means for the game.

But if they are true to their word this will mean survival games as a genre might become a little less futile which I feel they are usually, even if enjoyable.

 

 


Character Building

This will be a massively important element according to the Crotean team;

‘SCUM evolves the multiplayer open world survival game with unprecedented levels of character customization, control, and progression where knowledge and skills are the ultimate weapons for long-term survival. Players will balance base level needs with knowledge-based skills to manage everything from nourishment, metabolic rate, and body mass to weapons and proficiency, combat style, and security systems hacking. Dominate the island with your skills, cunning, and strategies to achieve higher levels of game and receive powerful gifts from corporate sponsors and, if you happen to slip up and die, get resurrected by the show’s producers with all your valuable skills intact.’

Hinting at the sheer depth and scope in ambitions of this project. A survival game that is fine-tuned and honed in on developing skill and other elements of your character that are rarely touched upon in this genre. This coupled with the story itself means it will potentially make for one fun and immersive game.

But of course it takes more than that to convince me to back an early access game nowadays… well … sometimes anyways.
 

 


Unarmed Combat

Typically in survival games unarmed combat is left up to throwing random swings, backing in and out of the fight and hoping like hell. With half the skill of two animals butting heads.

Croteam have spotted this issue and are seeking to put it straighter than a well-aimed jab. They are adding something other survival games for the most part lack – the ability to block, dodge, counter and throw combos. As well as a free-camera mode and 1st person view when you enter melee combat. Meaning overall you have much more control than is usually afforded the player. Alongside this the skill level of your character effects how well you do it all.

Now combat will be so much more meaningful if you’ve yet to scavenge anything that fires projectiles.

 

 

 


Atmosphere And Map Design

I am not sure whether or not Croteam is actually an arm of the Croatian tourist board, because if they’re not they should at least be getting commission. After viewing screenshots of their map I definitely want to plan a trip there. The reason why – the 144km2 map is based around the Croatian island of Brac and from screenshots so far it looks simply stunning.

 

highresscreenshot00051.jpg
Two prisoners stop for a well earned drink by this idyllic stream.
Scum 2.jpg
Looks perfect for a wee fishing holiday don’t it!?!?

 

The creators have stated on their blog that they generally prefer a tense horror feel, the kind of atmosphere where you suspect anything could be lurking in the dark or round the corner. There is of course a changing day and night cycle, which will naturally effect this but they’ve also talked of having absolute silence with sound effects of lurking animals and perhaps crickets at night. This would really do it justice and I hope they pursue that option, as it is totally suited to a game where hardened criminals are roaming about an island trying to kill each other. Rather than going for atmospheric music which takes away from the true fright of the situation, as it is usually triggered  by events and gives away the element of surprise I feel.

 

 
Camouflage/ Stealth/Awareness/Tactics

In this game the sounds you make and being sighted will not be the sole way you can be detected, your player has a scent. That’s right, if you don’t wash regularly by taking dips in water then developers have stated you’ll have to ‘check…which way the wind is blowing!’ I love this fact and if this is an element in gameplay then it shows just how far they want to take this genre of game into the next generation and towards realism and player immersion.

But how have they developed the more traditional aspects of stealth, camouflage and awareness? Check out this video showing off how well the camos actually function;


With awareness and a system developers call, tactics they are seeking to level the playing field where it comes to unfair 3rd person exploits, whilst still keeping it in the game. This is where awareness comes in, your characters awareness level will allow you to track another players position once spotted for a limited period of time, depending on how high your skill is. Meaning you will not be able to see someone you wouldn’t be able to see beyond an obstacle in real life whilst in 3rd person until you can physically make eye contact on with them. Put simply, what you will render in 3rd person mode is only what you would see in 1st person. This video will show you exactly what the developers are going for as it’s a little difficult to put into words and do it the justice it deserves;

Now a lot of comments online have been complaining about how this is essentially a wall hack perk for advanced players with higher skills, seeming it would be an unfair advantage over n00bs that are new to the game. I too am slightly worried as the longevity of the most advanced levels tracking essentially means you can be tracked once out of sight for a large while, if done correctly. So much of what the developers are aiming for seems great in theory, but a lot of gamers are worried about how it will translate into practice. The developers are very good at getting back to these worries and elaborating on it, so  here’s a Q&A the developers put out to further explain what frankly needed a further explanation to put minds at ease;

I really believe this will look to alleviate unfair advantages that people have on the battlefield, levelling the playing field and bringing the fight down to skill and knowledge. Not unfair exploits.

Layers And Wetness

 As reasons you want to buy a game goes layers and wetness is a little strange, but let me digress.

Wetness in the world of SCUM is very important, from making you sick, drowning you if you’re heavily laden, as well as weighing and slowing you down through clothes absorption. There is a realistic system of clothing layers and their properties of absorbance that you must be wary of when taking a dip, sweating a lot or being rained on. Keeping dry clothes aside, having a fire ready or leaving your heavy backpack of loot on dry land are all things to think about, you cannot simply just run willy-nilly into water. Even your different body parts are split into regions that get effected differently depending on what is happening. Say only your feet layers would get wet if you walked through ankle deep water. There has to be a lot more thought going into your gameplay and surroundings and I like the idea of these factors coming into play and effecting such things as travelling to combat.


This game is looking to take the survival element so much further, with in-depth realism in all aspects of play and this includes stamina and inertia as well for realistic movement and running.

