Typing in Scathe so I could link to the Steam page, I remembered the definition: harm. Yes, this FPS from Damage State Ltd and Kwalee is a hurt me plenty shooter where inflicting harm is within your interests. Not necessarily because you’re a sadist, but because you don’t want those things harming you.
The word is, you’re a creation of the Divine Creator and an enforcer of the Legions of Hell. Consider it an internship as you have to prove your worth by escaping a labyrinth and taking everything down with you. Besides the running and gunning, you also have to collect hell stones to progress, but the simple advice of ‘kill everything’ will ensure a relatively stress-free experience once you locate them. If you live that long.
Equipped with the Hell Hammer, you’ll move through Hell at lightning speeds and shoot just as fast. This default weapon is almost an endgame gun as it’s infinite ammo and has a rocket launcher but features a slowish cooldown. Usually, there’s another ‘but…’ here, like it has that stupid jamming feature as seen in the overrated Deathloop (there, I said it), but no: there are no flaws – the Hell Hammer is a fantastic starting weapon and can hold its own when facing the bosses.
Having infinite ammo in an FPS might feel like cheating, but Scathe is a tough game, but not silly tough unless you raise the difficulty levels. Luring enemies is a good idea, and though that would probably guarantee you a bullet in the head from an FPS purist, these things swarm you, so it’s worth being strategic for the survival element alone. In most scenarios, you can grab the hell stone, locate a lift and move on to the next area. Other times you have to eliminate everything to progress.
Fortunately, we have other weapons, such as the first instalment: the shotgun. Ah, the trusty boomstick. Alas, it’s limited ammo, so any new gun is best for bosses or the occasional crowd culling as it can get hairy – especially when dodging loathsome flying enemies, hordes, orbs and when the floor is lava. Later weapons infuse dark magic, and by far, the go-to weapon was a weak-looking revolver that one-hit-kills enemies while holding the Hell Hammer in the other hand.
The sound in Scathe plays an integral part in the game. Though the Mortal Kombat-like announcements aren’t anything new, nor will the sound effects blow you away, they’re crucial to survival. They’re likely to give you a bit of cardiovascular workout as they’re the equivalent of listening out for footsteps in a PvP. For the most part, it’s to hear enemies approaching – particularly these god-awful spiky orbs (and other variations) that pounce out of nowhere. They aren’t hard to kill, but they move fast. Hear their screeching? Run away!
The Sound Of Death
The real standout with the sound is when you’re nearing death. The lower your health, the more ambient sounds you’ll hear, and you soon find yourself creeping around corners hoping not to meet another mob and instead find some health. But the way the sound effects work has you clenching, expecting a jump scare or another death, and that it’s imminent. Scathe isn’t a horror title, but man, this is a jumpy game. For the right reasons.
What’s interesting to note is it isn’t a game that’ll blow you away. A fan of FPS titles, I must admit that my frustration kicked in early due to getting lost. In hindsight, the first boss area was glitchy, and the doors I was meant to pass didn’t open. Exiting in frustration, I relaunched the game the next day to find it sorted, but the boss respawned and had to do that again. The bosses don’t hit spectacularly hard, but their health pool is massive. They’re pretty unique, too.
One thing I said I’d aim to do is note whether a Steam game runs on Steam Deck. Though it’s not in the ‘great on Steam Deck’ section or whatever the line is, it runs well. What were the settings? No idea, but it played fine aside from a few freezes when there was a lot on the screen. It wasn’t my preference as playing for extended periods made my fingers ache, and since returning to the PC mouse and keyboard FPS combo, nothing compares. So, wonder if Scathe plays on Steam Deck? There’s your answer. Yes.
Scathe is on PC (reviewed), PS5, PS4 and Xboxes. Certainly worth a look, especially if you like Doom-like titles (the additional retro filters are AMAZING!).