Like many of its monsters, survival horror is a genre that can’t be killed. It keeps you on the edge of your seat with surprising jump scares and thick tension that makes your palms sweat. Maid of Sker has a twist in its gameplay, borrows ideas from classic survival horror games, and delivers on that tension. It’s not perfect, but it delivers some pulse-pounding moments.
Maid of Sker takes players to the Sker Hotel, a real place that’s said to be haunted. It pulls inspiration from a book of the same name and a Welsh tale. Set in 1898, the main character is Thomas, and he travels to the Sker Hotel to meet his beloved Elisabeth who writes to him about darkness overtaking her home.
Discovering the root cause of that darkness is something you’ll uncover over the eight to ten-hour playthrough with more than one ending. Further bits of the story are told in documents you find and through using the manual save points at a phonograph. The first time you save, you’ll hear a recording from one of the game’s characters. You’ll also have direct contact with Elisabeth through the phones in the house. All of this gave me a Bioshock vibe, and that’s not a bad thing.
As you explore the hotel and grounds, you’ll need to avoid men with cloth bags over their faces. The game becomes a version of A Quiet Place as you need to keep silent whenever they are near. Any sound will bring them to where you are, and it’s usually game over as they beat you to death unless you utilize a limited sound device to give you a chance to escape. If you try to slowly sneak away from them, bumping into furniture or hitting something on the floor will also give away your position.
There are times when all you can do is stand still and cover your mouth to keep from breathing. The screen will gradually darken and block your view. Eventually, Thomas exhales all at once, and his vision is restored. There are also poison gas traps and particles in the air that make Thomas cough bringing more unneeded attention. It feels like Thomas has all the lung capacity of a tuberculosis patient sometimes, so you’ll need to think about the timing for when to hold your breath and when it’s safe to let go.
The game will take you across different environments such as caves and woods as well as multiple floors of the hotel. There are keys to find and some light puzzles scattered throughout the game, and they were generally good. Between puzzles and the environment, it’s a nice variety, and exploring feels great. Whether I’m trying to sneak by someone or the anticipation of opening a new door and not knowing what’s behind it, Maid of Sker keeps the tension high for most of the game.
The 3D sound mechanic is normally successful, but there were instances when the AI seemed inconsistent. At times, I could be roughly ten feet away, and I would be fine. Other times, I would be standing still, hands over my mouth, and an enemy would run right to me. You can run, but you’re more likely to be caught and trapped and have to restart from your last save point. There are a couple of times when it seems like the logic is intentionally completely discarded to force you to run as part of the story, but you won’t know that ahead of time. Hopefully, you saved recently.
The general sound in the game is fine too. A nice touch is that the enemies’ footfalls change depending on the material under their feet. The music is sparse with environmental sounds and works well to keep you guessing while adding some edge to even the quieter areas.
The voice acting is good, but the stars of the sound are the Welsh tunes in the game. Sung by Tia Kalmaru, the arrangements are hauntingly beautiful. Without spoiling anything, I can say they are perfectly used, and there are times when I would stop just to listen to them.
The only other place that seems inconsistent is the visuals. Inside the hotel is usually good, but the vegetation outside the hotel doesn’t look great. Inside, there is ghosting when you open some of the doors, and some areas appear blurry and grainy. When I moved my view quickly to the left or right, there is an odd, vertical blur line on both sides. Some of the textures are better than others, but the visuals usually enhance and never interfere with the gameplay.
Maid of Sker mostly delivers on the promise of good, survival horror. It falters a little in the visuals and the AI can frustrate you at times, but it delivers a fun story and plenty of moments when the character on screen wasn’t the only one holding his breath.
Maid of Sker PS4 Review
- Overall - Good - 6.5/106.5/10
Maid of Sker is a historically-inspired, survival horror game where every sound could be your last. The visuals and enemy AI can be uneven, but it delivers some great tension as you sneak around the Sker Hotel and investigate the horrible things that happened there. It's worthwhile for fans of survival horror, and the Welsh songs are absolutely beautiful.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Reviewed using PS4 Pro.