SKER RITUAL [PC Game Review]





Sker Ritual

SKER RITUAL
Available on Steam, Xbox X/S and PS5
Developed and Published by Wales Interactive

Developer Wales Interactive have launched SKER RITUAL, a spin-off of their horror survival game MAID OF SKER aimed at fans looking for CoD Zombies experience. Blending first person shooter action with story campaign objectives, this is more than blowing apart wave after wave of crazed, killer creatures – though of course there’s plenty of that if that’s what you’re looking for in a game.

Available to play solo or co-op with up to four players online, with Steam and Xbox One crossplay available, SKER RITUAL pits you against the Quiet Ones, mutants unleashed by Elisabeth Williams whose broadcast of the Siren Song could overthrow the world into death and torment. On behalf of Arianwen, Elisabeth’s daughter who desperately opposes her mother’s plans, it’s your job to fight the hordes and save the world from domination.

First Game Experience

For my first foray into FPS SKER RITUAL, I called upon my trusted battle friend Warrior to join me in taking down the relentless waves of enemies that would no doubt be greeting us. It was simple to set up a private party and invite him into my game. So far, so good.

Loading into one of the four maps for the very first time (entitled Cursed Lands of Lavernock), we stood in the middle of the courtyard, waiting for something to happen. As we heard groans and grunts, I spun around to find a zombie-like creature already on top of me. I screamed on top note, likely causing my buddy Warrior to go deaf in the process. We quickly got into the swing of things with the simplistic aim and shoot nature of the game with a pistol supplied to each player as default. There’s something deeply satisfying about peppering bullets into a ton of enemies running at you, round after round. Unfortunately, after a few minutes of filling my opponents with lead, I was fresh out of ammo and started to panic before quickly succumbing to the slew of creature attacks. Fortunately, survivor Warrior quickly realised that once our ammunition was depleted, you had to go to a lever at a nearby vending-style machine to replenish the ammo using credit acquired from kills.

Enemies in Sker Ritual
No rest for the wicked!

Although you have gun shot, knife melee weapon and molotov cocktails to keep the never-ending hordes at bay, sometimes you just have to go on the run – mainly when the seemingly unstoppable giant creatures emerge, towering over the rest and who steadily stride straight after you. Though opportunities for Miracles arise – which are essentially temporary modifiers to give you some type of attack or defence boost – it isn’t enough to put these persistent creatures down. One came in the form of a giant, smartly dressed guy with a top hat who needed several shots to the head with a shotgun to put him to rest, which is easier said than done. The worst problem is he’s not alone – your bog-standard zombie creatures will still run after you, and that’s not counting the obese creatures with fire-filled bellies or those wearing an hard-hat, standard diving dress outfit.

After being killed in the onslaught after several rounds, the world turned dark with a blue hue, so I stood and watched the outline of Warrior running around in circles to evade the zombie horde. It was hilarious watching him run around with them all stomping after him, just like a Benny Hill sketch. After a few minutes of shouting down the mic at him to warn him of the zombie creatures heading his way, I realised I could infact move and, that by going over to one of the levers on the wall, I could respawn through activating or purchasing a life token and get back to being in the game. Doh!

Whilst standing and gunning down a variety of enemies is all well and good, there’s actually objectives to each map, involving opening doors, destroying generators, finding and activating objects, and a host of other stuff which allows you to explore the map further and offers a bit of variety and extra challenge. Attacking and evading enemies is still part and parcel of the gameplay, with the environments offering opportunities to run away and create some distance between you and the hordes but if this game has taught me anything, it’s that you can’t hide for long. The hordes will eventually find you, unless you die of course. As soon as you respawn, they will be straight over, ready to tear you apart so you have to be quick about getting out of there or be ready, all guns blazing, for their attack.

Sker Ritual
Say hello to my little friend!

Prepare To Be Challenged

The beauty of SKER RITUAL is the challenge and with five different difficulty settings, which can be set ahead of the game and be altered within the game itself too, there’s plenty of opportunity to adjust to a setting that suits your playing style. With public servers and private party games available, as well as crossplay between Steam and Xbox, you can play with up to 4 other people to take on the horrors that await. I’m unsure whether it’s much easier playing with four people as the enemies scale depending on how many players are in the game. As it was just me and a friend in a private party, we decided on Normal difficulty for our first game. However, we found it so overwhelming that we couldn’t both slay the waves of zombies AND attempt the campaign objectives at the same time. It was just too much. So we knocked it down a notch and played Easy moving forwards which has allowed us to explore the campaign objectives more, but even this is challenging as you survive more and more rounds.

