Nakata praying mantis boss in the Swamp.
Screenshot by GameSkinny

Serum Early Access Review: Juiced Up Potential

Serum could make a mark as a horror survival game with more time to polish mechanics.

Serum combines horror and survival crafting to create a riveting world full of glowing creatures ready to tear you to shreds. Along with the music that accompanies you on your journey, you’ll have the hairs on the back of your neck rising as you play. Serum forces you to face your fears as you try to survive in a mutated, post-apocalyptic world, and while the story is solid, the actual gameplay leaves you wanting.

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Serum’s Lore Is Intriguing

The opening cinematic of Serum explains much of the lore. A disaster struck humanity, a blight. Scientists created the serum, a supposed miracle that saved humans from the brink of destruction.

However, the serum turned out to be more of a curse than a miracle. Inside the medicine was an uncontrolled mutagen. Accidentally released into research biomes, the mutagen caused various changes in the environment, creatures, and people.

The story itself is a solid one. It’s similar to Resident Evil or Parasite Eve but distinct in how it delivers. The serum may change people, but it still keeps humans alive, at least for a few moments. When starting, a vial adds five precious minutes to your timer, letting you live without taking damage from the environment.

When out in the different biomes, the music greatly elevates the experience. Unintelligible whispers creep into your ears. Metal clanks when you carry it. Broken road crunches beneath your heels. Howls in the distance alert you to the presence of Fogwolves, while gurgles and shrieks let you know Dullers, Serum‘s version of zombies, are around.

Serum’s Gameplay Mechanics

Serum applicator billboard in the Swamp.
Screenshot by GameSkinny

While the story of Serum is well executed, that’s where the best of the game ends. The mechanics of the title, along with actually playing, all need more polish. It is an Early Access title, but a lot of the issues interfere with gameplay. For starters, only a few of the game’s actual mechanics are explained, like using the Absorber or brewing serum. The generator and growing plants are briefly explained, but other mechanics don’t really get a full rundown.

Exploration is great as the environment is well designed with the biomes being vastly different from one another. If you’re trying to find your way to a specific location or get turned around while running away from an enemy, you’re out of luck. There are no maps in Serum. I’ve gotten lost multiple times in the Forest biome trying to make it back to base before my timer runs out, only to die in the same area I was trying to leave.

When in combat, the issues become more prevalent. Getting stunned causes your vision to blur, but that’s not clearly explained. While indicated that you can block, it’s never explained how aside from using the Block button. Dodging is a skill, but you’re never told how to dodge.

Stunned by a Tentarat King in the Forest.
Screenshot by GameSkinny

Combat is hard in Serum. It often feels like battles and defeating foes were designed only for co-op mode, which isn’t even included in the game yet. As a single-player, combat is akin to that of a Soulslike game. There were a number of times I died due to a small bug, fall damage, or enemies jumping around from glitches or lag. A handful of times, I was somehow stunned by a creature not even close to me and instantly killed.

This can simply be explained as a difficult game. However, there were various times that I got stuck on some debris without being able to see it. An enemy standing in your way can completely block your path with no way to move around it.

Other bugs include:

  • Destructible walls not being destroyed
  • Rotters not spawning in central node area
  • Weapons appearing inside other weapons
  • Enemies being in different areas than they show
  • Getting stuck between walls or objects with no way to get unstuck
  • Climbing a ladder far above the end of an object
  • Invisible objects or walls preventing movement
Spear protruding through crossbow glitch.
Screenshot by GameSkinny

Serum Early Access Overview — The Bottom Line


  • Interesting story and worldbuilding
  • Music further immerses you in the game
  • Well developed environment


  • Lack of maps
  • Various bugs and glitches impacting gameplay
  • Some mechanics not well explained

There’s a lot of potential with Serum. I’ve been looking for a good survival horror that combines both aspects of crafting and scary vibes. The bugs, along with the difficult combat and lack of mechanics, can make for a frustrating experience. It’s worth watching the title, as the dev team has already addressed multiple issues and community requests. With a bit of polish, this vial of serum could really shine.

Gameplay tested on PC.

Serum Early Access Review: Juiced Up Potential
Serum could make a mark as a horror survival game with more time to polish mechanics.

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Ashley Erickson
Ashley, otherwise known as Glitchiee, is an avid gamer of RPGs, TTRPGS, farming sims, and survival crafting games. Playing since she can remember, she started on the SNES, GameBoy Color, and collection 1st gen Pokemon cards. Using her passion for gaming, she's written about games for a combined total of 2 years.