Despite some controversy, survival shooter SCUM is lighting the Steam charts on fire in the few weeks since its Early Access launch. It's already publisher Devolver Digital's biggest launch ever, selling 250,000 copies in its first day. Tens of thousands of players are blasting each other concurrently, but the game and its popularity seem to all have come out of nowhere. So what exactly is SCUM, and what do players find so compelling about it? That's what this article is for.
What is SCUM?
Gamepires and Croteam describe SCUM as "an open-world survival game with unprecedented levels of character customization, control, and progression." They aren't wrong. On the surface, it looks like something you've seen before. But once you engage with the systems, you realize its something much more than that. The micromanagement is at a level that's hard to comprehend.
Is there a story?
Yes! You are in the shoes of an inmate trapped on a prison island. It becomes clear pretty quickly that your sentence is being turned into some sort of bloodsport for the television watching public. Your journey to figure out who's doing this and how to stop them is rife with danger, though. Not only are the inmates being incentivized to kill each other for their freedom, but the mysterious controllers are manipulating and sabotaging the world around you. Not to mention you have to survive nature and all of its dangers as well.
What do you do in it?
Most of your time will be spent attempting to get the tracking chip out of your neck that's being used to monitor you, and then trying to escape. But the path to do that involves monitoring and managing health, scavenging for gear and crafting materials, avoiding the occasional zombie, fighting other...
Wait, back up. Did you say zombie?
Oh right. Outside of the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed hardened criminals stuck on the island with you, there are also mindless, zombie-like people who wander the area looking to kill. There's good reason to believe that they were morphed into this state by a similar neck-chip situation as your own. It's a gross display of power by the producers of the show, who use these so-called "puppets" as everything from scouts to siege weapons. Massive mobs of them can swarm a location and bring it down in unison without too much struggle. You really have to be careful about those guys.
What else will these producers do to make your life hard?
Well, they control everything, from the wildlife to the weather. Specially modified bugs may bite you and make you dramatically ill. Maybe you aren't being active enough, so they cause a random wildfire to smoke you out of a hiding place. Maybe you're getting too good with a rifle or bow from long distances, so they need to conjure up a rainstorm to dampen your edge. Producers are real jerks.
Yeah, I'll say.
But on a meta-level, all of these mechanics go hand in hand with the overall message of the SCUM's core design — meticulousness.
How about hunger? We've all played survival games with hunger meters, and the system is pretty rudimentary. A bar gets low, and you get weak until you eat some food and it goes up again. SCUM ups the ante, by not just adding a hunger mechanic, but an entire nutrition system. Now, you dont just regulate that you're eating food, you also need to make sure you're eating the right kinds of food to maintain a diet that can sustain the sort of character you want to build. High strength characters need high protein diets, for instance. Every edible item in the game is coded with some true-to-life macro nutrient data to help you plan ahead.
Are you serious!?
Yep. Check out this video on their metabolism system. It's nuts.
Right? Character creation is incredibly detailed and wildly customizable. Another video, if you don't mind.
This is very intense!
You don't even know the half of it! The attention to detail they've devoted to the physics of running and jumping, hiding, shooting, etc. is so incredible that it's almost too difficult to describe without playing it. And that's just what's in the Early Access package. Gamepires wants to ramp things up immensely by the time 1.0 releases, including things like player created gameplay modes, different martial arts for unarmed combat, vehicles, and base-building. SCUM truly wants to be the "everything" game.
Well, where can I play it?
Right now, on Steam in Early Access. They imagine it will be at least a full year before the game launches proper. If you do pick it up, though, don't forget to withdraw or deposit some knowledge into our SCUM Wiki!
Jarrett shares his love of video games and geek culture through feature articles on Gamepedia. He prides himself on his deep attraction to Japanese beat-em ups and his god-like Bushido Blade talents.