Developer: Wales Interactive
Publisher: Wales Interactive
Reviewed on: PS5
Release: 28th June 2020
After playing WAY too many horror games over the years, it is easy to become de-sensitised to this kind of game, particularly a brand new IP. While the game starts off with a really eerie feeling of "what the?", the premise is intriguing, everything looks set for a haunted hotel fright fest, the game then descends into token jump scare territory with a reveal that lacks any real depth. If you think you have played this game before, you definitely have.
The game doesn't do a great job at selling itself, the main character is Thomas, a really shy guy who wakes up on an abandoned train and heads into the hotel looking for his missing wife Elizabeth. As Thomas moves through the hotel silently picking up objects, investigating the rich history of the hotel, he does communicate with Elizabeth via retro phones that ring on your approach. While there is a plethora of dialogue for Elizabeth, Thomas stays very silent and it is really hard to feel an attachment to his plight or care when the Quiet Ones attack when you are trying to sneak past them.
I am not the world's biggest fan of the sneak past thing. Some games have done it really well in the past like the Outlast series, however here it is laughingly bad. It does take a bit of adjusting to get used to and while it does get easier to deal with as the game goes on, it never really finds its footing. If Thomas was more of a character with quirks and a personality it would enhance the repetitive nature of the stealth gameplay. That being said, the one power you do have is to hold your breath. This is such a great mechanic that if you time it well is very effective. There were hilarious times where I missed a monster just hanging next to me, I took a deep breath to hold it and I was gone. It was way too entertaining to seem like a bug an it made me engage with the environment more as I kept playing.
Graphically this game is absolutely beautiful. Particularly the opening moments look straight out of a Monet painting. The countryside is eerily quiet and the environment gives a really unsettling feeling. When you reach the Hotel, the inside lighting and shading is not up to scratch. Items in the dark and hiding Quiet Ones are really hard to spot which may seem like an annoying bug, it does however provide a few really good jump scares and the ability to explore more things when you invetibly get stuck and have to go back to a room you have already been in before. The design of the creatures that are littered through the hotel is great, as you get to learn their walking path to sneakily avoid them you can quite often get a good look at the detail that games developer Wales Interactive have spent time lovingly creating.
The game was reviewed on a Playstation 5 and I really happy to report that Wales Interactive have used the PS5 dualsense to its full potential with great rumbles, vibrations and the controller speaker to the best of its ability. It is one of those experiences that is worth it just for a showcase of the controller if nothing else.
If the title of the game sounds familiar, it is (loosely) based on the 1800's three-part novel of the same name. Trying to find out what is happening with Elizabeth and why she is being called to be the new singing Maid of Sker is initially intriguing but the lack of real danger and laughable horror elements just stop this from feeling like a Resident Evil rip-off.
I really hope Wales Interactive continue creating as the design and elements of the story work really well. Unfortunately as a whole package, this game just doesn't deliver. The small run time and horrible pacing definitely makes this a wait for a sale type of game. However fans of the novel may find some joy here (or not, please let me know if you have read it and what you think!)
Maid of Sker is available now.