Early Access Review: SCUM

Welcome to Convict Island

Survival games aren’t usually my thing. They require a vast amount of dedication and engagement, with menial tasks that I’m not typically looking for when escaping to a digital world. SCUM, however, caught my eye with just how over the top its systems seem to be.

In SCUM, you play as a prisoner forced onto an island filled with other convicts forced to fight for the amusement of an audience watching from their televisions. On paper, it’s a pretty generic battle royale story, but the overwhelming amount of information thrown at you makes SCUM pretty unique. I don’t know many other games that keep track of how many teeth I have left. 

SCUM (PC [reviewed])
Developer: Gamepires, Croteam
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Released: August 29, 2018 (Early Access) 
MSRP: $19.99

At its heart, SCUM is a survival game like DayZ or any other. You traverse the sizeable open-world searching for additional supplies, weapons, and food to keep yourself alive. Unlike other survival games, SCUM keeps track of seemingly every aspect of your character’s physical condition. Even the decisions you make about your character’s appearance will have an impact on their health. Older characters have greater wisdom, for example, but it comes at the cost of stats like strength and endurance.

Your ability in specific stats can even deteriorate over time if you’re not getting proper nutrition. Don’t get enough protein and you’ll see your strength fade in time. You can keep an eye on your character’s pulse, injuries they’ve sustained, even the amount of vitamins and minerals you’re taking into your body. The whole thing can feel pretty overwhelming, but you can get by okay if you’re at least paying attention to your most basic needs like food and water. 

Your basic HUD will keep you aware of your health and let you know if you’re getting hungry, but delving into the bigger metabolism menu is where you can find out everything you could want to know about your character and their current status; present injuries, whether they’re losing blood, current heart rate, you name it. 

While there’s plenty to do outside of foraging for food, like fighting zombies or searching for other players to kill, I found that looking for items to craft better equipment as well as everything I would need to cook a proper meal took center stage here. Cannibalism takes center stage as the easiest way to survive. You can slice more steaks than you can carry off a dead zombie, but those alone don’t make for the most nutritious meal. You’ll need a way to carve the meat and a place to cook it up and season it.

This is where SCUM’s crafting system comes into play. Crafting can be pretty overwhelming at first, but the best way to wrap your head around it is starting simple. If you need a spear merely sharpen a rock and fasten it into a stick. More complicated items like bags and clothing require things like rope and leather. The UI can be daunting at times, and it doesn’t do a great job of spelling out what items can be substituted in crafting recipes, so getting better supplies means a lot of trial and error. It’s also important to note that objects don’t need to be in your inventory to craft with, as long as they’re in your general vicinity, you can make them to your heart’s content. 

Despite the server I played on being nearly full with 58 players, I only encountered another living human once during my time with SCUM. He killed me within seconds, as I was only armed with a shovel. Once dead I was given the option to re-spawn either randomly or at a location of my choosing. Doing so cost a set number of Fame Points, a currency earned for entertaining the fictional audience, though, it isn’t exactly clear what I was earning any for. 

You can also spend Fame Points to enter competitive death matches or capture the flag games. Nobody on any of the servers I joined seemed interested in this though. I was the only one who ever queued up.

If you’re looking for entertainment outside of PvP there’s plenty of zombies and wildlife to engage with. As well as some pretty nasty mechs. These things give you a fair warning when you step into their protected areas and can blow you away pretty quick. I never managed to take one down, but I’d have to think it would be worth your while.

SCUM is strange, but sort of fascinating. If you have a liking for survival games and are looking for one with a number of obtuse survival conditions – bordering on absurd – then you might find a new love here. It’s incredibly rough around the edges right now, but I’m interested to see where this could go. With any luck, it won’t take any of you as long to figure out how to poop as it did me. 

[This Early Access Review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]

Rich Meister
NY gamer who duped Destructoid into hiring him. JRPG nerd and Paul Rudd enthusiast. Full disclosure, I backed some Kickstarter things. Monster Crown and Knuckle Sandwich have my money so take my opinions with a grain of salt.