Layers of Fear Review – Is It Really That Great of A Game?

Is this sequel a masterpiece or madness? Let's find out.

Layers of Fear Review
Overall
2.5
  • Story And Setting
  • Gameplay
  • Visuals And Performance

Verdict

Layers of Fear is a visually stunning yet shallow dive into psychological horror that will leave veterans of the genre craving more.

  • Developer: Bloober Team
  • Publisher: Aspyr
  • Release Date: June 15, 2023
  • Platforms: PC, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch
  • Tested On: PC

Pros

  • Stunning Visuals
  • Atmospheric Setting
  • Intriguing Premise

Cons

  • Predictable Scares
  • Underdeveloped Story
  • Repetitive Gameplay
  • Performance Issues
  • Full of Clichés

Step into the hauntingly twisted world of a tormented artist, where the brushstrokes of madness blend with supernatural horror! Layers of Fear originally graced our screens in 2016, and now returns as a 2023 reimagined collection, promising to immerse players into deeper darkness and fearsome psychosis.

But does this macabre tapestry truly unfurl into a masterpiece of terror, or does it smear like wet paint? Fasten your straight jackets, as we dive into the eerie halls in this Layers of Fear Review, peeling back the layers to uncover if this horror collection truly delivers spine-chilling screams or just muted whispers.

Story And Setting

Layers of Fear Review Story and Setting
Story And Setting. (Image By eXputer)

Layers of Fear (2023) is not a new game, but an amalgamation of all the entries in the series of the same name from Bloober Team, remade in Unreal Engine 5. The series delves into a sinister and psychological realm, unraveling a tale steeped in madness and the tortured world of four tormented artists presenting a notion that indeed, art can be dangerous.

The original game thrusts players into the shoes of an unnamed painter, once revered but now in decline due to a cascade of domestic tragedies. As you take on the perspective of this artist, you are engulfed in his pursuit to complete his magnum opus, a task entangled with his unraveling sanity. The premise, promising a deep dive into the psyche, could have been fertile ground for a rich and subtle horror narrative. However, the actual delivery feels as if it squandered this potential by laying it on thick with horror tropes rather than sowing seeds of psychological terror.

The setting, an opulent mansion, presents itself in the opening moments of the game with an unsettling air. Initially, players have the opportunity to hobble around the artist’s home, revealing layers of its history through scattered notes and clippings. Unfortunately, this segment is curtailed prematurely, launching players into a series of mind-bending corridors and rooms, which although intriguing at first, are repeated so often that they destroy any sense of attachment or continuity that could have been cultivated. The non-linear narrative could have been an asset had it been woven with more finesse, but instead, it becomes a disorienting haunted house ride.

The execution leaves one feeling like a passive observer on a ghost train rather than an active participant in a chilling psychological horror tale.

In the 2023 remake, the inclusion of the Inheritance DLC and The Final Note offers additional perspectives, as players assume the roles of the artist’s daughter and wife respectively. Regrettably, these additions fail to inject the depth one might hope for, essentially serving as more haunted house diversions rather than delving into the substance of the characters’ experiences or the narrative.

Moving on to Layers of Fear 2 within the 2023 collection, the setting shifts from the haunted mansion to a cruise ship. The switch in locale could have been a breath of fresh air, but the game clings too ardently to its predecessor’s formula, recirculating horror clichés without anchoring them to a coherent or captivating story. Although there are snippets of narrative strewn throughout both games, they fail to form a meaningful or engaging tale.

What is perhaps the most disheartening is the squandered potential of both setting and story. The themes of artistic madness and the descent into psychosis are fertile grounds for horror. The mansion and cruise ship could have been characters in themselves, breathing life into the tale through a slow revelation of their secrets. But alas, the execution leaves one feeling like a passive observer on a ghost train rather than an active participant in a chilling psychological horror tale.

Gameplay

Layers of Fear Review Gameplay
Gameplay. (Image By eXputer)

In the original Layers of Fear, gameplay mainly comprises of exploration and interaction with the environment.  The world undergoes unpredictable changes, hallways loop onto themselves and rooms transform, disregarding the laws of physics. While such manipulation of space is intriguing, it seems to be implemented very often and without much thought on building tension or engaging the player. Rather than encouraging cautious exploration, it tends to make players indifferent to the environment, as constant, jarring changes lend little permanence or context to what they uncover.

One prominent issue with the gameplay is the over-reliance on predictable jump scares and horror tropes. What begins as a tribute to classic horror soon turns into an uninspired barrage of creepy dolls and eerie sounds. This, coupled with the lack of meaningful interactions or complex puzzles, results in the gameplay falling flat. The player’s inability to influence the world in any significant way makes the scares feel superficial and the experience passive.

