Scars Above - PS5 Review

Scars Above by developer Mad Head Games and publishers DeepSilver and Prime MatterSonyPlayStation 5 review written by Nick with a copy provided by the publisher.

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes.

Scars Above is a challenging game with solid if unspectacular presentation values and an interesting enough story that kept me engaged until the end. This is not a AAA title, but despite some rough edges, Scars Above is worth a play for someone looking for a somewhat Souls-like science fiction game.

The narrative follows our protagonist named Kate – a member of The Sentient Contact Assessment and Response Team (or SCAR) - who is a resourceful person pressed into a dangerous situation. While she is not a soldier, she will have to fight her way out of a very hostile environment that is constantly trying to kill her Kate’s resourcefulness has her using the element and crafted items to help even the odds in this third-person action-RPG.

Souls-like might feel like an odd comparison, given the overall style (much of which is ranged combat) and setting, but it feels like everything is trying to kill you. It’s not just the enemies, but the environment too. It lacks some of the subtle balance found in Souls titles though, that often punish but teach in a way that feels fair if often frustrating. Scars Above has a higher percentage of ‘what the hell’ moments for me, where things didn’t necessarily feel entirely fair or balanced. You really will need to learn how to leverage the environment to your benefit during combat to get the most out of the game.

Scars Above has a solid foundation, but most of the gameplay is pretty basic. You can dodge out of the way of enemies, but there’s no cover / shooting, which feels at odds with more modern shooters. It doesn’t help that I felt like I was wrestling with the third-person camera at times. In larger, more open environments it worked great. However, Scars Above encourages you to explore nooks and crannies now and again, taking you off of the otherwise somewhat linear primary path. In these instances, the camera just feels cramped and awkward.

That being said, I enjoyed the overall feel of the gameplay once I figured out how to approach things. It is not the longest of games, ringing in about a dozen hours to fully unlock all of Kate’s skills and find the various items scattered about. One of the primarily characteristics of most Souls-like games is the sense of satisfaction that comes with a hard-fought victory against really stacked odds. The typical enemy is seldom all that interesting, but several of the boss encounters stand out enough to help provide that rush with a hard-fought victory. It’s during these fights (and some of the bigger but not-quite-boss types) that you’ll find yourself making greater use of Kate’s arsenal and skills. It’s pretty easy to max out Kate’s abilities long before the game’s end if you are keeping an eye out for the knowledge / experience orbs.

Now, this is not a AAA title, but I’d go so far as to say it’s at least AA quality. The presentation is solid overall, with excellent environmental visuals and sound effects. This is important, given how much the environment factors into the gameplay. There’s a sort of inherent creepiness to the setting, especially some of the darker ones. Unfortunately that’s something as much due to the inconsistent / peculiar lighting as the tension of the gameplay. There are times that there is light and shadow in places that feel kind of off. Also, for as good as the environments look, the character models are stiff and lifeless most of the time. In particular, faces struck me as rather lifeless, which was unfortunate given the fairly game effort provided by the voice actors here.

In terms of the story itself? It’s alright. I liked the idea that Kate’s not a hardened soldier, but I have to wonder how anyone but a battle-trained soldier would survive all of this. Still, the story has some nice moments where you get solid backstory, while still progressing towards the ending. I seldom felt like I was making important narrative discoveries along the way, but I was invested enough to see things through. There’s really no replay value to be had here, which when combined with the fairly short playtime, could raise the question of overall value. While this doesn’t ring in at a AAA price point, I couldn’t blame someone who felt the value here was a bit better in waiting for a sale either.


Scars Above scratches an interesting itch, with it’s take on Souls-like boss battles and clever use of environments, but mixing things up with a science fiction setting. That being said, this is not a AAA title and has some rough edges that detract from the experience once in a while. Still, if you’re willing to look past those blemishes and the somewhat short duration of the game, I had fun far more often than not as I took Kate on this adventure of hers.

Score: 6.5 / 10