Admittedly, the lure of playing yet another ’hide from the monsters/ghosts/horrible beastie’ wasn’t there when it came to Maid of Sker. While promising to look at visually and offering up what sounded like a unique story, gameplay-wise it appeared to be just another lazy horror offering.
However, while it does tick a lot of the usual boxes, Maid of Sker is a pleasing and enjoyable horror entry.
From Wales Interactive, Maid of Sker is set in 1898 and inspired by the haunting Welsh tale of Elisabeth Williams. Players take on the role of Thomas Evans, the love interest of Elisabeth. He has arrived at Sker Island having received a letter from her stating that she has been trapped within her family’s hotel.
Thomas has arrived to find out just what is going on at Sker Hotel but upon walking up to the entrance it’s clear that the promised grand re-opening isn’t going well. The place is boarded up and run down, guest’s items are strewn around the halls and the place is deathly quiet.
Fitting, as monstrous enemies known as ‘The Quiet Ones’ stalk the halls and the only way to avoid them is stay silent. Should they hear Thomas, they will let out an unearthly roar and come running.
Who are ‘The Quiet Ones’? Where is that captivating singing coming from? Where is Elizabeth? And what secrets lie buried in her family’s past?
Answers that the game will satisfyingly give by time the end credits roll. Maid of Sker tells an interesting and depth-filled story that mixes folklore and horror effectively. It’s not untrue to suggest that many will find themselves on tenterhooks as the nasty truth of what has been occurring at Sker Hotel is revealed.
There can be few complaints about the story. Nor can there be many about the visuals as the game looks very nice. From the way in which the sun dapples through the trees in the early portion of the game to the dust and dirt that clings the interior of the hotel walls to the welcoming bit of unnatural lamp light that punctuates a dark descent. There are many moments where you’ll stop and marvel. Often because you’ve quietly waiting for a patrolling enemy to pass.
Which brings us to what Maid of Sker will inevitably live and die on… its gameplay.
Predominantly stealth based, the goal is to sneak around the hotel. You won’t get far running around and knocking into objects. Players who lack the patience for this kind of gameplay will find themselves frustrated but Wales Interactive have made the sneaking factor far more bearable thanks to speed. Crawling, the pose you’ll spend most of the time in, is just as fast as regular walking so movement never really feels prohibited.
In addition, enemies are few and far between and easy enough to navigate around. They can not see you so if you’re quiet, you can explore to your hearts content. Should you find yourself being approached by one and forced to get closer than you’d like, the handy option of holding your breath (limited though) will allow to slip by easily.
Later, the game will also introduce a temporary weapon that you can use to stun enemies too. This comes at a time when the difficulty begins to ramp up but still, most will find they rarely use it as moving around the hotel quietly is simple stuff.
Exploration is super-important as you need to find keys, read documents that shed more light on the story, complete the odd puzzle and find objects that can help bring an end to the horror. The games excellent map system makes seeing where you’ve been and where you’ve not, very easy to understand and aside from some brief trips into the garden, you’ll spend most of your time on the three floors of the hotel.
It’s surprisingly fun and very satisfying to find yourself breezing around rooms and navigating easily past enemies that could kill you in a few hits. Although the latter portion of the game does introduce an enemy that changes up how you’re playing for a bit of tension-based variety.
That’s something the game does well, making everything feel tense. That at any moment everything could erupt around you and you’re running for your life. While some of its horror elements fail to hit the mark (cheap jump scare stuff), it does feel suitably dark and twisted throughout.
On a first playthrough, you’re looking at somewhere in the 3-4-hour region, especially if you’re trying to find all the collectibles. Following playthroughs most will barely brush the 2-hour mark. There’s not a ton of replay value (achievement hunting aside) but there are two endings that are well worth seeing.
It might appear to be cut from the same cloth as the multitude of first-person horror games we’ve been inundated with recently but Maid of Sker does enough different to make it a worthwhile play.
Maid of Sker
The Final Score - 8/10