All of us in the studio have been great sci-fi fans since we were kids, and with some of us now in our forties, that means we’ve been into science fiction for several decades at this point.

A lot of things have changed since some of these classic tales were first told; but the core themes seem to stay just as thought-provoking and stories seem just as current today as they were back then, even if they missed the mark in certain details. For example, an Xbox console is probably several orders of magnitude more powerful than the central computer of the original Enterprise judging by its response time to Mr. Spock’s queries.

Scars Above Screenshot

We injected this love of science fiction into our game – Scars Above, a single-player 3rd person action adventure. Scars combines the rewarding feel of overcoming difficulty with a compelling sci-fi story. In fact, the challenge itself is woven into the narrative, as are the game’s core mechanics. Set on a mysterious alien world, you play a stranded astronaut faced with overwhelming odds, having to use every resource at her disposal to survive. From crafting and using elemental weapons and gadgets, to exploiting the weaknesses of hostile fauna and flora, and opportunities found in the environment – the approach to combat is not only a design decision but also a storytelling one.

When writing Scars Above, we wanted to capture an old-school sci-fi feel; partly due to our love for these stories, but also due to their continued relevance, thrill, and imagination-building that stands the test of time. Of course, we gave our story a modern spin and hopefully managed to sneak in a few surprises here and there too.

Scars Above Screenshot

While Scars draws inspiration from many sources – and there are too many to note here – a few of genre-defining works were stuck in my mind while coming up with the game’s original concept: the ethical dilemmas of science and the dangers of unchecked technological progress in Foundation by Asimov; the mission-oriented AI devoid of ethical restraints from Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey; and, perhaps surprisingly, the strangeness and the unexpectedness found beyond the rabbit hole in Carrol’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, all left their mark on Kate’s journey on the mysterious extrasolar planet.

When it comes to the cult classics on the screen, the comparison to Alien is, of course, obvious; from the resourcefulness of Ellen Ripley to the biological horror of the Xenomorph. A less obvious inspiration can be found in a movie before my time (I remember watching it on TCM as a kid, it was an “old classic” even then) – “Forbidden Planet” from 1956. It was the first science fiction movie set entirely on another planet, far from Earth. It also featured one of the first AI characters with its own personality.

Scars Above Screenshot

Finally, the idea of protagonists being explorers and scientists instead of soldiers and warriors stems from Star Trek – a continuing source of inspiration for our entire studio. In fact, here’s some trivia for you: Kate is named after the actress Kate Mulgrew – Captain Janeway from Star Trek Voyager.

Good sci-fi is timeless and we hope to have captured some of its essence in the story of Scars Above, giving it a bit of that enduring quality. Of course, it’s a modern story in a modern story-driven action game, following current trends in both gameplay and storytelling. Our plan has always been to have an interplay between the story and game mechanics. For example, the way Scars is challenging reflects the scale between Kate and the terrifying biological monstrosities that she must face. Kate’s engineering and scientific skills, rather than combat training, translate to gadgets and weapons players need to rely on as part of the tactical combat in the game.

Scars Above Screenshot

When she’s not fighting, Kate is solving the mystery of the planet and revealing the story through research and scientific exploration, also depicted through gameplay. We made gameplay mechanics a part of the story (even the “respawn” mechanic is a narrative element), and we used the story to drive the design of the mechanics. It’s a modern story, told by modern gameplay – inspired by sci-fi classics and everlasting themes of human curiosity, exploration, and science; and alien planets filled with scary monsters, of course.

We can’t wait for you to beat the odds using knowledge, experimentation, tactical thinking, and sharp shooting skills – as you struggle to stay calm and precise during intense moments of terror. Scars Above comes out today, February 28th for Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S.