Scars Above Review

If you’ve been following my reviews for some time, you’ve likely noticed that I haven’t covered any Soulsborne games or those like them, outside of Hellblade. The reason is that they just don’t appeal to me. I’m not into fighting the same boss umpteen times and trying to perfect each one. All the power to those who are, but it’s just not for me.

When I was sent a review code for a game called Scars Above, it was unexpected and appreciated but also led me to Google. I feared that it would be a Soulslike, and seeing the word challenging in its description made me worry. However, other reviews stated that it wasn’t as hard as most of those, was more forgiving and had difficulty levels, so I decided to give it a chance. Who knew? Maybe I’d end up loving it.

I’m being very open and honest here, because I want you to know that this review is being written by someone who normally turns his cheek when the terms Soulslike, roguelike or similar come up. I generally know they won’t appeal to me, so I leave them for others to cover if they’re interested. The last thing I want to do, or should do given my job here, is lie or mislead.


Scars Above begins as many science fiction stories, films and video games do: with a crew aboard a spaceship finding something strange. This time around it’s a weird shape or obelisk in the ‘sky,’ which seems to beckon to them. In fact, this group has been tasked with investigating it and is doing so for humanity as a whole.

Then the shit kind of hits the space borne fan.

Minutes later, our protagonist — Dr. Kate — awakens on a strange alien planet and finds that she’s alone, not to mention confused. She does, however, find an energy weapon and a melee one, too, foreshadowing what players will soon be doing. After that, this Souls-inspired third-person shooter truly begins.

Over the course of six chapters of varying length, players will explore an uncharted planet, find secrets and progress Kate’s story. All the while, they’ll do battle against some pretty mean spirited enemies, including serpents that shoot poison, lots of ugly spiders and some hulking beasts with weak spots on their backs or chests. These battles are rarely easy, but some do become routine after a while. That said, the foes can hit hard, even on easy (which I played on).

Although Kate carries at least one melee weapon, you’ll rarely want to use it outside of cutting branches and the like. This is because melee combat leaves you vulnerable and is the weakest attack available. You’ll spend most of your time shooting foes with different elemental energies, as you explore and find different attachments for the VERA energy gun. There’s the base electrical shot, a fire-based shotgun of sorts, an arcing shot that freezes enemies (or dangerous waters) and a poisonous variation. They’re all helpful at different times, because enemies are generally colour coded, and they all have a weakness. Simply put, if you see blue on a foe’s weak point then it needs to be hit with electricity for best results, and if that same weak point is orange then you use fire.

There’s lots of rolling around, looting nearby flowers for elemental ammunition and trying to avoid being hit. If you are damaged you may be in trouble or may be okay for a while, because each attack type obviously varies. The thing is though, that is it’s poison, you may be screwed. Poison stays around for a surprising amount of time and can really mess you up. Good thing lots of enemies shoot poison.

Kate can also find and use different consumables, which heal her, eliminate negative effects or things like that. These depend on how much ‘fiber’ you have to use, as they’re obviously not unlimited. I was even surprised to find this healing option late in the game, because I thought my healing was limited to the stimpacks I picked up. By the end, I had four, and they would replenish. Thank God for them.

Before I expand upon how things replenish, I will also mention that Kate has some additional powers up her doctor’s sleeve. Things like being able to throw lures that attract enemies, the ability to put a shield around herself to absorb about five hits, and some flammable gas, among one or two others. You’ll get these as you progress, and will earn achievements or trophies in the process. Plus, you can always scan enemies to learn their weaknesses.

So, how does Scars Above compare to Dark Souls? Well, it doesn’t have bonfires, but it does have these large crystal towers that allow you to regain your health and stimpacks. However, doing so (annoyingly) returns enemies to cleared areas, meaning that you’ll likely have to repeat challenging battles. I didn’t like that so much.

Then again, I’m someone who always goes for health upgrades and likes to stock up. The obsessive in me led to being careful and using those towers a lot.

Granted, I maybe didn’t enjoy Scars Above as much as I could’ve, because I was worried I wouldn’t be able to beat it. That anxiety has appeared too often lately, and fear of getting stuck mars the experience. That’s one reason I avoid these types of games on a general basis. Thankfully, things got easier and better after a really challenging and kind of cheap opening chapter.

This game is also aided by the fact that it has an RPG-like skill system, but not in the way you’d expect. You see, Kate doesn’t earn experience points from killing enemies. Instead, all of her EXP comes from collectible knowledge cubes that are generously spread throughout each environment, be it the swamp, the snowy mountains (where you must find heat to avoid hypothermia), rocky cliffs, mines or laboratories. So long as you look for them, you won’t have any problems here. I found many, and was able to unlock all of one large skill tree and part of another.

Skills can lessen the amount of damage you take, increase your health, make reloading better or give your gun a few extra bullets every time it runs empty. There are some for character (health, skills, armour, etc.) and others that deal with consumables and powers. Don’t be fearful of this system though, because those purple cubes are everywhere.

With all of the above factored in, Scars Above still had the task of setting itself apart and delivering an enjoyable gaming experience. Unfortunately, while I enjoyed it a bit more than expected, I did so while finding and understanding that it’s a pretty standard third-person shooter overall. One that doesn’t stand out for doing anything particularly well. It sure tried to do a lot, but just did everything ok at best. Plus, the Soulslike mechanics were not for me.

Visually, Scars Above is lacking. At times, it looks, plays and feels like a game from the 360 era, but there are moments where it looks decently nice. It’s quite dated overall, though, and doesn’t feel next-gen. There’s also a surprising amount of cutscene stutter on both Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S, where the title looked notably worse.

The sound design fares better, thanks to decent writing and voice acting, as well as pretty solid effects. I didn’t notice anything to complain about, but noting here really stood out either.

I applaud Mad Head Games for putting their blood, sweat and tears into this game, especially since they’re a Serbian based studio that is known for hidden item games. That said, it’s too basic and mediocre to really push the needle. Those who are willing to give its $40 USD budget price a chance will likely enjoy it somewhat then forget about it not long after, because there’s little staying power and Kate’s story just isn’t interesting enough. It can also be finished in just several hours, though it took me longer.

This review is based on the Xbox Series version of the game, which we were provided with.

Scars Above borrows elements from other games, but doesn’t do any of them better. Still, it’s a half decent third-person shooter slash Soulsborne experiment from a small studio.
Reader Rating0 Votes
The Good Stuff
Not as hard as most games like it
Has difficulty options
Half-decent mechanically
The Not-So-Good Stuff
Dated and short
Doesn’t feel original
Soulsborne inspired