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  • Writer's pictureJames Stephanie Sterling

Sker Ritual - Sker Shitual (Review)

Sker Ritual

Released: April 18, 2024

Developer: Wales Interactive

Publisher: Wales Interactive

Systems: PC, PS4/PS5 (reviewed), Xbox One/X/S

Sker Ritual continues the trend of online games being borderline unplayable at launch, and that’s about all it contributes to the medium of interactive entertainment.

Strangely, I was looking forward to it quite a bit. I’m fond of Maid of Sker, and the idea of turning a lesser known indie horror into COD: Zombies is so stupid I admire it. Plus it would be great to play such a game without attachment to a publisher known for its promotion and encouragement of sexual harassment.

Unfortunately, Ritual’s squalid matchmaking is only half the issue. The other half is made up of technical oversights, bad ideas, and all the stability of a damn Weeble. 

Sker’s four stages are laborious, largely unentertaining affairs that take about thirty minutes to complete, though some of that time will be spent trying to read the miniscule text detailing your objectives. I shouldn’t have to squint at a big 4K television screen, but some of this text is prank-sized and only the vocal subtitles can be enlarged. 

The UI is a frigging mess as it is, with vague location markers littering the screen and a cluttered HUD providing constant distraction. Adding to the chaos are blinding numbers of effects and bodies flying everywhere, as well as the litany of graphics and physics glitches that can quickly turn the action into visual gibberish. 

A simple structure dictates the pace - kill waves of enemies to earn money to buy new upgrades and open doors to expand the map, fulfilling objectives along the way. Despite how basic it is, everything feels like a slog, and objectives take ages to complete without anything dynamic or unpredictable ever happening.

Each game starts out reasonably, but the closer it gets to the 20th wave of enemies the less fun things become. Even common mooks soon manifest as bullet sponges, swarming in such numbers that being cornered and killed in seconds is almost inevitable. To revive, you need to take a token to a respawn point, and if you don’t have one, you must rely on another player or, more commonly, wait for a new round so you can return automatically - with everything you bought beforehand stripped away from you.

The robbery of guns can quickly create a situation where players can’t “catch up” to the rest of their team. They’ll lack the money needed to repurchase and upgrade weapons, but their starter pistol will be too dinky to do the killing that brings in the cash. If you’re in this position, you might as well grab a magazine for all the time you’ll spend as a spectating ghost.

I once spent time as a ghost “forever” because Sker didn’t account for what happens when you start an online game but all the other players quit. When this happened and I finally died, it expected me to be revived in the next round because it didn’t know I was alone. Unable to fight enemies myself and therefore end the round, I'd been completely softlocked.

All told, it appears more beneficial to start a game, play for a while, and then quit. Weirdly, ditching your teammates retains your XP, while waiting to be disconnected another way does not. You’ll probably progress quicker doing this than successfully completing full runs, long and dreary as they are. 

If the host quits a run, which is obviously common, you get no reward while the host does. Thanks to this, on my first day of playing the game I was only able to see the post-match results screen three times. Every other attempt ended in glitches or disconnected hosts until I learned to just leave first. 

I’ve never seen a game so ineptly balanced that the most rewarding way to play is to constantly rage quit. 

How can I even adequately describe the one match where enemies all flew around as static models and my commands were being randomly input for me, just shooting and slashing and jumping at nothing? It was like the game had been hijacked by a chimp. 

Alongside an inexcusable number of games released in the last twelve months, Sker Ritual's matchmaking is utterly atrocious, just to add to the amount of nothing you’ll be doing after you boot the bloody thing. In my last failed attempt to join a game, it had the audacity to kick me for "inactivity" as if the lack of action was my fault.

When “working” correctly with a full team, it’s a laggy mess with frequent extreme framerate dips. The more players there are, the worse it performs. The more enemies there are, the worse it performs. The more effects onscreen, the worse it performs. Controls feel decent enough, but it’s easy to get caught on bits of scenery and the frequent latency means guns often feel unreliable or like they’re not really hitting anything. As enemies swiftly become walking tanks, firearms feel increasingly pathetic, even when upgraded. 

Despite the clear influence of COD: Zombies, there is no sense of humor or any atmosphere other than blandly grim, with sparse dialog and dull scenarios involving escort missions or object destruction. As enemies arrive in progressively less enjoyable waves, you get frequent appearances from some big bastard or other who wastes your bullets and your patience with any of this shit. 

As well as guns (and some dreadful melee weapons), players have access to three tools/abilities - a healing elixir, Molotov, and big special move, all governed by cooldowns. They’re customized and upgraded at regular intervals via Miracles, which offer a choice from three randomly selected modifiers. Depending on the offers, you can turn your Molotov into a poison bomb or heal grenade, get passive boosts from your elixir, and gain fiery AOE attacks or huge defensive buffs with your special. Stuff like that.

Oh, and there's a quick stab attack you can empower as well. Have fun with that, I guess.

Each mod is upgradeable, and some are even cool to use. Well, the Molotov and elixirs can do cool things - some the AOE attacks are so weak and lacking in effects I genuinely have to wonder if they’re placeholder assets. It’s indicative of how rough and unfinished things feel overall. 

Lasting rewards are presented and unlocked in a fashion identical to a battle pass because lord knows we need that scam further normalized, and the passive upgrades bought throughout stages can be permanently buffed with awardable macguffins. Well, if the game lets you get far enough to earn such items. 

Cosmetics are obviously a big part of the process, duly monetized of course. You can wear all manner of masks that range from creepy to just plain stupid, and if you can change your body type from a typically masculine one they hid the option well. Honestly though, who cares? The idea of playing far enough to unlock a mask I’d actually want sounds like going through a lot of hassle when I could just get back to replaying Final Fantasy X and having an actual nice time. 

Admittedly it looks decent when nothing's moving. I appreciate the moody environments, eerie colors, and any monster designs that don’t resemble the zombies your mum buys from Lidl. I can’t say the audio is anywhere near as pleasant, full as it is of obnoxious screaming and shouting. Even the players are distressingly cacophonous, since there’s a dedicated button to yell or whistle at a pitch best described as fuck off

If you get the deluxe edition, you can even shriek at will. It’s a great way to give everybody a really bad thirty minutes!

I need to emphasize that if we discount all the technical fuck ups, this game is still a fuck up. Nothing about it feels competently put together, from its poorly explained objectives to its threadbare unlocks to its distinctly unentertaining gameplay. 

Terribly balanced, broken in several ways, and barely able to support the online mode it’s pushing, Sker Ritual is a waste of time. If you like Maid of Sker you don’t need this poor follow-up, and if you like COD: Zombies you don’t need this poor facsimile. Nobody and nothing needs Sker Ritual’s bullshit, least of all Sker Ritual.



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