Scorn, an uncanny visual journey of Gigerian inspiration

Scorn, an uncanny visual journey of Gigerian inspiration


Scorn, the first work of the Serbian studio EBB Software clearly takes inspiration from the infernal atmospheres of Hans Ruedi Giger, Swiss artist 'father' of the creatures of Alien, in a world apparently alien of which nothing is known, but which we will explore starting from its most hidden meanders up to the surface in the presence of imposing statues depicting humanoids with male and female attributes, wandering in the corridors of what appears to be a temple of a now collapsed civilization. At this point we warn you, if you wish to proceed with the reading, the spoiler is insured.

The developers have designed the experience around the idea of ​​"being thrown into an unknown world", depriving the players of any usual point of reference: there is no map that helps to orient oneself in the different labyrinthine structures that characterize the architectural space, the cutscenes are reduced to a minimum and reveal nothing of the story, the screen is devoid of any health or ammunition indicators - except when we hold the weapons we will find along the way and when we are attacked - and, above all, Scorn it has no dialogue. EBB Software has focused on creating an environmental videogame experience, characterized by disturbing and horrifying atmospheres, which in some cases even make the skin crawl. After solving the first enigma of Act I, for example, we will have to recover a deformed humanoid from a sort of incubator capsule and use one of his arms to open a gate. This situation will put us in front of two possibilities: detach the humanoid from its egg-shell through a spoon-shaped crane that will amputate its arm, killing it, thus allowing us to use it; or, subject him to the sharp blades of a sort of chainsaw that will tear the skin off his back, leaving him alive, but in agony, and then fit his arm into one of the mechanisms that regulate the opening and closing of a door. A decidedly brutal scene that already warns us about what awaits us in the next eight hours of play. If episodes like this are repulsive from a graphic point of view, such as the representations of some mass graves distributed in the lower levels of the structure in which there are dozens and dozens of massed and mutilated bodies, even more so are the moments in which , thanks to an acute observation of the architectural-engineering conformation of the environment, we begin to deduce the organization of the company.

Scorn, EBB Software

Scorn is set in an undefined world , perhaps alien or perhaps posthuman, in which society has reached a level of engineering of the body that allows the creation of prosthetic elements that are grafted directly into the skin and machinery that are activated in contact with the flesh. But that is not all. It was also possible to give life to the production of humanoids on a large scale to use them as a sustenance for society itself and its gears. As the game progresses, we realize that Scorn's society has a subdivision that resembles that of castes, in which those at the lowest levels work for the sustenance of those at the top. In this case, however, it is the individuals themselves who are cultivated, reared and subsequently harvested for the production of organic sustenance of the production processes, or as spare parts for the creation of robotic-like beings - towards the end of the game, for example, we will find ourselves fighting with a humanoid composed of limbs assembled together in a room where arms, legs, torsos and hands are kept hanging from the ceiling as if they were sausages.

As already mentioned, Scorn reserves a leading role to the environment, a visual homage to the work of Hans Giger and which inevitably refers to the film Alien (1979) by Ridley Scott and the director's prequels, Prometheus (2012) and Alien: Covenant (2017). The architectures designed by EBB Software are representative of an environment in which organic matter, blood, arteries and metal structures are integrated into each other, forming a sort of exoskeleton, a large environment that lives, breathes and which in turn produces crippled creatures from breed and consume. From the numerous instruments of torture found in the slums of Scorn to the bas-reliefs that decorate the imposing humanoid temple, the references to the illustrations in Giger's Necronomicon are nothing short of explicit. The volume was first published in 1977 and the Swiss artist donated it to Scott during the pre-production phase of Alien. Since then it has represented one of the visual cornerstones of the saga's lore, from the famous Xenomorph to the Engineers' chair-station.

EBB Software draws on this visual imagery but there are numerous references to a post-human and disturbing world. Some grafts and weapons used by the unknown protagonist are reminiscent of the surgical (or torture) instruments designed by the character of Beverly in the film The Inseparables by David Cronenberg (1988), whose filmic universe is often recalled by the aesthetics of the game. However, there are references that also arouse connections with the world of contemporary art and the visual arts, especially with those artistic researches that investigate the concept of the posthuman and the engineered body. While I was playing Scorn I could not help but think of the deformed figures that populate the visual production of the Australian artist Patricia Piccinini who, characterized by a disturbing hyperrealism, reflects on numerous concepts, including that of mutation and conception, themes to which Scorn also alludes. During the game we will often have to interact with envelopes containing deformed beings, similar to artificial fetuses, to solve some environmental puzzles, but we will also meet repugnant parasites (even our protagonist will be accompanied by a parasite for most of the game, until he comes momentarily eradicated from his body, which will cause him pain but which will also help him carry numerous objects with him, such as weapons and a strange tool containing bullets and life boosters) that have progressively infested some areas of the great architectural machine of the humanoids. Finally, the decorations of the temple portray humanoids intent in various sexual acts and female figures with swollen bellies. The concepts of mutation and engineering of the body also made me think of the experiments of the artists Stelarc and Orlan, who subjected their bodies to different types of surgeries with more or less organic grafts as an act of reconfiguration of the very notion of the body.

Surrogate, Patricia Piccinini, 2005

The Inseparables, David Cronenberg (1988)

Third Arm, Stelarc, 1980

Operation No. 3, Orlan , 1990

At the end of the game, once inside the aforementioned temple, we will find ourselves in the presence of an imposing cobweb made up of cerebral matter that connects numerous humanoids together. This sort of "collective mind" would seem to represent the maximum goal they wish for and to reach this state of macabre bliss they are hoisted on a kind of wheel of torture (the scene recalls the torture of Saint Catherine of Alexandria on the wheel, but also the the flaying process to which the character of Anna is subjected in the psychological horror Martyrs by Pascal Laugier in 2008) and connected through a sort of umbilical cord to this "shared brain". In keeping with the game, the ending is also enigmatic. Our nameless protagonist will suffer the same fate as the other humanoids and will be hoisted on the wheel to be connected to the collective mind. Subsequently, we should carry his body over a gap, impersonating two female figures at this point, but we will fail in the mission. As we are about to walk towards what appears to be a further dimension located beyond a bridge shrouded in fog and decorated with numerous statues, the parasite (we do not know how) will attack us by taking over the protagonist's body again, merging once and for all with it. in a sort of sculpture made of torn flesh and bones. At this point, our adventure has come to an end, leaving us with a thousand questions and innumerable doubts, but by now we should have guessed that Scorn was designed to be deliberately an enigma.

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