Adventures in SCUM

I have a strong background in survival games. Shortly after the death of one of my favorites, DayZ, I was extremely excited for SCUM to release.  It had been on my radar for the better part of a year and honestly, I had forgotten about it.  My gaming crew and I were discussing one night after an especially arduous night of Siege (Siege players will know that feel) which game we could go to next to get our multiplayer fix.  Someone mentioned SCUM and the sparks went off in my brain.  We all got it that night and installed it for playing the next.

I hopped into a game and was surprised at the games graphic and how well it performed on my computer.  It was pretty seamless for me and it felt great to be back in that open world experience.  In the following passages I’m going to try to break down the pros and cons of SCUM.

ScumSplash

The first thing you’ll do in SCUM is create a character.  At this point the character creation process is pretty limited, but we do see how their stat allotment is going to be implemented.  Currently it appears you have four primary statistics that directly impact your skills.  For instance, Strength dictates how many points you can pump into strength related skills i.e. Melee weapons, rifles and other damage dealing skills.  Most of the skills are self explanatory, but there are three skills (stealth, camouflage and awareness) that are a bit more mysterious.  Upon some research I found that the stealth skill makes your character harder to hear.  Camouflage makes your character more difficult to detect by other players.  Your awareness skill is how well you can detect enemy players.  For instance, if I have a very high camouflage skill and a nearby enemy has a low awareness skill, they may not be able to see me from a certain distance at all.  The awareness skill also allows you to use the focus ability, which you can use to track wounded animals or players.  This is shown by a brightly colored arrow on the ground every thirty steps or so which shows which direction your prey is moving in.

SCUM BOAR

The first time I played I loaded in with my brother.  He was in a town to my north, so I started moving towards him in order to group up.  I continually slammed on the left shift key to sprint, but nothing happened.  It turns out, in order to change the speed of your character, you have to use the scroll wheel.  Rolling the wheel forward increases your speed to a sprint, rolling it back towards you decreases it to a walk.  Sprinting burns a lot more calories than running and thus, you will need to intake more calories to keep yourself healthy.  There is a pretty in-depth nutrition system in SCUM that will take some getting used to.  Currently, it doesn’t appear to do much other than track your calories.  If you intake too many calories, your character will begin to get fat.  Being fat makes you considerably slower so it is wise to avoid, however it appears nearly impossible to do.  Every character I created got fat at some point.  Gone are the days of eating entire bags of rice in one sitting.  I’m sure getting the proper vitamins and minerals in later iterations of the game will help stave off disease and illness.

SCUM Nutrition

SCUM nutrition monitor

A fairly large lake stood between my brother and I so I traveled as the crow flies.  This was a mistake – swimming is incredibly slow and it would have been wise to go around the lake.  Also, if your carry weight becomes too great, you just sink to the bottom of the water like a rock.  I made it to a small island on the northern end of the lake which had a church, a tent and a tree-stand.  I wound up finding a shotgun and a pocket full of shells and an old world war 2 helmet that I had to drop due to my impending drowned death (I guess the helmet was too heavy).

My brother met me on the northern end of the lake and gave me some food.  We then traveled into the town and started looting.

Looting is fun for all of 10 minutes.  You end up getting pretty well geared and then, once you are geared, really don’t have anything to do.  We were lucky that some unfortunate player ran into us and started harassing us, not realizing I had a shotgun.  I was holed up in a building, my brother was on the other side of town looting and the other player was outside of my building talking to me.

SCUM GRAPHIC TOWN

At first, he was very wary of my existence, but not in a smart way.  You learn to traverse these interactions when you play a lot of survival games.  In the event that the player you have encountered is friendly, it’s important to not make yourself seem suspicious or malicious in any way.  Many times, you don’t have a chance to make this interaction, as killing other players on sight is a pretty good tactic for survival; if you kill them before they can attack you, you can’t get attacked.  That being said, it’s fun to negotiate with other players, so I did my best.

