Layers of Fear Review

Layers of Fear piqued my interest when a friend pointed it out to me while it was still in Steam Early Access and an unfinished yet promising state.  It had been “painted” *rimshot* as a spiritual successor to the likes of the Silent Hill series where psychological horror and the surreal abound.  I decided to wait for a full release and enlisted the help of a few “co-op buddies” to play through the game in segments by passing the controller around.  With the team and game ready to go, we dived into Layers of Fear.

Layers of Fear Review

What’s under the sheet?

The game takes place from an entirely first person perspective, with the player taking on the role of a troubled painter endeavouring to complete a great masterpiece painting.  As he does so, he travels around his large home and this is when things all start to go wrong. It becomes evident that the artist’s mind is not quite what it used to be.  The fabric of begins to shift and crumble, as does the layout of the house, as the painter goes in search of the unique materials required to complete his masterpiece.  

Layers of Fear Review

Things start to go south quickly

As he moves through the halls of his mansion, the layouts constantly shift, opening new paths and passages that did not exist before.  The path through the game is created this way and is mostly linear but this is understandably done this way to allow for the narrative of the game.  A few times you are given the chance to explore optional routes but little usually comes of them.

Layers of Fear Review

Some corners are best left unexplored

This constant shifting of the house is initially quite unnerving but sadly is heavily over-used and gets to become quite routine and eventually even expected.  You will recognise the pattern that when you have hit a dead end, what was behind you has probably changed to unveil a new way through and this aspect of the atmosphere ceases to be scary.

Layers of Fear Review

Some situations can become a little predictable

Another large narrative device includes finding notes and pieces of paper along your route that provide exposition regarding the artist’s life, his family and how everything came to be in the current state that it is.  Some of this is genuinely chilling to read and if you pay close attention to your surroundings, you can later connect dots between events you have seen and things you later read about them, tying past and present stories together well.

Layers of Fear Review

Newspaper articles and the artists scattered notes provide insight into the events surrounding the game.

With this being a game about artists and art, most would expect the visuals along this journey to be of a high standard and Layers of Fear definitely does not disappoint in that department. Every environment features a high level of detail and is masterfully crafted.  The visual effects caused by the artist’s questionable state of mind are brilliantly realised and give you a real idea of what it could be like to be descending into madness.

Layers of Fear Review

Well that doesn’t look quite right.

Being a horror game, it would not be complete without jump scares. There are a few in Layers of Fear but not a great deal as the game is more focused on psychological horror.  There are also 3 different endings you can achieve depending on actions taken (or not taken) during the course of the game.  These actions are quite obscure unfortunately and without a walkthrough detailing them, you are unlikely to get anything but the default ending.

Layers of Fear Review Summary

Layers of Fear should be applauded for trying something new and different.  Being one of the few games that tries to simulate mental illness, (another example being the GameCube’s amazing Eternal Darkness) it is in a rather niche genre but it could also be classified as “a walking simulator,” a term given to newer games such as this, Firewatch, SOMA, etc. where a player explores environments while being told an interesting story.  There is not a great deal of interactivity to this game, except for some fairly basic puzzles dotted around the place.  One lengthy puzzle near the end of the game was much more annoying and repetitive than fun sadly.  For someone looking for a lot of action this game may not be for you, but if you like a good story filled with tension and nerves, this is definitely worth checking out.  It can easily be completed in a single evening and should run about 3 hours.

Final Score 3/5

Many thanks to Evolve PR for providing this game to me to review.

For more information see the Layers of Fear website