Hands On: Sker Ritual - A Zombie-Filled Ceremony That Struggles To Satisfy

The team behind 2020's story-based horror title Maid of Sker is back this year with an FPS spin-off - one that takes shape as a wave-based shooter not too dissimilar to Call of Duty's Zombies mode. Wales Interactive sticks to CoD's blueprint quite closely here, and while the concept is sound and the game does what it says on the tin, we can't really recommend Sker Ritual in its current state.

To get the basics out of the way real quick, Sker Ritual contains four unique monster-filled maps hosting a bunch of different objectives to complete, enemies to take down and upgrades to acquire. As we've mentioned, if you've played CoD Zombies or another similar 'Horde Mode' type of experience you'll know what you're getting into - wave after wave of zombie-slaying as additional enemy types get thrown into the mix and the overall difficulty progresses.

Where Sker Ritual falls down for us, is that these maps and objectives just aren't all that compelling to work through. Each of the four maps feel quite similar to explore - and they're just a little too linear to enjoy repeat sessions with. Where the height of CoD Zombies nailed that balance between infinitely replayable maps and some sort of in-game progression - Sker Ritual launches with four confusingly tight and windy levels that quickly lose their charm.

Hands On: Sker Ritual - A Zombie-Filled Ceremony That Struggles To Satisfy 1

It's not just the map layouts that feel below par either - some of the objectives tucked into Sker Ritual's levels don't feel properly balanced at all. At times, what you need to do next is clearly communicated to the player and obviously labelled via on-screen UI, and then at other times you're given a totally vague instruction with little else in the way of guidance. That, combined with the fact you're always dealing with waves of increasingly-aggressive monsters, makes Sker Ritual's balance feel somewhat unfinished at launch.

It's not all bad though - Sker Ritual gets some things right. The overall vibe of each level feels like it fits the premise rather nicely, and we have to say that the gunplay is pretty solid overall. Okay, big-name AAA shooter this isn't, but to say the Maid of Sker spin-off was created by just five developers - it all feels tight, punchy and smooth to play; save for a slight controller dead zone issue we hope gets fixed after launch.

Hands On: Sker Ritual - A Zombie-Filled Ceremony That Struggles To Satisfy 2

Where Sker Ritual gives, it quickly takes away though. Yes, the shooting feels nice but because of the aforementioned issues with map design and objectives, you just feel completely swamped most of the time and things get chaotic quick. That'd be cool if the game's wave-based structure focused more on taking down zombies within big open levels, but its objective-based nature feels at odds with the flow of combat. We think more open maps and maybe even some completely objectiveless modes aside from just surviving would be great additions to the game.

And so, that leaves us feeling a bit underwhelmed with Sker Ritual - on launch at least. We want to mention again that this title was made by a super-small team at Wales Interactive and their efforts are commendable, but if we're being honest, we just don't know why you wouldn't go back and play old CoD Zombies or something like Gears' Horde mode instead of this. Those have lots more gameplay depth and better balance, and just offer up a superior experience overall.

Hands On: Sker Ritual - A Zombie-Filled Ceremony That Struggles To Satisfy 3

Sker Ritual has been in early access on PC since October 2022, and the team does have plans beyond the game's 1.0 launch, so it might be worth keeping an eye on the title's progress to see how it shapes up in future. For now though, unless you're absolutely desperate for a new wave-based FPS that mimmicks the good old CoD Zombies days, we just can't recommend Sker Ritual over turning back the clock and booting up one of the old favourites.

Is Sker Ritual on your radar? Will you be keeping an eye on its Xbox launch? Talk all about it down in the comments below.