Elisabeth has been confined on her parental home of Sker Island, and bad things are afoot (seems to be a recurring bad idea in games and movies, so don't ever go home kids!)
Maid of Sker is set in 1898 on Sker Island. The protagonist, Thomas Evans, is Elisabeth's secret lover and in an empassioned note she asks him to investigate her familial home and business, a mysterious hotel, after the staff and residents' behaviour becomes increasingly strange, forcing her to lock herself on the top floor of the hotel. She also asks him to compose her a melody… Weird enough for you yet? No? Well that's okay, because it gets much weirder.
While exploring the hotel, a speechless Thomas (all he seems to do is cough) learns cult followers called "The Quiet Ones" control the place, they also seem to be blind.
As you search the dingy hotel for… Well anything interesting really, you find notes, collectable dolls and phonographs (the only places you can save your game) scattered around that reveal the mysterious history of Elisabeth's family. You can't help but get the feeling that if Alone in the Dark or Resident Evil had been set at the end of the 19th century and played in first person with British accents instead of American ones then this'd be it – the overall vibe, sense of tension and impending danger are very similar, interspersed of course with a ton of exploration and those brief moments when you discover a new weapon and foolishly think you may actually be safe for a while…
Maid of Sker is a classic 'Marmite' game, some people love its atmosphere, sound, story and setting, others, even some survival horror aficionados, are singularly unimpressed. I fall somewhere in-between as it certainly doesn't push the Xbox Series X/S in any way, and other than a game mechanic that means you're able to hold your breath for a limited time–in order to stop Thomas coughing or hide from sightless enemies – it doesn't do anything new either. With immersiveness-draining loading times both at the start of the game and whenever you change floors, this is obviously less intrusive on Series X/S but still disappointing. I mean, Sker Hotel isn't exactly Los Santos is it? If you've played them then you can't help thinking the hotel could be any spooky mansion in the Resident Evil games, and the pacing, limited weaponry and game saves are very reminiscent of Capcom's classic, but dingier and more depressing. Games don't have to be dark to be scary, do they?
Anyway, the actual reason for this belated review of Maid of Sker is the new free DLC Challenge mode, which sets you the basic task of simply escaping the hotel. Sounds easy enough huh? With 4 difficulty levels from 'normal' to 'very hard', with the easier settings having three lives and various weapons, and the hardest having stronger enemies and no extra lives, the new Challenge mode is rock hard, and will take some beating.
Ok, so deep breath… and:
Creeping (well, more like plodding really) around the hotel, (thank goodness for the map) searching for weaponry or ammo, health potions and keys to unlock doors and getting the occasional jump scare, along with regular life & death battles with increasingly dangerous enemies with laser eye weapons or the ability to hurl balls of plasma at you, hindered by sluggish movement, a game engine that really isn't up to it and several enemies that are best just avoided or run away from (if you can call what Thomas does when you click the left stick 'running') didn't really do it for me – and breathe.
Although it may be a nice addition to the game and could have been a "fun" warm-up for the main game, it's just fluff – not as atmospheric as the main story, much simpler, much harder and so nowhere near as good.
Special thanks to Heaven Media for the review code.