TGO Reviews: Maid of Sker

AUGUST 1, 2020

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Horror is inherently off-putting and thus, every horror game must have a central mystery or hook that drives players onwards, through the terror, in order to reach the end and discover that final revelation. Maid of Sker understands this but gives a bit too much away up front, making that final revelation something most players will suspect from the very start.

Maid of Sker is very loosely based on a Welsh ballad telling the story of a girl, Elizabeth, who is locked away by a controlling father and sure enough, this is how the story of Maid of Sker begins, with the main character Thomas arriving via train to save his beloved. It quickly takes a turn however, as the player discovers that the Sker hotel, where the game takes place, has been taken over by former staff driven mad. Elizabeth, who is able to talk with you via speaker phones throughout the hotel, is locked in the attic and to save her, you must bring her four music box cylinders which she can use to cure the staff.

The hotel is when the game is at its best, with plenty of rooms to explore and items to find. So it comes off as somewhat bizarre that Maid of Sker so frequently railroads players into completely linear sections with almost no exploration or freedom. The primary obstacle of the game are the crazed staff, who have inexplicably covered their faces with bags and operate purely based on sound and touch, meaning players can stand directly in front of these enemies and, so long as they are able to hold their breath, stay still, and not touch them, the enemies will eventually just move along.

The concept is a strong one and the benefits are made immediately clear as soon as you find yourself holding your breath as an enemy slowly stumbles past, the tension building as your breath timer creeps closer and closer to running out, which causes Thomas to gasp for breath. The problem is that, on the normal difficulty, these staff seem to be almost deaf too. It didn’t take me long to realize that unless I touched them or made a large noise right next to one, I was usually safe. There are a couple of exceptions later in the game that switch up the AI a bit and these are definite highlights of the game but they don’t come until well past the halfway point and don’t stick around for very long.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing for everyone. Maid of Sker’s storyline may be predictable but it isn’t bad and the atmosphere can be a lot of fun. For those new to the horror genre who maybe aren’t ready for a Resident Evil 7 or Amnesia: The Dark Descent, Maid of Sker would be a great choice as it’s got tension and a few well-timed scares but nothing too bad for most people, and I say this as someone who is pretty easily scared by games. When the game does let you explore on your own, the exploration is fun and rewarding, with plenty of scattered notes and recordings find that flesh out the characters and story. It would have been nice if they held a bit more back at the start though to make some of these notes feel more revelatory and less just confirmation.

Ultimately, the game took me about 6 hours to complete on my first playthrough which felt perfect for this kind of a game. It maybe could have added one extra floor to the hotel but any more and it would have outstayed its welcome. Maid of Sker won’t do much for hardcore horror buffs but those looking for an easy fright and maybe a horror game to play with family or friends, it’s certainly worth a look.