With the game lacking a proper tutorial other than a few screenshots in the Start menu, some of the inner workings of the game are left to your own discovery, whether that’s whilst playing the game or reading up on the Steam discussion forums. For instance, neither of us knew how to acquire new weapons at first but after reading up on the game, we discovered that the creepy laughing policeman in a glass case dotted around the level is accompanied by two presentation tables where new weapons can be purchased for kill credits. Shotgun, rifle, revolver, crossbow, axe and machine gun are just a few of the weapons you may be able to buy in-game and they make a world of difference when you’re reaching double figure rounds of waves of enemies! The ‘gun store’ is dotted around in several places throughout each map so there’s plenty of opportunity to change weapons to something a bit more robust or deadlier to take on the hordes.

Speaking of which, the enemy design in SKER RITUAL is fantastic with enemies coming in all shapes, forms and sizes, from skinny zombies that can easily be put away to more threatening ones, such as ghostly apparitions that only appear when they’re right on top of you, and ones that shoot electricity from their fingertips. Working as a pack, they become such a fierce enemy to contend with. Throw in a hulking giant that’s either plodding or running straight at you and you either have to run and gun or stand your ground and unleash your arsenal upon them all. With the giants having increased health compared to your standard enemies, you really have to fill them with lead, ideally with head shots, to put them down.

Customisation

With a choice of masks available, some of which can either be purchased as DLC or unlocked in-game (all DLC cosmetics can be gained from playing the game so you don’t need to buy them), there’s an element of customisation to set your player apart from the rest in your group. There’s voice lines that are custom too which can be triggered in-game. With Devil’s Sacrifice DLC, you get Mint Sauce ewe mask and baaaa, whilst Smuggler’s Fortune DLC provides pirate skull mask. There’s also a skills upgrade path that allows you to spend blood points to upgrade health, reloading time, running speed, and shooting speed. Blood points and XP are acquired by simply playing the game and surviving as many rounds as you can. The more baddies you kill, the more experience points you can earn after the end of every game.

Main Chamber Cursed Lands of Lavernock - Sker Ritual
Something decidedly satanic occurring in the main chamber in Sker Ritual

Gaming Experience

As a co-op experience, SKER RITUAL is a blast! It has the intensity desired combined with ease of play but also horror elements and engaging objectives that elevates it into something much more.  When all players are eliminated, a scorecard is produced listing your kills, shots and points accumulated, with points added to your XP to level up your player account.

As of launch, there’s four maps to choose from: Cursed Lands of Lavernock, The Ashes of Sker Hotel, Sewers of the Dead and Deadly Lovers Fortress. I can’t be sure, but it seemed to me that the maps increased in difficulty too, with the layouts becoming more challenging due to vital respawning or ammo replenishment facilities further apart in the likes of Deadly Lovers Fortress compared to Cursed Lands of Lavernock. Perhaps not, but it certainly felt that way when we played. The design of these maps though is incredible, with each providing a thoroughly detailed environment to explore (or hide) during the game, with you kept wondering what’s on the other side of soon-to-be-opened locked door.

Let’s Have One More Game…

The challenge of each map’s objectives and the desire to beat the previous score by surviving for more rounds makes the game so replayable. I recall one session where we had just lit a battering ram after several waves of creatures had attacked us, with Warrior having revived my dead ass about three times. We were just about to reap the rewards and progress further when Warrior got killed. Unfortunately, I also got attacked by an onslaught of creatures on a kill frenzy and I just couldn’t keep them at bay. I then ran out of ammo. So although we were in sniffing distance of progressing through the map’s objectives, the game was over. Talk about frustration! But it was the good kind of frustration that only makes us more determined to beat that section when we play again.

The blend of simple controls and varied map objectives, combined with the deep satisfaction of blowing off some steam by shooting lead into everything that moves, SKER RITUAL hits the right notes for a fast-paced co-op first-person shooter. I’ve played the game solo as well, which is good fun in its own right, but the game really comes into its own when you can hook up with some friends or play online with strangers, activate voice chat through Discord or Steam, and start your quest to ‘beat’ the map and survive as long as possible. SKER RITUAL is definitely one of those games you’ll be itching to revisit again and again.

Rating: ★★★★★★★★½☆

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About Bat 4417 Articles
I love practical effects, stop-motion animation and gore, but most of all I love a good story! I adore B-movies and exploitation films in many of their guises and also have a soft spot for creature features. I review a wide range of media including movies, TV series, books and videogames. I'm a massive fan of author Hunter S. Thompson and I enjoy various genre of videogames with Kingdom Hearts and Harvest Moon two of my all time favs. Currently playing: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Yakuza Zero and Mafia III.

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