2 months ago
The name Wales Interactive may be familiar to many who love interactive movies. This publisher is responsible for great titles like The Bunker, Late Shift, or The Complex, but unfortunately they created mediocre or worse products like Coffin Dodgers or Don't Knock Twice - actually this one is far better in VR. So I was a little skeptical of the news that Wales Interactive was working on a real survival horror, but since this genre is dear to my heart, I was terribly waiting to see what would come out of it. But what exactly is Maid of Sker? Well in 1872, the English novelist R. D. Blackmore published his most famous short story with this title, in which an old fisherman finds a strange child at the coast of Glamorganshire, and it soon becomes clear that something is not right with the little girl.
A Quiet Place
But here we get a completely different story. We are in an age (late 1800s) when adventurous professors searched for forbidden studies and long-forgotten books, but the knowledge gained sometimes opened doors that would have been better kept closed forever. Our protagonist is Thomas Evans, who comes to Sker Island at the request of his lover, Elisabeth,
who's asking him to travel to a far land, Sker Island, and save her.
Thomas immediately heads to the Sker Island's hotel. The hotel is gearing up for a big reopening party, but as soon as Thomas gets there, he is immediately confronted with the fact that the fun is lacking here: the building is deserted, the whole place has been ruined and blood is drying on the floor. Elisabeth contacts us and asks us to collect some important musical scrolls to stop the overflowing violence that has appeared between the ruined walls. Thomas, of course, immediately goes to work, but this puts the lives of both of them in great danger.
The playtime is barely 4-6 hours, but even for maximalists (if you collect all the collectibles) it can be finished in roughly 8 hours. Throughout the game, we control Thomas and our main task is to collect the scrolls in the hotel and around the hotel. We visit the garden area, the cemetery (of course, this couldn't be left out from a horror game), and we can even visit a demolished church and an underground mine. We will never be alone, as in the first hour we will find ourselves face to face with blind but very voice-sensitive opponents. Their heads are fully bandaged, that's why they are blind, but their hearing is extremely good, so it’s worth moving crouched near them.
Thomas is able to hold his breath (though not for too long), which comes in handy as there is dust or smoke in the air in several places, and when we inhale, we automatically start coughing - and this can be easily heard by opponents. Later, we also get a weapon that emits so strong sound waves that it paralyzes them for a few moments, so we can quickly escape even from the most distressed situation. Unfortunately, this has to be recharged all the time, and the number of ammo is finite (I still found very few of them playing on Normal difficulty), but if we crawl around them all the way, there can be no serious trouble. Unfortunately, we don’t get a lantern or other lighting tool, and Thomas can’t hide in the closets either, but if we accidentally get injured, we can heal ourselves with a special tonic.
Horror In Every Detail
I’ll tell you honestly there was some Amnesia felling during the playthrough, and the Maid of Sker undeniable took over a few elements from the Frictional Games' classic, and the features of Layers of Fear and Silver Chains also appear, the map is reminiscent of Resident Evil games, just like the save system also, but instead of typewriter we can save with gramophones. This is not a negative thing by the way, but it is worth mentioning.
The story is "sick" enough and the visuals are very fair: it’s extremely cozy to walk around the old hotel, but the outside locations, shrouded in the darkness of the night, are also perfectly fine. I would highlight the sounds and music because they clearly belong to the strongest side of the game. At startup, we also get a message that it’s worth playing the game with headphones, and this is really recommended here: you can hear various moves, squeaks, pounding, and rattles, all of these add to the mood of the game.
Even if you are standing in only one place, you can still hear so much environmental noise around you that you are easily frightened by these. To this comes a few more jumpscare, and a very depressing atmosphere, plus a blind-headed mentally ill can appear out of the dim light at any time. The end result is quite a parade. Maid of Sker creates a very strong, nerve-wracking atmosphere that every surviving horror fan must go through.
At the beginning the game is like an ordinary walking simulator, but it very quickly turned into a rough survivor horror. The unfortunate Thomas, who had just got off the train in the afternoon sunshine, a few minutes later already fighting for his life. We also get two endings, but we have to work hard for one of those - but I don’t want to spoiler. Here and there we can run into puzzles (these are all good ones and relatively easy), and surely the inventory is not an ornament either, so it is worth reading the notes often and examining the objects, because sometimes these are the keys to moving forward. On the upper floors of the hotel, the hideout becomes more and more rough, and later a "Mr. X cosplayer arrives", who unfortunately not only hears but also sees us.
The experience is intense, the game is just long and meaningful enough not to get bored. I admit, I didn’t think Wales Interactive would create such a great survival horror, but I was positively disappointed. Thomas’s suffering at and around the Sker Hotel has become one of the most interesting adventures of my summer, which I can really recommend to anyone who's looking for a little dread!