Review – Maid of Sker

Horror games have been increasing in quantity over the years and I couldn’t be happier about that. We’ve had some fantastic horror games in recent memory, like the Resident Evil 2 remake and the cosmic horror delight that was Moons of Madness. Suffice to say, not all of them have managed to stick their landing. Developed by a small team in Wales, the brand new Maid of Sker is the latest entry in the genre, being loosely based on Welsh folklore. Is this a horror game that is actually scary?

Set in the year 1898, you play as a man named Thomas, as he journeys to the Sker Hotel to find his wife, Elizabeth Williams, who has been locked away by her father, set to become the main attraction of the hotel, with an odd request for Thomas to bring a counter song for unknown reasons. Right from the getgo I was actually engaged with the story: I wanted to explore the Sker Hotel, find out what the hell was going on, understand the reasoning behind the counter song, and discover the dark mystery of this family. However, the main plot ended up being rather predictable, with very few surprises and a lacklustre ending.

Maid_of_Sker_01

Spencer Mansion vibes.

So Maid of Sker is a horror game, but is it actually scary? Well, kinda. The game’s overall atmosphere is actually brilliant, with the Sker Hotel, which is loosely based on the Sker House, a real world location, giving some serious Resident Evil mansion vibes and that’s always a good thing. Doors are locked with weird keys, and the save system is reminiscent of the typewriter. You even have limited saves on harder difficulties. Then you’ve got the ominous staircase in the main hall that feels ripped straight out of Spencer’s Mansion. It’s a great location that really is the heart of the Maid of Sker. There are lots of secrets to find, as well with a number of collectables and letters around the map that flesh out the story a little bit more.

The enemies in Maid of Sker are blind, so you don’t need to constantly worry about standing in their field of vision, like in Outlast. Instead, just like a clicker from The Last of Us, enemies are all attracted by sound. If you are too close to them, you will need to hold your breath as you slowly move past them, making sure not to bump onto any objects on the way. Sadly, this is undercooked, as enemies aren’t always attracted to other overworld sounds when they absolutely should have. For instance, one puzzle has you ringing bells in a specific order. I initially thought this would end up being a hide and seek style puzzle of trying to ring the bells whilst avoiding enemies, but I was disappointed to see enemies just walked by not bothered by the racket I was making.

One unfortunate thing that Maid of Sker is filled with is a lot of unnecessary jump scares and loud noises, even during its intro cutscene. I’m a fan of jump scares, but only when there’s proper build up, letting the situation stew a little bit before the eventual payoff, but Maid of Sker doesn’t do this properly and jump scares rarely had any impact besides getting on my nerves. With that being said, there were a couple of well-executed scares, throughout the game, just not as often as I wanted, and as previously mentioned, the creepy atmosphere was on point.

25-07-2020_14-42-04-zqquohix

Mr.X gonna give it to ya… again…

Maid of Sker‘s stealth sections are a bit odd. At the best of times they are some tense encounters as you see two enemies closing in on your position, but for the most part, it was pretty easy to avoid enemies. As long as you pay attention to where they are going and don’t bump into objects, you will be fine. To help you on your objective, you will find a Phonic Modulator that emmits a sonic pulse that can briefly stun enemies, letting you get away from a sticky situation. Unfortunately, I never really needed to use this item throughout the game, except in its only boss fight and one of its chase sequences, so I ended up having plenty of ammo stocked up.

The game looked quite decent on an Xbox One X, with some detailed environments and great lighting effects. The interior of the Sker Hotel in particular is just stunning. Though there were a handful of sections that looked absolutely horrible, namely whenever there was a lot of fire involved. Regarding the controls, I did notice some input lag. It wasn’t terrible, and I eventually got used to it, but it was off-putting at first. I also did hit a weird issue early on in the game that would teleport me into a totally different room when I interacted with a door. Temporarily lowering the difficulty down to Easy fixed this.

The sound design was also a mixed bag. Whilst the voice acting and music was generally decent, I wasn’t thrilled with the environmental sound design. Like I said earlier; random loud noises don’t do it for me, and Maid of Sker attempts to do jump scares with loud noises quite a lot, more often than not with nothing going on.

Maid_of_Sker_09

Don’t Breathe.

I have some conflicted feelings about Maid of Sker. The giant Resident Evil-esque hotel setting provides an entertaining and exciting place to explore. But the game ended up being lacklustre in other aspects, namely its predictable story, undercooked stealth mechanics and overabundance of jump scares.

 

Graphics: 6.5

Generally the visuals here are quite nice and help build an atmospheric setting, but some sections look pretty bad in comparison.

Gameplay: 6.0

This is your run-of-the-mill stealth horror gameplay. If that’s your thing, you will like this, but it’s just uninspired, and its unique sound mechanics are underused.

Sound: 6.0

For a game all about sound, it’s a shame that it’s all around disappointing..

Fun Factor: 7.0

The House of Sker is an exciting location to explore, but the stealth gameplay brings it down, as well as the overreliance on annoying jump scares.

Final Verdict: 6.5

Maid Of Sker is available now on Xbox One, PS4 and PC.

Reviewed on Xbox One.

A copy of Maid of Sker was provided by the publisher.