Maid of Sker
July 28, 2020
Platform PC (Steam), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Publisher Wales Interactive
Developer Wales Interactive
Every self-respecting survival horror game must contain certain elements. A remote and difficult to reach location. A chilling mystery. Mysterious creatures with a different power. Limited resources. Death always breathes in the player’s neck. Maid of Sker checks all of these boxes to present an enjoyable yet not exactly revolutionary experience that builds on survival horror staples without actually challenging them.
Maid of Sker is inspired by the Welsh story of Elisabeth Williams and the Sker House outside the town of Porthcawl, near Bridgend in Wales. Set in 1898, young Thomas receives a letter from his girlfriend Elisabeth, who asks him to compose a song that can save Sker from the terrible evil her father had incited to put the old family hotel back into operation. However, it will be an extremely difficult feat to join her as the misconducts her father and the rest of her family have evoked traversed the area to remove all the stupid to approach it unprepared.
Inspired by Welsh folklore, Maid of Sker doubles its themes by reimagining famous Welsh hymns, giving the game a very peculiar, music-oriented atmosphere. However, the game’s story doesn’t really manage to stand out from the Resident Evil series template in a significant way: it’s scary and mysterious enough, but it doesn’t surprise the player all that much. The way it is told, usually through documents scattered all over the hotel, short phone calls with Elizabeth and gramophone recordings, is also very reminiscent of the Capcom series. It’s not necessarily a problem, but survival horror enthusiasts will immediately notice the similarities.
It is not only the story of Maid of Sker that is strongly influenced by Resident Evil, but also the gameplay. Played from a first-person perspective, the game instructs players to explore an uncanny location full of multiple rooms and facilities, some of which require specific keys to be opened, the aforementioned documents that provide more details about the story, and the storage system This requires players to access gramophones across the hotel to save, along the lines of the Resident Evil typewriters. What really sets Maid of Sker apart from the Resident Evil series are the awful Quiet Ones, creatures that don’t have eyes but have a particularly well-developed ear that makes them a force to be reckoned with.
Not getting noticed by the Quiet Ones requires an unobtrusive approach made easier by Sker Hotel’s labyrinthine design. After all, Thomas is not a trained soldier, so the only option he has is to go unnoticed, possibly using a variety of sound sources to distract nearby enemies and create an opening for him to escape. Most of the game’s basic puzzles are actually aimed at creating these openings and offer quite a variation on the simple wait-for-the-enemy-to-pass formula that most enemy encounters in the game offer, even though this formula seasoned significantly through a great implementation of 3D audio. For a few hours in the game, Thomas also gains access to his only weapon, a mysterious device that produces sound that dazzles the Quiet Ones for a few seconds, but is best used as a last resort because ammunition is very limited. All of these mechanics, while not particularly innovative, make for a very enjoyable experience from start to finish.
Maid of Sker isn’t one of the best looking games released lately, but the visuals make the job admirable. The hotel and all its facilities are detailed enough, the Quiet Ones are rendered as terrifying as they should and the wise use of environmental occlusion greatly enhances the atmosphere. The game is also well optimized, as it runs at 60 FPS with a resolution of 1440p, the highest settings on the machine used for the test, with an i7-3770 CPU, GTX 980 Ti and 16 GB RAM. A lot of thought has gone into creating the soundtrack and audio, too, with excellent haunting remakes of famous Welsh Hymns that make the game’s atmosphere even more unique, great ambient sounds and competent voice actors.
All things considered, Maid of Sker is an extremely enjoyable survival horror game that does not attempt to reinvent the wheel, but builds on the genre’s established foundation to present an adventure for all fans of the genre to enjoy , provided they don’t expect the best survival horror game of all time.
PC version tested. Review code provided by the publisher.
Maid of Sker comes with all the hallmarks of a good survival horror game, such as a well-designed creepy location, a great atmosphere, a compelling story, terrifying enemies, well-implemented 3D audio and the right amount of fear, but it doesn’t attempt at any significantly break out of the Resident Evil formula. The lack of any real innovation may put some of it off, but if expectations are kept in check, Maid of Sker can provide a few hours of enjoyable horror fun.
- Oppressive atmosphere
- Well-designed locations and enemy encounters
- Great presentation
- Good 3D audio implementation
- A fascinating story …
- … that ends a bit predictably
- Does not deviate much from the modern survival horror formula