Scum, developed by Gamepires with a helping hand from Croteam, isn’t lacking in ambition. As a survival game centered around prisoners fighting to live on an island with no assistance from the outside world, it could just be another genre title with decent graphics and gameplay and still gather a dedicated following. That’s not good enough for the fifteen developer team, though. Instead, this is a true simulation of survival, with a mixture of player versus player to earn fame. The fact that it takes place on a twelve kilometer by twelve kilometer land mass, the largest ever for a game running on the Unreal engine, is just the beginning.
What really sets Scum apart from other titles of its ilk is the accurate simulation of the human body. Lung capacity, pulse, even volume of blood in the body is detailed down to excruciating detail on the metabolism screen. It’s to the point that this game can actually teach the player a thing or two about deeper levels of biology. The team goes as far as to handle the bio-mechanics of food completely realistically. This concept feeds into the player creation aspect. A player might decide to make their new character as beefy as possible, sporting muscles that could lift a car. This seems like a great idea in theory, but a body with that much power requires a higher caloric intake to maintain, which means more hunting while other necessities might be ignored. Over time, if the character isn’t receiving the needed fuel, that muscle mass will degrade. A player who is also a well trained nutritionist will have a huge advantage over those of us that are members of the unwashed masses.
Fortunately, because of this system, hunger and thirst won’t result in a quick death. One of the more annoying aspects of the genre is the constant need to shove stuff into the mouth. Gamepires knows that this isn’t realistic. While lack of hydration and nourishment will result in death over a long period of time, the more immediate effects are things like reduced stamina, a harder time aiming a weapon, reduced strength, and so on. The idea is to really capture the reality of survival.
This emphasis on realism extends to the weapons. Bullet drop, wind resistance, even the curvature of the planet is taken into account every time a ballistic weapon is fired. The team is proud of the physics behind this, as they took the time to implement the same formulas that go into military training. Since different weapons are modeled, it will take some time and practice to get used to how each gun handles in order to become a killing machine.
An interesting thing about this game is the fact that, despite the slavish devotion to realism, the team wants to make sure that the game is fun. This means a reduced penalty for death. Each prisoner on the island is outfitted with a chip on the back of their head, a piece of electronics that stores everything about the person. Should a fallen prisoner have enough fame, they can be resurrected in a clone with all of their skills brought forward.
The fame itself is earned via events. The point of this prison island is both punishment for the criminals and entertainment for the general populace. As such, various optional events pop up, such as a televised player versus player deathmatch battles. Players can opt join in and battle to their heart’s content. How well they do dictates how much fame they earn. After the event is concluded, the player is then transported right back to where they were when they agreed to take part in the fight.
The diametric opposition of a serious survival game and a no holds barred blast ’em up might seem odd at first. These are two different styles of play that require different skills and planning. In practice, they compliment each other really well. Skills improved via practice when foraging for items to just plain live will improve how well the character does during an event, and vice versa. That isn’t even accounting for the change of pace to keep the game from getting stale. The developers are aware that some players will favor one method of play over the other, and took great care to reward all breeds of gamer, but it feels like a mixture of both will be the most efficient method of excelling.
While Scum does fall under the survival game umbrella, it feels more like a true role-playing game. The character creation element is heavily inspired by board games, and the different stats and skills factor into how a character will play. The game will also feature actual objectives and goals, all leading to a true endgame, to make sure that it isn’t the aimless endeavor that most survival games become. In a time where titles in the genre are a dime a dozen, Scum stands out with a healthy dose of realism and the fantastical. This is a title that will gain a following and should become one of the touchstone titles that influence the future of games if there is any justice in the world.