 

 


Developers


I have faith that Croteam are a team of developers that can deliver, most well known for their Serious Sam series which has become their brand and a staple of their success. As well as creating the critically acclaimed The Talos Principle. They have built their own engine known as the Serious engine and have been developing it for over 20 years. From what it seems to me with my limited research on them, they are a tight knit company that isn’t afraid to get stuck in and do the hard work to achieve success. I hope my slight assumptions will be proved a reality with SCUM and that it will be a labour of love for them, as this will ensure the same brilliance that these developers have been known for in the past.

I also like their sense of humour, which can be seen in the narrator of their videos John Dick. It also has to be said that these videos putting all their ideas on show to receive the critical eye of fans of the genre and then responding to questions and worries is very commendable. I feel it’s a good sign of their sense of duty to create something worthwhile and to put it frankly, worth the money. Which let’s face it, is becoming few and far between in this year of our lord 2018 with the gaming industry squeezing money out of players until their pips squeak.

 

 

Prisoner of My Gaming Industry Doubt

Nevertheless I am a prisoner of the rightfully earned doubt I hold in the gaming industry. Will it work, will it really be what’s promised – bottom line until it’s delivered we don’t know if they can or will deliver on the lofty goals they’ve envisaged. But I have hope and this is certainly achievable by developers of Croteans standards.

They are really gunning to step up the survival game genre taking a lot of aspects they feel have been lacking. Bringing them to the forefront, giving them depth and intertwining them in a way that means they will all matter and be influencers on gameplay for a great gaming experience.
I really hope they deliver on their ambitions and promises, as I think a lot of us would agree that these are all issues that hold back this type of game. Maybe if this game proved popular and was successful, it could really influence and develop this genre, revitalising it into a new well-deserved and in depth direction and becoming more. Or at the very least unleash an amazing new game onto the playing field.

Either way, I am looking out for this one and cannot wait to play it that’s why I dub this SCUM to look out for.

Survival Games; Echoes Of Life And Its Futility

Survival games photo 1
If you stare into the abyss long enough sometimes the abyss stares back and it’s actually just a void full of unfinished early access survival games.

If there was ever an over saturated genre in the video game market, survival games would be in the running for whatever kind of award that can get you. The genres’ undying popularity has spawned great games like Rust pictured above. Of course the sheer number of fans for this game type has paved the way for large piles of early access games, some ending up in the quick quid and never finished heap but still for the most part ending up in gamers’ libraries. We just simply can’t get enough of them, it seems they give us a certain joie de vivre.

We’ve got your dinosaur taming survival games with the likes of Ark: Survival Evolved, of course naturally there is a horde of Zombie survival games such as DayZ and Just Survive, then there’s Sci-Fi survival in space with the likes of Osiris New Dawn and an underwater alien planet setting with Subnauticanot to mention the legions of bog standard potential real world dystopia versions a la HurtworldYou name it people want to survive it, kind of like life itself.

Another way in which survival games echo life, is that they’re utterly bloody futile!

A Dog Eat Dog World

The one thing that ties all these different survival scenarios together is being thrust into a hostile environment and using your wits and surrounding resources to survive. Ultimately there is no real end goal to these games beyond that, unless they’re single player with story progression. For the sake of this article, I’m going to be focusing on multiplayer, specifically player versus player rather than just the environment. This is where you can find the real echoes of life in our society and the sometimes all too easily conceivable pointlessness of it.

Sadly, for the most part the survival game community is a dog eat dog world, where people will kill you on the off chance that you might have some goodies in your inventory even though you look like a fresh spawn. Then there is those who would in fact just end your miserable existence for the thrill of the hunt, even when there’s no sport in it. But there are players who prefer to make friends in this futile existence, I am one of these players, there’s enough pain without a guilty conscience. I remember one friend gaining encounter  in a game of Just Survive;

A real life pal and I were new to the server, we had nothing but the clothes on our back and hope in our hearts. It was night and we were warily making our way into town, when in the middle of the road a creep with a torch silently beheld us. To put it simply we had no fight so we went into flight mode, to put it plainly we were cowards. So as we ran, like an excitable dog he preceded to chase us for a 5 minutes saga of humiliation, freaked out by a torch lit stranger. We took shelter in a house, so he stood at the window flashing us not saying a word. That’s when we made another break for it and bumped into a stranger kitted out with a backpack and rifle, we begged him for assistance to end our fear. Putting our trust in a stranger with a weapon rather than one with a torch. He scared off our light bearing accoster and we teamed up and to this day are still friends.

  A rare occurrence in these worlds of mistrust, what with the nagging paranoia that your supposed newfound friend is just waiting for the opportune moment to stab you in the back, learning your weaknesses and biding their time – we’d be stupid not to strike first right? It’s an infernal pattern with a ripple effect, shit on or be shat on.

In these games you have few options once you’re surviving and well equipped, try to just exist in perpetual defence for the mere sake of it, accumulate to exterminate the competition, to share in their hard work by raiding them, and taking their possessions for your own. Or try to work with people in exchange for mutual cooperation and face the risk of being so easily betrayed. 

So why do we enjoy survival games so much?

Leaving Your Mark And Making A Story

Survival article 1.jpgBase designing and building is one way you can leave your mark.

Throwing yourself into the pattern of destitution, accumulation and loss to someone or times scythe in the form of a server wipe, seems a tedious repetitive task with no end in sight. Almost as futile as cleaning your house, however it is definitely a lot more fun. It’s infinitely more enjoyable to face virtual futility than the actual consequential reality. Like life itself, for all its futility, the goal of survival is to enjoy the ride and thus give a point to it all.

Leave your mark and enjoy the process, whether that be in the form of your creations or the friends you make along the way. That’s why survival games are an important and enjoyable genre, they’re player based experiences that allows us to embrace life in all its futility.