Serum Review | PC

The possibilities become endless when your life is on a timer and even more so when you choose your buffs.

By R3GR3T, Posted 03 Jun 2024

Just as it looks like things can’t get better for 2024, a new studio pops up with a completely new idea that looks odd at first but is actually amazing. Meet Game Island, this Polish Studio has only been around since 2020 but they have a drive to create survival experiences while keeping it story-rich. Well, they might not have a history to look into but they as hell seem hellbent on not just hitting the ground running, they’re heading straight into the air and the sky is no longer the limit for them. Their very first release, Serum, has been teased up and down and they finally released it into Early Access on 23 May.


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Now, Serum is far from your average survival release, it’s so much more and it comes with a very unforgiving side too. You’ll take on the role of Adam, a tester for E.V.A.S., which was a leading corporation in bioengineering. This is important because the world at hand was struck with a toxic plague that devastated the population, though E.V.A.S eventually came up with a cure of sorts in the form of the serum. However, the plague proved to be much more dangerous and things went South when Adam went to get his timer fixed, more on this soon.

Your adventure starts with you waking up in a sewer with only 2 minutes left on your timer – 2 minutes until you expire. Right off the bat, you’ll become very acquainted with how real the survival aspect is because your life is quite literally on a timer. Luckily, you’re not doomed to live short a life as the serum can extend your life by holding back the blight. Though you won’t have an infinite amount of serum either, you’ll need to make more by harvesting materials from the living things around you. The serum does come with one downside, it’ll raise a stat called ‘Wildness’, which is essentially a mutation the serum causes, and hitting the max number of Wildness will also bar you from using more serum.

This is where Serum starts becoming a bit more interesting. You’ll need to visit your base every now and then to pay a visit to the Absorber, which will remove all positive and negative serum effects along with resetting your timer to 2 minutes. The Absorber will also serve as your respawn point if you do happen to expire out in the field, but its main purpose is to give you a reset and with some careful planning, you’ll be able to make the most of your time when you’re out exploring.


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With you finally having discovered the base and cleared all the side effects from your system, your mysterious helper over a radio known as Richard will fill you in on your objective and where you are. The E.V.A.S corporation built several biomes that they used for research and testing, though those biomes are overrun and in ruins now but still rich in valuable resources that you can use. Your adventure starts in Biome 0 but your only escape is through the Canyon Biome. As for the other biomes, there are the Forest and Swamp Biomes that you’ll need to explore as well as you progress through the story.

Now the real fun begins, your base isn’t just home to the Absorber, there are several other features that you’ll need for your adventure, and the most important one is the Fabricator. As you’ll soon discover, there are a wide variety of serums that you can craft and you’ll be able to mix three serum effects into one vial. Your most important one will be Blight Resistance which adds more time to your timer, but there are others that can give you regeneration, new powers like double jump, damage resistance, and much more. However, they all come with their crafting costs and Wildness that they’ll add to you, though this can be offset with a few upgrades.

Next is the Workbench, because you’re going to need a place to salvage whatever you pick up or craft items. Sadly, this is where Serum takes a vicious turn towards grinding as you’ll need a literal mountain of plant materials and other resources to build items, weapons, and even do upgrades. Nothing comes without a cost but the spawn rate of some of the materials might need a bit of work, especially if you end up scouring an entire biome only to find out that nothing has respawned yet and you’re missing that one item.


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On the matter of crafting in Serum, aside from picking up items in the biomes for upgrades, you’ll also need biological matter in the form of plants. Welcome to the hydroponics garden, your main stop for an endless supply of plant materials that you can use for serums. It might not sound like much but in an extremely unforgiving world, it’s nice to have that little leeway… Granted, while it can give you an infinite number of plants, it still takes time for each harvest and you’ll need to make sure your generator is fueled up.

There is a game-breaking flaw when it comes to the generator though – Its main purpose is to power your hydroponics garden and aspect extractor and it does a brilliant job it those. However, this might just be a bug but the amount of fuel used when you spend 30 minutes at your base and 15 minutes out in the field doesn’t make sense. Spending 30 minutes at your base will leave your generator fuel barely touched, meanwhile 15 minutes out in the field and you’ll find your generator ran dry and your garden supremely dead when you get back.

Now, where things become a little confusing when it comes to crafting is when you also need to stock up on aspects – Mind, Body, and Spirit. These are technically crafting components too but stocking up on them is somewhat different, you’ll need to salvage plants and other organic matter. The alternative is trapping some wildlife and extracting their aspects using the Aspect Extractor. Unfortunately, this is likely another bug but once you put them in, you might not see them again until they die.


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Saving the biggest part of Serum for last, you’ll need to worry about yourself too. Aside from a timer until you expire, you’ll need to keep track of several other things such as your Distortions, carry weight, health, and even stamina. Carrying weight is the bane of everybody’s existence but you won’t be left unable to move if you go over it, you’ll instead start moving slower as add more weight over your limit. Distortions are where the real fun comes in, this works in tandem with your wildness and sometimes even the plants you eat. Wildness will progressively give you debuffs but distortions can cause other effects related to the aspects which is a nice touch for some extra risk.

There’s a rather massive world to explore in Serum and a multitude of beasts you’ll encounter, this goes without saying but Serum definitely carries a lot of visual appeal from a design point of view. While you are technically exploring an open world, the use of gates to separate the biomes is a nice touch as you jump between vastly different areas without needing to worry about loading times. What gives Serum most of its shine is the unique designs for the mini-boss and boss mutants, it’s not always possible to see the finer details when you’re fighting for your life but you can take a closer look in the journal to really admire just how well-done they are.

Serum shows a lot of potential with sound design for sound effects and ambient music, as well as how there’s a constant running tension to emphasize the fact that you’re on a timer. However, and this is a rather controversial topic, the developers opted to use AI-generated voice prompts for the characters. They aren’t necessarily bad, they’re quite accurate and sound realistic but knowing this might hurt Serum’s approval through the eyes of other gamers.


Serum, Review, Screenshots, Open-World, Horror, Survival, NoobFeed
 

Overall, Serum has tons of potential to be great and we’ll need to be patient and see how it does in Early Access. As can be expected, there are a few bugs and some are quite bad, but the updates are still flowing and the bugs are being crushed with each round. It has already got a pretty good story and solid mechanics; the biggest issues are mostly quality-of-life related and maybe a few new weapons would be nice to have. For now, we’ll have to wait and see how far Serum goes and if Game Island’s first release has what it takes to take a top spot in the survival genre.
 

Jay Claassen (@R3GR3T_3NVY)
Senior Editor, NoobFeed

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General Information

Serum

70/100

Platform(s): PC
Publisher(s): Toplitz Productions
Developer(s): Game Island
Genres: Open-World
Themes: Survival, Horror
Release Date: 2024-04-24

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