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Title: Layers of Fear
Platforms: PC (Windows, Mac OSX, Linux), Xbox One, PlayStation 4
Developer: Bloober Team SA
Get it from: Steam ($19.99 USD) – also available on Xbox and PS4 stores
Suitable for: Ages 17 and up due to partial (albeit tasteful classical portrait) nudity, strong language and use of alcohol.
Grab onto your sanity ‘cause it’s gonna be a bumpy ride
You’re an artist! Congratulations. Unfortunately, once you rummage around your desolate Victorian home it becomes clear that you have an unhappy wife, rampant alcoholism and trouble with hallucinations. Unlock your paint-splattered workroom and gaze upon the canvas of your unfinished masterpiece, then step outside to find out just how much you’ve really lost your grip on reality.
Drawing heavy inspiration from the eerie artworks of old and with a gameplay style similar to Konami’s P.T, Layers of Fear is a deeply unsettling journey through the dark past of a man compelled to finish his final masterpiece, no matter what the cost.
The worst thing a horror game can do is bore you, and Layers of Fear is anything but boring. With an insane protagonist, everything you assume about logic and object permanence goes flying out the window. With brilliantly demented delusions that unfold at varied paces, you’ll get chills that linger far longer than the initial jump scare. As the game progresses, you’ll begin to doubt yourself to the extent that you’ll be afraid to even turn around.
The story is just as unsettling; each chapter grows increasingly violent as you discover more clues leading to what might have happened in the house. However, the ending you reach depends entirely on your decisions and which objects you interact with. There are three endings to unlock, some which feel more satisfying than others depending on how much you like the protagonist (spoiler: probably not much).
The game is excellently crafted; an atmospheric mansion furnished with all the trimmings you’d expect of a Victorian era home, from teacups and spectacles to good old-fashioned dominoes in the parlour drawer. So it baffles me that they chose to cast a voice actor using an aggressive American accent that felt like it would be more at home in a modern Silent Hill game. Even if the setting is intended to be Victorian America rather than Victorian England, the vocabulary was disjointed from the era in both dialogue and written documents. While it does serve to unveil the protagonist as callous and irredeemable, the developers could have achieved a similar effect with more consideration towards the exquisite setting they created.
In terms of design, I also had some trouble when I was forced to walk around in the dark in certain areas. I know this situation is to be expected in a horror game, but the problem wasn’t that it was scary, it was that I’d be trying to walk the character through the basement and he’d get stuck on something I couldn’t see. Awkwardly trying to navigate around something in first person perspective can break your immersion in a game, but fortunately the environment includes some lamps and light switches you can turn on (which it may then punish you for, in true horror fashion).
If you love the horror genre but you find monster chases and inventory management in titles such as Amnesia unappealing (yes, it’s definitely that they’re unappealing and not that I would wee myself) then Layers of Fear is the game for you. As a psychological horror title, it’s all about exploring the ever-changing mansion to find notes and memory-triggering trinkets that stitch together the story.
However, if you plan to play it on PC, check the system requirements or look it up on Can you RUN it first because a PC with a low-spec graphics card may not be able to handle it.
Have you played this game? Tell us what you think in the comments.