Layers of Fear was a nice little surprise. I was intrigued when the trailer was released and it turned out to be a great addition to the horror genre. There have been many horror games lately and some are good, others not so much. I’d like to say that Layers of Fear falls into the former. It at least changes the formula enough to warrant a job well done.
I tend to compare horror games to the original Silent Hill. It’s the one game (and series) that really got into my head. Granted the series may have fallen a bit as it went but that first Silent Hill really grabbed me and never let go. It set a pretty high bar that I’ve been comparing all other horror games to since. It’s probably not very fair but there you have it. Layers of Fear approaches that bar enough to make it what I consider an enjoyable experience.
In Layers of Fear you take control of a painter who has psychological issues, as you’ll quickly discover. You enter a large home in first person to finish his “Magnum Opus”, his masterpiece painting. You add to the painting a layer at a time and explore the house in between layers. Slowly finishing the painting as you play. You’ll start seeing hallucinations throughout the house as you slowly uncover the history of the painter. It doesn’t take too long to notice this guy is pretty messed up. The game is very much story driven and is shown throw flashbacks and the aforementioned hallucinations as well as newspaper clippings.
Layers of Fear is a great looking game. The graphics are very nice and the effects play an important part on setting the mood and atmosphere. In fact the house is almost a character in itself. The changes in the house are a reflection of the painter’s delusions as well. The journey through the house might even be considered a journey through the painter’s head towards some sort of redemption. And the house it’s actually splattered with colors other than dark colors you see in most horror games. Often quite literally.
One of the highlights of the game is the way the environment changes around you. It’s so fast. As in, so fast that it happens when you’re looking in the other direction. This happens numerous times throughout the game. For example a door might appear in a wall that you were just facing seconds before. It just appears there when you turn away for a split second. As I mentioned this kind of thing happens a lot in the game and it blew my mind almost every time. Especially later when things get pretty twisted. This is probably my biggest highlight of the game. It took a lot of control out of your hands and you never knew what to expect.
Just like the graphics, the sound design is also well done and adds to the creepiness of the game. There is a certain power in having good sound effects to create atmosphere and this game does it very well. There are a lot of jump scares and the sounds made those all the more effective. And at other times, sounds coming from the other room made me very paranoid. The voice overs are also well done and convincing. The painter especially sounds very manic at times and it’s great.
The game controls as you would expect any first person exploration game to work. I didn’t have any issues and I don’t think they did anything especially different either. It is in first person and you have your typical affair of walking and exploring including a button to zoom in on things. Which actually comes in handy sometimes.
Which brings me to what some might consider a negative for this game. Layers of Fear is pretty simplistic in gameplay. It’s pretty close to a walking simulator. Except scarier. There’s no fighting, no ducking or jumping or anything like that. Some might consider this a bad thing but I honestly didn’t mind it. It’s full of atmosphere and has an interesting story which more than made up for the lack of gameplay mechanics.
Layers of Fear, has excellent atmosphere, but relies on jump scares a lot. They are effective but I tend to like the horror that gets in your head and makes you feel uneasy without necessarily scaring the living daylights out of you. Which this game does to a degree but there are a lot of jump scares and after a while they aren’t nearly as effective.
All in all Layers of Fear was a fun experience and honestly was a bit of fresh air compared to the multitude of horror games that have been coming out lately (not that I’m complaining). It took a story that explored the ideas of the human psyche all through the eyes of a mentally ill man. It doesn’t really cross any new boundaries (some pretty typical scary things in here too like creepy dolls) but just comes at things in a different direction then other games. And the effect of the house changing around you was amazing.
I may go back at some point and play through again. Maybe I’ll try to get a different ending or maybe I’ll just revel in the experience. Halloween isn’t all that far away and this might be just the thing to get a person in the mood. Layers of Fear was an experience I’ll probably remember for quite some time anyhow. And it’s made me all the more excited for the new DLC that is coming out soon.
Did any of you guys play this game? What did you think about it?