The new survival-horror game Maid of Sker is said to be based on Welsh folklore. However, since I don’t have any knowledge of Welsh folklore, I’ll have to take the developers at their word.
Maid of Sker is set on Sker Island. Most of the game takes place in a remote 19th-century hotel and on the hotel’s grounds. You arrive here after receiving a distressing letter from your girlfriend, Elisabeth Williams. Your character quickly realizes that things have gone horribly wrong here.
Unfortunately for you, though, you came unequipped. Maid of Sker is mostly a narrative-driven first-person survival-horror game with simple puzzles and stealth gameplay interspersed between story elements. The story is told through a combination of written documents (i.e. letters and news clippings), audio recordings, and telephone calls.
Maid of Sker is a game made to scare. It does a relatively decent job of that with some jump scares and a genuinely creepy-looking hotel. But the game is let down with its horrifically underwhelming graphics engine that lacks the polish and detail that you expect from a late-gen game.
The game has several other issues as well. Let’s start with the puzzles, which are barely puzzles at all. Basically, you’re running around grabbing objects, pulling levers, and flipping switches. To be honest, I got bored of the game before finishing it, which is a big no-no in my book.
Likewise, the storytelling is not particularly compelling. The voice acting in the recordings and phone conversations with Elisabeth is actually pretty good. However, most of the backstory is told through various papers that often contain a lot of extraneous information. I didn’t get drawn into the world the way that I would like to in a horror game.
Lastly, the sound-based AI system that they tout seems to be more of an excuse for dumb enemies than anything else. Basically, if you don’t run into them or run around making too much noise, you’ll be fine.
That’s not to say that the game lacks genuinely interesting parts. The concept of a no-weapon survival-horror is a good one. It works relatively well here, all other issues aside. There are parts, for instance, where you’ll need to hold your breath to avoid coughing. And you’re not completely defenseless. You eventually gain a sonic device that stuns your audio-sensitive enemies.
Maid of Sker has some decent enough ideas, but the good parts barely outweigh the disappointing bits. I like the idea of stealth gameplay combined with not having a weapon; it just isn’t used effectively here. Likewise, for a story-heavy game, it fumbles with its storytelling.
Game Freaks 365 received a free review copy.