SERUM Early Access Review – Try Hard Guides

SERUM is an interesting case of a game. Full of cool ideas, great visuals, and evident developer passion, I can, for one, say that it was a wise move choosing to release the game into Early Access before going for the full launch because alongside SERUM’s silver linings come some severe issues that need to be addressed before the game can live up to its own potential.

SERUM opens with a well-directed cutscene that perfectly sets up the tone of the game. Our protagonist has signed up for some medical studies to support his family and excitedly tells his wife and child over the phone that he’ll be home soon, all while the camera pans over a suspiciously put-together collection of documents and children’s drawings that set up a far more sinister undertone.

Screenshot: Try Hard Guides

Next thing you know, we’re in the sewers, and the grim reality of our situation becomes clearer.

In SERUM, our player must inject himself with the titular substance frequently, or else he will succumb to a violent, virulent metamorphosis. This time limit is indicated by a convenient glowing LED clock implanted into his wrist.

This makes up the core mechanic of the game. In order to survive outside of your base, you must collect and use a Serum before your internal clock strikes zero. Serum can be found rarely in the wild but is mostly crafted at your fabricator using plants and other organic materials gathered in the world.

Ultimately, your goal is to escape the wild, mutilated, and mutated lands you find yourself in before you lose yourself to the poison in your veins.

The concept of SERUM is incredibly cool, especially when you consider the game’s semi-open world nature. Putting the player on a timer that forces them to carefully plan and limit their time exploring, but making the only way to extend said timer by exploring and challenging the world is a very clever gameplay loop.

Serum Animal
Screenshot: Try Hard Guides

SERUM delivers on its identity incredibly well in the visual department, too. The world has this grimy, green, ruined look that makes you feel like there’s a sickness creeping across the landscape. It uses the concept of a diseased environment to make something like STALKER but alien. I’m especially a big fan of the weird, twisted creatures you encounter on your path, using mutant strength and odd appendages to kill you in creepy ways. If these creatures were better animated, I feel like they would further elevate the game’s aesthetic to near-godlike levels.

Unfortunately, at its current build, SERUM doesn’t deliver on the gameplay aspects of its powerhouse concept very well.

The core of SERUM is, of course, the Serum. You are on a constant side quest to collect materials to craft the life-saving injection as well as find new formulas for which to expand upon its use. The idea that the Serum can not only be used to extend your timer but also enhance your combat abilities is really cool.

Serum Brewing
Screenshot: Try Hard Guides

Sadly, the effects of said combat-boosting serums aren’t incredibly interesting; they just offer flat damage resistance bonuses or the occasional combat skill. At best, you feel compelled to use what you happened to have collected to make a stronger serum, not necessarily to go out of your way to find said materials in the first place. At worst, the game will physically gatekeep you from progressing unless you have the right Serum to knock down a wall or survive poisonous gas.

This is sort of the core issue with SERUM; the crafting feels like a chore rather than a fun mechanic to play around with. The weapon upgrades and craftable serum types don’t feel exciting enough to warrant you going off the beaten path to find the materials needed to craft them. The game will not only punish you for being disinterested in crafting but will, again, sometimes straight-up block your progress if you don’t engage in the mechanic. Crafting is a controversial mechanic for a reason, and SERUM’s setup is not going to make fans of its critics.

The weapons and their upgrades don’t suffer as much from the game’s crafting fatigue due in large part to the other visual upgrades each weapon gets when you enhance them. I hate when games don’t bother to make upgraded weapons look or feel any different, so SERUM definitely gets points from me in that regard.

Serum Weapon
Screenshot: Try Hard Guides

While I love the weapons and various enemy types in the game, I’m not in love with the combat. It is very reminiscent of the flailing-block combat mechanics of Skyrim, which were already pretty dated when that game was released in 2011.

You attack with a left click and can enter a timed block with the right, and the combat feels like you’re flailing your weapon around until you run out of stamina. You use The same stamina bar to sprint, so be careful if you plan on navigating the world at a good speed.

SERUM mixes things up with abilities, which, as I said before, you get from injecting the Serum. Some of these are pretty good, while others feel very anti-climatic to use (tether, specifically.) The game really needs more of these abilities, more animation and flair to go with them, and the ability to hang on to them without needing to reinject Serum constantly. Every save point you interact with wipes your slate clean, which removes your special abilities until you craft the Serum again.

In addition, SERUM’s current build also suffers from some real performance issues. High-end machines will still struggle to run the game at a high frame rate and will see some long load times.

I think SERUM has a strong foundation to build on, but some work still needs to be done on this Early Access title. Before the game leaves Early Access, I’d love to see combat touched upon, maybe even completely reworked. I’d like to see more incentives to engage in crafting and resource gathering without it feeling like something you have to do to progress. I’d also love to see the interesting world and creatures SERUM’s built brought to life further with better, more exciting animations and effects.

Overall, I’d say the game has a lot of promise; It just needs a little bit of paint and some tinkering under the hood.


  • Interesting concept and mechanical promises that just need to be tweaked and expanded on
  • It has a great aesthetic, a cool world filled with interesting creatures and weapons playing off its sci-fi horror concept


  • Unexciting crafting
  • Boring, dated feeling combat mechanics
  • Framerate issues that will affect even high-end machines