Maid of Sker
Developer: Wales Interactive
Publisher: Wales Interactive
Genre: Horror, Supernatural, Action
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Age Rating: Pegi 18
Release Date: 26/11/2020
A code was provided for review purposes.
Maid of Sker follows Thomas Evans as he travels to Sker Island to rescue his lover Elisabeth from her controlling father, who has locked her away in their family hotel. On arrival, it soon becomes clear that something has gone horribly wrong…
Is this a game to check out, or is it weighed down by too much baggage?
Made of Scare
Similar to Amnesia: The Dark Descent, you play from a first-person perspective and need to explore a variety of dark and sinister locales. Unfortunately, you are largely limited in your ability to fight back against enemies. For the most part, you need to sneak about, trying your best to avoid notice.
The main gimmick is that the possessed hotel staff, or Quiet Ones as they are now known, are unable to see, and instead rely on their hearing. As such, your goal is not to make any noise. You also have the option to hold your breath, which is particularly necessary when passing through dust clouds or smoke. This does keep a certain level of tension rolling throughout the game, but I’ll have more to say on that later!
There are also occasional set pieces to shake things up, and a few of the later sequences were particularly effective. Saying much more about them would spoil them, but one I would like to mention is a persistent stalking enemy who does a better job of being a nuisance than Nemesis in the updated Resident Evil 3 (check our review here), so I’ll give some credit there!
Take in the Scenery
Outside of avoiding enemies, you’ll spend most of your time exploring the hotel and its surrounds. The hotel itself functions similar to what you’d expect from traditional Resident Evil, tasking you with solving puzzles, collecting keys, and escaping traps. Meanwhile, the outdoor areas bear more resemblance to Outlast, following a more linear route through monster-filled mazes and caverns.
While Maid of Sker is not the longest game – my initial playthrough was roughly four and a half hours – it generally makes good use of its time.
In terms of graphics, Maid of Sker is not the most technologically advanced game, but the art direction is on point. It also ran smoothly on my Switch, whether in docked or portable mode. As you don’t have a flashlight or lantern, though, you might struggle to see much if you’re playing in broad daylight!
Self-Guided Ghost Tour
As for the story, it very much has a similar vibe to Amnesia, being set in a time period of formal language and superstitions. It proceeds in a generally predictable manner, but does the job of giving context to all that’s happening. In fact, it might step into over-explaining everything a little too much, which robs it of the fear of the unknown.
Many years ago, I played another game by Wales Interactive called Master Reboot. That game was set in a future where souls and memories could be uploaded to a server, allowing you to achieve a sort of immortality, or keep around loved ones after their death. Much of the horror in that game came from considering the ethical and philosophical questions behind the premise.
While Maid of Sker pays effective homage to mythology and culture, I never really felt all that invested personally. The main horror affecting the player is the threat of being grabbed by one of the monsters. Depending on how you react to being killed in a video game, that may not really concern you at all.
I should probably note here that there are a couple of jump scares that I remember. Skip this paragraph if you want to avoid an early spoiler! One comes roughly midway through the game, and I kicked myself for not anticipating it. The other, of all things, is the game’s title right at the start, which has managed to get me twice!
Look But Don’t Touch
I said I’d return to the enemies later, so now that I’m listing the negatives, here we go. Maid of Sker is not a particularly interactive game, and your available options are limited. You don’t have guns like in Resident Evil, and you can’t move around objects like in Amnesia.
When it comes to dealing with the Quiet Ones, your options are pretty much crouch, wait, or use a door that leads to a loading screen. You do get a device that can stun the Quiet Ones, allowing you some time to find a new hiding place, but the ammunition is limited and it’s not always available.
There’s plenty of furniture and objects around the hotel, but you cannot hide in cupboards or move anything. Indeed, Thomas is so set on never climbing that you can’t even vault a knee-high wall. Apparently, he would prefer to risk a dangerous maze of enemies.
Probably the most frustrating example of the game’s lack of interaction came when I found myself caught by a Quiet One in a dead end. I used my device to stun it, but I couldn’t walk past it. Instead, I had to wait for the stun to wear off so it could give me a good clonk and murder me. I appreciate that Thomas has apparently taken a vow of no violence, but it would be nice to at least be able to give a stunned Quiet One a gentle push to one side.
Seen But Not Heard
For the rest, as I mentioned before, avoiding Quiet Ones largely comes down to spending a lot of time waiting for them to slowly move away. There is an option in one area to use bells to lure enemies elsewhere, but this feature sees little use throughout the game.
Speaking of sound, while the game emphasises not making noise, that system is incredibly limited. Monsters will cheerfully wander past you even if you’re a few paces away gasping after holding your breath too long. Similarly, they don’t seem to react to environmental noises like opening doors. A Quiet One didn’t even notice when a giant statue and secret door ground open two feet away.
That’s not to say I always want to get chased around just for opening doors. It does take me out of the world a bit when I consistently encounter these contradictions, though.
Overall, Maid of Sker does a decent job of creating a compelling and well-paced horror adventure, but it never quite marks out its own unique imprint.
While I can confidently say it’s worth a purchase, it’s the kind of game you may only play once.
Rapid Reviews Rating
You can buy Maid of Sker for the Nintendo Switch here.