The player first informed me that

he saw me and knew I was in the building.  I knew immediately that I had a real Sherlock Holmes on my hands.  He asked me if I was the player who killed him earlier in the same town.  I let him know it couldn’t have been me as I had just started playing and had only just gotten to this town.  He accused me of lying, but stayed outside the building.  He then asked if we could be teammates.  I’m not sure the logic here – he didn’t trust me and at the same time wanted to team up.  Meanwhile, my brother was swooping around to flank our new “friend”.

This player is seriously incessant about teaming up, even after me telling him several times that I am not interested and asking him nicely to leave me alone.  He does not and so begins the negotiations, which go a little something like “Leave now, I do not trust you and if you do not comply I will kill you.”  He spots my brother and they start to talk while I try and find a better vantage point; I cannot.  At this point, this player has annoyed me so much that I decide I have to deal with him.  I’m thinking he is stalling us while his friend makes his way to us to try and ambush us.  I tell him to come on up into my building and we can team up.  For the first time in this interaction the player listens to me and that winds up being his mistake.  As he ambles up the stairs I burst out of the door, shotgun in hand and hip fire point blank at the enemy; clear miss.  The shot (which was pointed directly at his chest) missed above him and to the left.  I instinctively aim down sights and put two shells into him.  My brother, surprised by the shots, starts laughing. “I knew it was a matter of time…” he told me.

We looted the player’s body, chopped him up into smaller body parts and fought off a few puppets (zombies) that I had attracted before leaving town to make a campfire and cook up some human.

The crafting is a little bit strange but once you get a hang of it, it is pretty intuitive albeit a bit clunky.  I tried for awhile to craft some sort of animal hide clothing, but it turns out some bug prevents you from crafting it unless you find a perfect quality sewing thread, which are fairly rare.

Awhile later, we set off to another town and a military base.  The military areas are “restricted” by the players and are guarded my big bipedal (seemingly invincible) mechs that shoot at the player on sight.  We ended up sneaking in and finding all sorts of loot in some underground bunker.  All in all, if you went straight for one of these, you could be fully geared in a matter of minutes.

SCUM MEch

Overall, SCUM is pretty boring.  The spear throwing mechanic can feel pretty rewarding but after killing a handful of puppets it begins to grow stale.  I did throw a spear through my friend’s head after we spent half an hour trying to meet up.  He rage quit and I haven’t played with him since.

I find that I tore through all of the content in a matter of a few hours so now my crew and I are waiting for updates to add interesting content.  I am hopeful that the devs behind SCUM can do some interesting things; they are already in talks about adding vehicles and have since writing this article added improvised guns to their crafting menus.  In it’s current state, I wouldn’t recommend buying this game.  On top of the mounting discern of making a survival game fun, SCUM has been met with plenty of rumors of being unable to deal with hackers.  Now imagine playing the game and looting up for 30 minutes to an hour and then being teleported to by an enemy and insta-killed.

I am excited to be SCUM in the future, but for now I’m going to try my best to stay squeaky clean.

 

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I have a confession…

I hated Fallout 4.

There, I said it.

Fallout 4 came at a time in my life when I couldn’t be more enamored for a Fallout game to release. Near the limits of my attention span with Skyrim, I began to go back into the archives of Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas. These two games came out of nowhere and into my life like a Miley Cyrus wrecking ball. I was somewhat familiar with Bethesda’s games before this, being a huge fan of Morrowind’s dusty Dark Elf home world. I became immersed in Bethesda’s ability to create a world that truly felt dynamic and real.

Morro

I recently went back to play Morrowind again and nearly threw away my router for allowing me to download such a game and ruin my fond memories. I’m beginning to find that fewer and fewer games hold up their replay value. Remember Goldeneye? Don’t play it. For the love of all things holy keep the precious “Slappers Only” memories in your head and do not try to relive the glory days.

Fallout 3’s story line was such a shock to me. It was radiating (see what I did there?) with lore. As soon as you exit the vault the screen flashes white (a product of living in the underground Vault 101) one of the many nuclear fallout shelters of the vast D.C. landscape. Insert prolonged “sigh of longing” here. Okay well, the way you thought that sigh sounded was creepy, that’s not on me.

