Gamepires & Croteam bring us the delightfully named SCUM to check out for PC. This prison island multiplayer survival game looks like it could be hard to escape from. Time to don my bright orange prison gear and make a hasty shiv. I’m going in.
I decided to jump right in to the single player mode to learn the controls. First I had to create a character, so I gave him my stats. Not the best plan given my actual age and size, but I might as well be realistic. Points are spent on skills, so work out what will be most useful. Upon entering SCUM I found I could move around using the WASD and mouse and there seemed to be plenty of places to go. After investigation I found a path down to a river and a dam, it looked interesting so I went and investigated. I jogged down, and 15 minutes later I was there. It was guarded by a big ass robot so I jumped in the river and replenished my hydration that was a little low. Upon climbing out a realisation dawned on me. I was probably supposed to be doing something. I looked around and found out I could search for rocks under the foliage. Excellent, I found a rock. I picked up the rock. I had a rock. This can’t be all there is I thought to myself and went down the road.
Woohoo! A few houses. I entered with reckless abandon and discovered a few places I could search. After searching about 5 houses I was not wearing something other than my highly visible orange prison gear. So decked in a lovely new track suit top and trousers I took my adventure forward to a new abandoned town. There was a barn, there was a pitchfork and there was hope. Time to hunt the animals and get some food. I held the pitchfork in my hand like a spear, I was now fearless. Well I would have been had it not been for the fact that the pitchfork handle was pointing forwards and the fork part behind me. I concluded that I maybe needed to add a bit of intelligence to my character.
After a while of walking/jogging around a large landscape and achieving what can only be described as ‘fuck all’ my character informed me he needed to wee. Well I had no idea how to do this. I pressed the ‘P’ key in optimism, the ‘U’ key in hope and every other key in desperation. What did I learn? Going to the toilet is harder that I thought, not one individual key made me relieve myself. What else? Press M for a map, press C to crouch and press X to hump the ground like it’s a sex starved supermodel (crawl). TAB opens up the user interface for inventory, crafting, metabolism and events, but no peeing option. Google it is then.
Whatever happened to tutorials or instructions? The game is fairly hard, so not giving the player a clue of how to even do the basics does just add to the difficulty.
I hit google.
After a few tutorials about the basics I was ready to start again. I crafted a basic stone knife, I cut down a tree and I made a rudimentary spear. Obviously it would have done a lot more damage if I held the point forward and not behind me. I looked at the basic crafting pieces and decided to make an axe as I had found some thread that I could use. I needed 2 pieces of stone so I searched, made an axe head and then went to cut down a bush for the handle. The cut option wasn’t appearing. It seems I had dropped my knife to get the axe head. I had no idea where I was so I searched for rocks again. Once again I made a knife and headed for some bushes. I cut a nice long handle and went to make my axe. I had no axe head now, I totally forgot I would drop it when making the knife. This was a vicious circle caused by lack of pockets. Eventually I had everything I needed, but for some reason I was not allowed to craft the axe. Gutted would be an understatement. Rage quit would be the answer. Even the main menu has ‘Commit suicide’ as an option.
What happened after a bit more time and some meditation to quell my anger issues.
I once again hit the single player option. This time I managed to craft a backpack, knife, spear and axe and had barely moved off the spot (thank you google). Feeling confident, and somewhat underdressed I went in search of clothes and food. I looked at the items I needed to craft things and made what I could. Hunger struck and I ate the olives I had picked. There was a small town on my map by the coast that I headed towards to see what I could find. It wasn’t long before I was dressed like a Russian mafia hitman in my red tracksuit. Style oozed out of me as I went on the hunt for things to kill.
In a nutshell, SCUM is better when you know how to do things.
The premise of your adventure in SCUM is to simply survive. Using natural resources improves your chances, so learn fast. Death is quite common at the beginning, but it’s not a huge biggie, just take what you have learnt and go again. You gather fame points as you survive for longer, some actions also give you these as well. If you die you can spend them on where you want your clone to start. In the single player version of the game these reset to zero every time you quit the game. Your character remains in the same place with the same health and attributes, but suddenly he isn’t famous anymore. The more I played, the more bugs I came across, so as much fun as the game looks like it should be, the bugs kill it for me. There are too many to mention at this point in time, so I shall pretend that SCUM is a perfect working game for the remainder of this review.
The movement of the character is good, he or she moves as I would. The throwing action is also very good, take aim and fire, you get to see the projected trajectory so no excuse for missing. The advancement through the crafting system is good, you get to see what makes what, so hunt and gather with care, know what your next project is and scavenge. The basics of getting meat and cooking it are easily achievable, so you shouldn’t ever go hungry. There is a unique metabolism system, keep an eye on it to make sure that you are at peak physical health. All doors open outwards, it’s so time saving and you never get stuck, well I haven’t yet.
Multiplayer is exactly the same as single player as far as I can tell. With an expansive map it is hard to find other players, and whilst this does reduce the PvP killing, it also makes the multiplayer kind of a bit pointless. The map should be a lot smaller to make player take a lot more care. I have been running around like a loony for ages and not been worried about it. I don’t think anyone is going to snipe me from a tower or even see me. Over an hour of gameplay in a server with 63 other players in and no sign of life. The emphasis of SCUM is always survival, so don’t expect mass battles and constant action.
All in all, SCUM hat the potential to be great, but due to some really bad bugs it is yet to unleash itself in all its glory on the unsuspecting public.
The potential that hides underneath SCUM is definitely there. The game concepts are good, the gameplay is good, the complexity would probably be a bit less complex if it was fed to you bit at a time either through tutorials or an experience system. SCUM isn’t a bad game looking at it objectively, a lot of thought has gone into creating a playable version and that definitely shows. The developers are definitely on the case to get the issues ironed out and updates are very regular.
SCUM is a hotchpotch of good and bad. The fluid movement is great, especially the vaulting, though I’m just jealous as I can’t do that in real life. Character and animals look like they should, so that is a plus. The abandoned buildings have a realistic feel to them, but after a while they do get a bit samey. The scenery is nice, very atmospheric in places, but again, not enough variety. However there are a few issues I came across. There is serious clipping of items with characters. Once I had wheat growing through me whilst cutting up an animal that was clearly about a yard to my right. The writing that tells you your character is hungry (and other info) is so small it’s easily (and regularly) missed. There needs to be a lot of improvement on this part of SCUM for it to start playing with the big boys. It falls short of the expected level for the game style.
The audio in SCUM is average at best at the moment. You hear animal noises, some more realistic than others, your footsteps and the occasional electronic beeping noise. You hear water when you get close to it, axes make chopping sounds, you puff and pant. Everything is there that you need, but it’s not very atmospheric. I think that time is being spent elsewhere at the moment, and rightly so.
SCUM has the potential to pull in lots of players and stick around for a long time. I hope to see the development continue until there is a well finished product. Rest assured once it is completed I will be playing a lot more. This is definitely one for the watch list, I will be keeping a close eye on progress and once it’s more playable I will keep you posted.
Disclaimer: We received a code to carry out this review. No prisoners were harmed whilst this review was being written.