The 2023 remake introduces the lantern as a new gameplay element, designed to fend off ghostly apparitions. While it could have added an extra layer of strategy and challenge, it feels underutilized and fails to add any significant depth to the gameplay. It also makes the ghostly encounters less threatening, as the player can easily keep the specter at bay.

What begins as a tribute to classic horror soon turns into an uninspired barrage of creepy dolls and eerie sounds.

Layers of Fear 2 brings a change of scenery and slight variation in gameplay. The setting shifts to a cruise ship, and it attempts to build upon the first game by adding chase sequences. At certain points, players must escape from a relentless monster by navigating through obstacles, which brings a more engaging dynamic compared to the first game. Although still plagued by many of the same issues, these anxiety-inducing chases do offer a few moments of adrenaline-pumping gameplay.

Another aspect where Layers of Fear 2 marginally improves upon is puzzles. Though still not particularly challenging, they are slightly more intriguing than those in the original game. This adds a small semblance of interactivity and engagement to the experience.

Overall, the gameplay as presented in the 2023 collection, while rich with potential, is a mixed bag. It often feels more like walking through a staged haunted house rather than actively participating in a horror story. The additions in the 2023 version are a step in the right direction, but not substantial enough to make the gameplay deeply engaging or satisfying.

Visuals And Performance

Layers of Fear Review Visuals
Visuals. (Image Captured By eXputer)

Crafted using Unreal Engine 5, this new iteration of Layers of Fear takes a quantum leap in terms of graphical fidelity. The visual aesthetics and detail are paramount in creating an immersive horror experience, and here, the game truly excels.

The crowning achievement is the photo-realistic graphics, as the package boasts some of the most visually impressive environments in the horror genre. Every surface, object, and environment looks lifelike, which can sometimes even distract from the horror due to the sheer beauty of the world. The interplay of light and shadow is expertly utilized to create subtle and overt scares.

The mansion is meticulously rendered with lavish detail. As you hobble through the dark, decadent hallways, the creaking of the wooden floors and the shadows dancing on the walls create an eerie atmosphere that the visuals amplify. The textures are sharp, the lighting is dramatically realistic, and the environments are lavishly detailed, which aids in immersing the player in the dark and twisted world. It takes you on a visually chaotic and surreal journey as paintings melt and apples pour out in an orchestral crescendo. The sheer visual creativity is enough to make you stop and stare.

Every surface, object, and environment looks lifelike, which can sometimes even distract from the horror due to the sheer beauty of the world.

In Layers of Fear 2 the dark, claustrophobic corridors of the ship, the ocean’s ominous vastness seen through the windows, and the meticulously detailed cabins contribute to a sense of unease. The chase scenes are heightened by the visual turmoil around the player, as the environment reacts to the presence of the terrifying creature.

An additional note is how the visual effects are utilized to not only create atmosphere but convey story and emotion. The mutating environments represent the character’s fractured mind. While sometimes these effects are a bit heavy-handed, they remain visually arresting.

However, for all the visual grandeur that Layers of Fear bring to the table, performance seems to take a hit. Despite running on a powerful PC, the game experiences framerate stutters. This not only breaks the immersion but can also be discomforting, especially in a game that aims to be a first-person immersive experience. In horror games, maintaining a consistent atmosphere is key, and framerate drops can throw off the mood and tension the game builds through its visuals.

Verdict

Verdict
Verdict. (Image by eXputer)

As a reimagined collection in 2023, Layers of Fear offers mixed shades in the horror palette. The story and setting drip with potential, plunging the player into the unsettling world of a disturbed painter. However, the narrative feels underdeveloped and too reliant on tired clichés, never quite reaching the sinister depths it could have explored.

The gameplay seems like a ghostly waltz through a haunted mansion, but the predictable jump scares and simplistic puzzles detract from the immersion. A new feature, the lantern, adds an interesting twist but doesn’t save the gameplay from feeling too repetitive and toothless.

In conclusion, Layers of Fear is a visually stunning yet shallow dive into psychological horror. For newcomers, it might be an appealing haunted house walkthrough, especially at its budget price. However, for veterans or those seeking a deeply engaging horror story, it might leave you wishing for a few more layers of depth.

This has been our Layers of Fear Review. While you’re here, consider checking out some of our other articles. 

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Asad Ahmad is a Games Reviewer on eXputer who’s combined his passion for writing and gaming into a sweet blend of content for his audience to enjoy. He started off his gaming journey in the RTS genre but settled on RPGs like Skyrim as his go-to games. Asad has a substantial amount of writing experience in reviewing and writing for games, which is backed up by his extensive gaming library on Steam. Experience: 2+ Years || Mainly covers Game Reviews || Education: Bachelors in Electrical Engineering.

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