Review and Lets Play: Maid of Sker – a Welsh Horror game mixed with Greek myths

My first short horror game combines many things I love (creepy music, gothic houses and a dog!) but also offers many things I am not really good at (being stealthy and smart, remembering where to go and reading maps). However, lets come along as we try to help composer Thomas who travels to the far corners of Wales to safe his beloved Elizabeth from the clutches of her apparently evil family that uses a mysterious song and creature to … well, to what? That’s really not clear to be honest. However, did I mention that there would be a dog?

Maid of Sker – Game Review

I figured, with a neat little game like that, I might just as well do a small review, in case anyone is interested in the game to play it themselves. The Lets Play episodes are below.

Maid of Sker – The newest game by Wales Interactive stays true to their name and picks up a myth concerning the historical place of Sker house near Bridgend in Wales. Apparently, a young woman once committed suicide because her father locked her in the attic to prevent her from running off with her beau.

The short, stealthy survival horror game picks that story and infuses a few more details like a Welsh song with mysterious powers to affect people’s minds, a trapped creature and a cult full of blind dudes with weird masks.

The Gameplay is fairly enjoyable with the player being able to walk, crouch, hold their breath to avoid being too noisy, use healing items and even use a sound device to gain a few moments to escape a possibly sticky situation. Throughout the game, you also get to solve a few puzzles that are not too hard, even I managed them fairly easy. You also get a map which is pretty good (if you’re good at map reading) and helps you in case you’re stuck. The one thing that might become increasingly frustrating at times is the fact that your protagonist moves quite slow and so do the enemies and yet you have to stealth, so you spend a lot of time just waiting for an enemy to pass by which is kinda like the gothic horror version of waiting for an old lady making a pick at a supermarket shelf, so you can get your cup a soup.

The enemy design is fine but unfortunately doesn’t offer much variation after the first reveal, only changing body types and clothing but not much when it comes to the actual creepiness. There are a few moments that could be counted as Boss fights and those are – from a noob’s perspective – rather frustrating instead of interesting but that just might be me not being used to these kind of fights.

Although the game provides information and story-related hints throughout, the way it’s being told reveals a little too much in the beginning and offers not enough new information by the end of it. You get your information through notes and through old fashioned gramophones that have voice recordings from Elizabeth and her family and that also act as saving points for you.
The story itself is quite interesting but it’s being told in ways that sometimes feel redundant, rather confirming quite obvious hints than adding much to what you learn in the earlier parts of the game. Given that there is an order in which you reach certain checkpoints, this could have easily been avoided by simply keeping certain plot points hidden until the later parts of the game. Maybe it’s just me but my theories at the beginning about major plot points were pretty much confirmed and there weren’t many amazing twists that made me go whoaaa?!

The voice acting is solid, particularly of Simone Somer-Yeates voicing Elizabeth, who communicates with us mainly via conveniently placed telephones throughout the hotel. I have to admit, though, I personally did not connect as much with Elizabeth herself as I probably should have. Since we’re playing as Thomas who wants to rescue the love of his life, there is not much that gives us reason why we love Elizabeth so much (with the exception of her dog, that is). However, as this is a gothic horror story, this actually fits the genre which usually has the kind of relationships that are based on one meeting and three letters to consider each other soul mates. So, historically, it checks out.

All in all, Maid of Sker is an entertaining, short horror game that has enough details, notes, and even one – admittedly rather useless – collectible – to make for a fun enough experience that even might lend itself to a second playthrough. With the different difficulties, it might also be a challenge to seasoned players.

I would think that for trained horror gamers, however, Maid of Sker might be not the most exciting experience ever since the story, gameplay and overall look are not necessarily distinct enough to be really groundbreaking or incredibly rewarding when it comes to immersion or story, since nothing really adds anything new to the genre. This is more like a loving nod to Hammer Horror and early survival games instead.

So, if you like gothic horror, Welsh music, cults and holding your breath – a LOT – then this is the game for you. Oh, also, there is a dog you can pet.

Episode 1: Save Elizabeth from that creepy hotel

Musician Thomas receives a letter from his beloved Elizabeth who seems to be trapped in the hotel of her father who has dubious plans. Arriving in the forlorn countryside of Bridgend in Wales, Thomas soon discovers that something is amiss – there are blood stains on the floors, all the bags are strewn around and at least for a while, no soul seems to be around. On his journey through the hotel grounds and on the lookout for Elisabeth, who seems to be trapped in the attic, Thomas discovers horrors beyond his imagination that seem to be somehow intertwined with Elizabeth’s singing.

Voice Cast of Maid of Sker:

  • Elizabeth: Simone Somer-Yeates
  • Thomas: Richard Reed

Here’s some info on the game as well as the developers Wales Interactive.

By the way, the Sker house as well as Elizabeth’s story are based on a true house and a legend based on the house. Sker House is real, it was built as a monastic grange of the Cisterian order over 900 years ago and is situated near Bridgend. It was rebuilt in the late 16th century, so the current Sker house looks nothing like it used to. The game is also based on the book “The Maid of Sker” by RD Blackmore published in 1872. According to the book and the legend, Elizabeth was locked in a room in Sker house to prevent her from running off with her lover and apparently died from a broken heart and since then haunts the house.

Episode 2: Finding Cylinders, saving dogs!

On his way through Sker House, Thomas discovers some interesting tools to ward off those weirdo scarecrow minions, finds his first music cylinders to safe (?) Elizabeth and defeat her father’s cult AND he also meets that very good dog which is honestly the highlight of this episode. Also: needless backtracking, getting confused and looking at the map once too often.

Also, since apparently a lot of people click on this video for the locations of the cylinders, I got you:

Episode 3: Finding the Harp Key, releasing a weirdo cult member

On our way to safe Elizabeth, we finally make our way to the second floor and discover a beautiful miniature hotel that’s far less creepy than the actual hotel, the harp key and a pudgier version of the cult members we already don’t care for all too much. We also step into the most obvious trap because the game wants us to. Oh well.

Episode 4: Getting chased by Abraham and finding the bird key

Thomas gets a literal run for his money when he finally makes it to the second floor and meets Uncle Abraham, a Gothic Mr. X stompy villain who is relentless and apparently even without eyes completely capable of seeing anyone cowered in a corner. However, since we so love our dear Elizabeth, we fight our way through to get to the attic – but not before solving some more puzzles.

Some info on the muse Melpomene.

And some info on Melpomene’s daughter Peisinoe, who is, according to one of the notes we found, the siren that Elisabeth’s family has captured.

Episode 5: The End is near, and so is Elizabeth (both endings)

Our hero Thomas finally makes it to meet his beloved Elizabeth but his journey is not yet over. He still needs to find some leftover cylinders and music sheets and have a rather awkward meeting with his father in law. All this to find out: will helping Elizabeth end this horror or will it end in disaster?

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