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.

 

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Two prisoners stop for a well earned drink by this idyllic stream.

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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.

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A freelance writer and blogger living on the south-coast. I write about the world of video games on my current blog. With a focus on RTS/FPS military PC games.

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