As the flash effect wears off you see a makeshift scrap-metal town in the distance: Megaton.

Megaton_inside

Off, into the great grey-green yonder. I still vividly remember travelling to the Tenpenny Tower and meeting Allistair Tenpenny. Tenpenny gives you a quest in which you have to make a pretty major decision which I will omit for purposes of spoilers. This is all within the first hour of game play.

Mosey on over to Fallout: New Vegas. You start in the sleepy desert town of Good Springs. The people there seem kind but they like to keep to themselves. You find out rather quickly that there is a group of escaped prison convicts called the Powder Gangers that want to pillage Good Springs and kill the good people there. Another decision must be made – do you help the townsfolk or the Powder Gangers? This is also all within the first hour of game play.

*Side note, you can totally see your end destination, the eponymous “New Vegas”, from a cemetery in Good Springs but SURPRISE, you ain’t about to walk that dusty trail. Instead you have to make a loop around the whole map, encountering different factions who are all vying for power in the Nevada desert. Attempting to take the shortcut to New Vegas will see you getting mauled by Radscorpions and Deathclaws. Believe me. I tried. For more than a few hours.New Vegas

So what about Fallout 4? Was I excited about it? Yes. Did I make a Vault 111 vault suit for Halloween complete with homemade PIP boy? Duh. Did I download the PIP boy app and make a slot for my cell phone to go into that PIP boy thus completing my nerd simulation? Of course. Did I then wear that same costume to the midnight release of Fallout 4 at my local Game Stop? Did you even have to ask?

I was so hyped to delve into a new story in what is, undoubtedly, my favorite franchise of all time. That night I went home and downloaded whatever content you need to download to play the game. I waited on baited breath. I watched all of the time-killing cinematic and animation they put into that loading screen. When it was done, I played the HELL out of Fallout 4. I explored every nook and cranny. I beat down every raider. I built every settlement. The game is set in Boston and the surrounding area, a location I spent several of my formative years. I was excited to see what that place would look like after it was all… Nukified. I even got to explore Walden Pond, where I once went on an elementary school trip.

Very quickly, though, my excitement faded. I started to… notice things. Like how it really seemed like I was doing the same mission over and over again. Or how the combat seemed stale and lacking. The map seemed incredibly small compared to previous games. When I finally made it to Boston, I found that the city was tiny and lacked any real substance. You weren’t able to enter very many buildings.

I still enjoyed my time in the Commonwealth, but it was mainly because of the common themes that I liked from the Fallout franchise were there. The fun music, the desolation, the weird mysteries. It was enough to keep me playing through to the end of the game, but not enough for me to continue playing when the expansion content released.

You may say, “Yeah, if you didn’t love the game, why buy the expansion content?”. Which is valid, but you misunderstand. Being such a huge Fallout fanboy, I bought the season pass, meaning; I own all of the expansion content. I just don’t want to play it. Maybe in the future I’ll slog through it for the sake of updating this post, but with Red Dead 2 on the horizon, I seriously doubt it.

This is all coming over me in waves as I look at the upcoming release of Fallout 76. When I heard there was a new Fallout game, I squee’d with joy. Maybe they heard us. Maybe they are going to do it right. Then I heard there was multiplayer and I nearly fainted. I can FINALLY play a Bethesda game with my friends? Listen, don’t even bother me with that Elder Scrolls Online nonsense. I mean a real game. I mean going on Skyrim adventures with my best buddies. I mean clearing the sewers of DC with all my pals. Then the game play started leaking.

My concerns are not news to anyone who has been keeping up with this title’s release: no non-player humans, the PvP system, trolls and griefing, etc.

We’ve heard from early journalists who have played the game that despite their worries, they were “surprised by the game”. This, for some reason, is supposed to make me interested in it.

I hope I’m wrong.  I hope that the game just looks like it’s going to be bad.  I hope that “surprisingly good” means just that, and isn’t some veiled attempt to be kind to a developer for personal gain.  In an ever changing industry there was one thing I didn’t think ever would.

War.  War may never change, but Fallout certainly has.