Title: Maid of Sker
Developer: Wales Interactive
Publisher: Wales Interactive
Genre: Horror, Action, Indie
Available On: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Official Site: Maid of Sker
Release Date: July 28th, 2020
Version Tested: PlayStation 4
An oppressive structure in a secluded wood. Creepy, cult-like enemies that hunt you down by sound. Haunting melodies. Folklore-inspired tale. Maid of Sker had all the ground work for an impressive horror game that would bring something new to the genre. However, this experience falls flat with an uninspired streak that runs deep through the experience.
Thomas, our main character, receives an urgent letter from his lady love, Elizabeth, requesting his help. Without a second doubt, he hops on a train to rescue her from the Sker Hotel, but things are much darker than he originally thought:
Brave the nightmares of the Quiet Ones. Do not panic…don’t even breathe!
Maid of Sker is a first-person survival horror, set in a remote hotel with a gory and macabre history from British folklore. Armed with only a defensive sound device, you’ll utilise stealth tactics to avoid death amongst a cult of sound-based AI enemies.
Set in 1898 and inspired by the haunting Welsh tale of Elisabeth Williams, this is a story of a family empire driven by torture, slavery, piracy and a supernatural mystery that suffocates the grounds of the hotel.
Where Maid of Sker Really Sings
There are some elements of Maid of Sker that really shines, and those are all thanks to the creative departments. The visuals are astounding. From lush, green forests to fiery scenes of torture, these captivating visuals are created with thoughtful attention. The enemies, The Quiet Ones, are mindless, once-human hunters covered with burns and wearing blood-covered burlap masks. Their design is excellent and horrifying, it’s just a shame that they didn’t do more within the game.
On the same scale as the visuals, the haunting soundtrack sets the tone perfectly for this folklore-inspired tale. Easily, the music was my favorite part about this experience, only seconded by the way Maid of Sker told its story. Elizabeth calls Thomas throughout the story to relay new information, but the backstory is told through phonograph recordings found at save points. It’s really a stellar way of letting the player discover the story as they go in a way that doesn’t feel heavy handed.
Misguided and Muddy
Stealth-based games are so hard to get right, but there’s a huge payoff if it’s done correctly (ie Outlast). However, Maid of Sker might have been too ambitious in their attempts at stealth. The mechanics and the enemy AI are very inconsistent, which makes it almost impossible to play in some areas. Often times it felt like a Quiet One would lock onto me even though I hadn’t made a sound; other times, I was for sure a cough or gasp gave me away, yet they patrolled as if nothing happened. And when the enemies do take notice, it seemed like there really was no getting away from them.
The sonic weapon discovered later in the game helps with this, but sometimes it made a situation even worse. For example, I used the sonic weapon in the room where I first discovered it. It left the Quiet Ones stunned, but because of my inability to move around objects, I was stuck between an enemy and a chair, basically leading me to an overdrawn death sequence. For a game that focuses on stealth, it’s really hard to maneuver around anything on the ground. So, honestly, I found myself more focused on the ground than wherever an enemy may be.
More often than not, I found myself constantly wondering if I was in the wrong area and then questioning where I was supposed to be. Maid of Sker definitely seems to be set on a track, but it seemed foggy and misguided. There’s a serious lack of direction that only save spots and occasional phone calls from seem to steer, but only for a moment. Then the backtracking makes this feel all the more lost and disconnected.
All of this is only made more infuriating by Thomas, who is a lump of a main character. He doesn’t speak or have reactions to anything that’s going on, and it makes the game feel so lifeless. Upon first entering the Sker Hotel, streaks of blood and destruction greet our hero… but it loses its impact because the main character has no reaction whatsoever. It makes it almost impossible to connect to him in any which, makes it difficult to really care about what’s going on in general.
Unfortunately, Maid os Sker is more frustrating than terrifying, which is the biggest disappointment of all. I was so worried about direction or getting stuck on things, that the actual enemies started to lose their meaning. All in all, it seems like this was a fabulous idea that just needed a little more time and attention to make it really great.
Verdict: Maid of Sker had so much promise, but it’s haunting soundtrack and beautiful environments couldn’t save this experience. While it’s premise and the way it tells its story is unique and impactful, that’s where it ends for this indie horror trope. A lack of direction and lots of back-tracking makes this feel more like a muddy grind than a fresh experience. Inconsistent AI really ruin the stealth elements of the game, and, other than their designs, the enemies feel rather lifeless and dull. On top of that, I was constantly questioning where I was or even if I was supposed to be there which grew more and more frustrating. All in all, Maid of Sker had all the components for something great, but it didn’t quite hit that high note.
- Stellar environments
- Haunting soundtrack
- Lack of direction
- Inconsistent AI
- Uninspired gameplay
- Feels more like a muddy grind