Maid of Sker
Developer: Wales Interactive
Publisher: Wales Interactive
Genre: Survival Horror
Platform: Xbox One
Age Rating: PEGI 18
Release Date: 28/07/2020
A code was provided for review purposes
Welcome to Sker
I am a big fan of dark and creepy games. They don’t need to be horror necessarily, but that dark, melancholy atmosphere, the creaking floorboards of an old house, or the shadows moving between the trees. Then you combine that with a story based in fact on a real place and draws inspiration from several different sources.
Sker House is a real place, and the titular character, Elisabeth Williams, is based on a ghost reported to haunt the building. There is a Welsh folk song of the same name, and then there is a novel that tells a story that plays on the same legend, and now a game, bringing their own very unique twist to the tale. While I am not overly familiar with the legend or the novel, preliminary research shows me that the team incorporated elements of all of these things into their game. Yet, have added a heavy Lovecraftian feel to things.
So how did I feel about my time trying to rescue the Maid of Sker? Keep reading to find out.
Creepy Vibes All-Around
Don’t get me wrong. Maid of Sker is a creepy game, but I never found it scary. It was atmospheric for the most part, but on the whole, I found it a little mundane in terms of the fear factor. I guess this is a very subjective comment, but that’s the whole point of a review, right?
The visuals were good, they matched the tone and feel of the game perfectly. One thing I did note, especially when I was outside in the woods and gardens, was that the graphics looked good, but when viewed as individual components or from a closer-up perspective, lacked any real detail. Take the trees in the woods. The woods are creepy and have a great aesthetic, but when you get close to the leaves and look at them individually, they are largely shapeless and lack any real definition. This isn’t a criticism, but merely an observation about how scenes can be built.
The Sound of Survival
The game is survival horror, and that means there is no booming soundtrack, as audio clues play a large role in completing the game. That’s not to say you play in silence. Far from it. From your own footsteps to the shambling approaches of the faceless ghouls that stalk the hotel’s hallways and gardens. Bumping into furniture or other items of your surroundings alerts these sightless creeps to your presence and trust me, you don’t want that.
Music also plays a role in the game, but rather than using it as a soundtrack, it is an integral part of the story. There are also musical dolls scattered around the world that you can collect. Finding these was oddly rewarding. As I mentioned at the start, the name comes from a Welsh folksong and the creepy tune that runs through the game is indeed wonderfully haunting.
Take Things Slow and You Will be Fine
Being a survival horror, you do not have much in the way of weapons. At some point, you do collect an orb that fires an auditory pulse that temporarily renders enemies useless. But it’s not an unlimited supply.
The basic premise of the game, without giving anything major away, is to work your way into Sker Hotel and up to the attic to find the love of your life. I will say nothing more about the storyline because I believe that is something that has to be experienced rather than spoiled. Obviously, to do this, you must explore the hotel and locate items that will help you on your way, and defeat the various puzzles and monsters that stand in your way.
Embrace the Ethos of Sneaky Style
It goes without saying that stealth is key to surviving this game, and that rings true here. However, there is a fine balance between needing to be stealthy because of the dangers and the game being slow. It wasn’t until the second floor with an encounter with ‘Uncle Abraham’ that I felt any trace of threat. Before then by simply moving around in a crouch I was able to navigate every twist and turn without so much as getting a little attention from any of the other creatures.
I like the use of phonographs and safe rooms as save points. People will think of the Resident Evil typewriters, but there is nothing wrong with that at all. It’s a nice touch and I was impressed with how the initial use of each save point had a phonograph play a recording expanding on the lore/story of the game. It would have been nicer if you could have multiple save states rather than just one. I accidentally saved once with only one health bar or impact acceptance remaining and that made it next to impossible to get through the next section. I made it, but it tested my patience. Uncle Abraham is definitely ‘that’ uncle we all seem to have, just dialled up to eleven.
Thank you for Staying at Sker Hotel, We Hope to See You Soon
Maid of Sker is a fun game, but there is no real draw for me to go back and revisit it. There are a few music dolls I still need to collect, but it isn’t keeping me awake at night. For those achievement hunters, however, there are 20 different achievements in the game to keep it interesting for multiple runs. I did have to giggle that I got an achievement early on for playing “All musical instruments” which massed to a total of two pianos both located fairly close together. Or for those masochists who want to run on a true hardcore mode, there are different difficulties for you to choose from.
Final Thoughts on Maid of Sker
The game was good. It was fun. It was not as terrifying or claustrophobic as I would have liked, but this was a very respectable effort. I think my view on horror games changed somewhat after playing through the Amnesia Trilogy, but for a game from a small development studio, there is a lot of enjoyment here. There is room for improvement, but mostly small things. There were a couple of glitches, I would sometimes teleport when moving around corners. Only a matter of feet, so nothing crazy or game-breaking but irritating nonetheless, and once an enemy got caught in a spinning vortex around me from which there was no escape.
Rapid Reviews Rating
You can grab your copy of Maid of Sker from the Microsoft Store today.
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.