First Impression: Scathe
Developer: Damage State Ltd
Release Date: 17 September, 2021 (EA)
Platform: Windows, PS4/5, X Box 1/X/S
Genre: First Person Shooter
By Chris Picone, 04 August 2022
A while ago I posted a poll on Twitter asking for people’s favourite genres of indie games and made the mistake of not including FPS as an option because it was “not something that indie developers tend to do well.” I’ve since been made aware that there are actually quite a few high quality indie FPS games out there (a couple of thousand angry indie FPS fans didn’t like my opinion but were helpful enough to make recommendations). In any case, here’s another exceptional case: Scathe.
Thematically it’s dancing a fine line between “inspired by” and “ripping off” Doom. Some of the creatures – the turrets, drones, and weird ball-monsters, for example – are definitely new. But some of the fireball-flinging demons are very close to Doom’s imps and the first boss I faced could have been the Cyberdemon’s younger brother. You even find dead aliens holding strange devices that is incredibly reminiscent of Doom’s praetor tokens. But have no fear! While there may be many similarities, Scathe is no Doom clone. The art direction is, understandably, heavily inspired by Doom but it definitely has its own distinct style with an eclectic purple-green palette and an almost cell-shader quality. I dig it. And the gameplay is very different – it’s an FPS that plays more like a roguelite; you’re dumped into the labyrinths of Hell with a gun and 10 lives and then you’re left to your own devices. Your goal is to collect all the Hellstones and escape the maze, killing everything along the way as you explore and try to collect runes and other secrets. Where Doom is about attacking everything berserker-style, Scathe is just as intense and fast-paced but instead models itself as a first-person bullet-hell, where you’re carefully trying to take down your enemies while using the environment to help you dodge their attack patterns.
The verdict? I’d love to say “if you’re a fan of FPS games buy Scathe” but it’s not quite the case. If you’re a fan of Quake 3, Unreal Tournament, or other fast-paced die-and-retry arena-style carnage FPS games, Scathe is awesome. Prefer your story-driven shooters? This might not be the game for you.