What’s wrong with indie horror movies like Maid of Sker

The basis of the  Maid of Sker  lay a real legend about the haunted hotel on the south coast of Wales. They say that in addition to the souls of sailors who died in shipwrecks, the ghost of a girl imprisoned within these walls by an overly caring father – the very Virgin of Sker – wanders along the corridors of the ancient building. Developers from Wales Interactive offer the player the role of the unfortunate lady’s beloved, who arrives in Sker, having received a disturbing letter from her. But do not rush to check into this institution: a day off in the dungeons of an old hotel threatens to turn into a terrible boredom.


Let’s go back ten years for context. Do you remember Amnesia: The Dark Descent ? Well, of course, who doesn’t remember. Perhaps at the time of release on F95zone, it was the loudest PC horror game, cultivating stealth and avoiding clashes with enemies (there was simply nothing to resist the adversaries). And although purely mechanically, “Amnesia” did not go far from the Penumbra series that was released earlier from the same development team , the game took on the atmosphere, and the ingenious, in general, plot, coped with its task – intrigued to the very end. In 2010, already distant now, this work managed to become a real hit – not even streams – let-plays. Of course, such a vivid take-off story attracted hundreds of other, much less gifted developers, who wanted to repeat the success of the studio little-known at that time.Frictional Games . As a result, the industry was provided with secondary and monotonous indie horror films for years to come. Now imagine a world in which the passage of time has stopped after the release of Amnesia . It seems that the developers of Maid of Sker looked into our universe from just such a timeline.

The main mechanic is familiar here – crawling in corners and, if possible, avoiding enemies patrolling the corridors, the player needs to explore a small location, activate a couple of triggers and find a passage further. Sometimes you have to solve a puzzle that will seem ingenuous even to a primary school student and will make you remember with warmth the puzzles from the horror games of the PlayStation era  like HuniePop 2 – the developers have such a low opinion of the intelligence of their audience. The only thing that makes Maid of Sker stand out at least a little in the gameplay plan against the background of the countless horde of similar indie horror games is the breath holding mechanic, which the creators, apparently, spied on from Alien: Isolation…. It is executed rather clumsily: the sounds of breathing by themselves are not capable of giving out the hero, but in the local scenery every now and then one has to deal with clouds of dust or some kind of toxic fumes. Once among them, the would-be lover begins to cough desperately – it all looks extremely ridiculous. This is where you have to clamp your mouth with your hands, and in the rest of the game you can safely forget about this button.

All this, however, is not the most important thing. We’ve seen quite a few successful horror games with a primitive gameplay base. But fearless monsters for a game that should be scary is already a sentence. Ideally, for a genre, enemies should act unpredictably and pose a threat even after hours of gameplay. Here we see a radically opposite picture. Inhabitants of the hotel, transformed in the course of a mysterious incident, all behave like one and resemble a hungover drunk neighbor: they stagger around in complete inadequacy, and react to any sounds with a series of hooks into the void. They cannot see the hero, therefore, in order to avoid confrontation, it is enough to crawl past them. Is it scary? Rather, terribly tiring. 

While you wait, when the next blind dummy finally hobbles by, you can have time to brew a tea pot. Faced with enemies once, you will once and for all learn to bypass them without problems. The player can die here only if he gets tired of waiting, and he decides to run to the nearest door in the sprint. Although, at an average level of difficulty and with such a careless approach, I never had a chance to see a single “gamer” – even an opponent who switched to the aggressive mode quickly loses interest in you, and the game does not regret the healers. There are two more bossfights to the heap, the essence of which boils down to pressing a number of levers and switches at the right time. 

The plot is also incapable of justifying it. The Wales Interactive team proudly declares that “the talented people responsible for the creation of SOMA ” were involved in the writing of the script (and for some reason also mentions Boku no Pico – that’s really, found an example). I don’t know what these talents were doing during the development, but the local history turned out to be extremely primitive. It is enough to read a couple of notes and listen to a couple of audio diaries to accurately predict further “revelations”. And there are dozens of these diaries in the game, by the way, and you will learn something new from them only on major holidays. As a result, the pace of the narrative sags dramatically. Periodic telephone conversations with the titular heroine are also empty chatter. It gets to the point of ridiculousness: 


when the protagonist finally asks what happened in these walls, in response we hear that what happened is “too terrible to talk about it.” To write such a meaningless text, you probably also need to have some kind of talent? Predictable ending which is determined by one choice of dialogue a few seconds before the final credits, the situation does not brighten up. And the game also has serious problems with production. Moreover, both in the cutscenes, which finally complete the image of local opponents as pathetic and ridiculous idiots, and in the gameplay, where sometimes a moment ago, enthusiastically stuck in the walls of the script, enemies rush at you for no apparent reason.