Layers of Fear Review: Be Cautious of Wet Paint

March 3rd, 2016 -

Imagine that you are an artist that has been driven to perfection in your work, and in doing so you’ve lost sight of the world’s reality. You go to any means necessary to create your next piece, and lose sight of everything else in your life. That’s more or less what this game is, though it’s more of you learning about this artist and what he had and then lost, all the while creating his masterpiece.

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Layers of Fear is more about experiencing the game opposed to playing it. If you’ve played things like Dear Esther, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, or the more recent Firewatch, you’ll understand what I’m talking about. If not, allow me to catch you up to speed. Opposed to fighting enemies or solving in-depth puzzles, you will wander about the environment, locate items that help divulge the story, and occasionally make choices in how things play out. There is no concern for failing, but merely progressing in the story. With that last bit, I can see some of you scratching your head at how this game can be scary. If there’s no concern for death, why be worried?

As I’ve said in the past, I’m not too fond of horror games. I enjoyed Alien: Isolation and Dead Space, but for the most part, I don’t find horror appealing. It’s not that I’m above it, or that I can’t put myself in the shoes of the character (which the first person view helps with), but rather I don’t have the time or environment to really delve into these worlds. I can play an RPG at any time of the day, and almost in any mindset. But horror… horror requires the right lighting, the proper sound setup, a mood of vulnerability, and complete empathy. Without those elements, the game may as well be a movie that’s on in the background. And to be completely honest, the first 2/3 of my first playthrough was not in these settings. I played in the morning after waking up as I waited for my wife to get ready for the day. The last 1/3 I played in the dark, isolated, with the sound up – the difference from that alone made the game so much better.

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This is a game that utilizes a lot of elements you’ve seen before if you enjoy the genre. Expect to hear doors slamming, cries in the distance, inanimate objects becoming animated, etc. One of the more prominent features of the game is what it does to the environment around you visually. When you start the game, you are given access to the house, exploring each room to get a feel for the layout. As you begin your real journey into the madness of the artist, the house becomes distorted. You’ll enter a room, walk into a dead-end, and go out the same door as if you were following Gene Wilder in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Hallways become infinite and parts of the game feel like you are playing P.T. in the best of ways. You’ll encounter numerous jump scares; some are expected while others are completely off-kilter. Only a few of these really caught me by surprise and made me jump. The game excels when it sticks to being more psychologically unnerving, such as when a room’s ceiling becomes a seemingly endless mansion spanning upwards after a phone call you find in a secret compartment.

The game is split into six parts (seven if you include the prologue), and I’m fairly certain you need to complete a chapter to save your progress. It’s the only time I saw an icon that led me to believe the game was saving. That being the case, you’d probably assume the game is short. You’d be right in making that assumption, as it took only a couple of hours to complete my first playthrough. There are multiple endings though, depending on how you play the game. There are various collectibles to find that will help divulge more of the story and give you a better idea of what caused this downfall. Of course, with how often the environment around you changes, you may miss them your first couple times. Luckily the game does offer a chapter select for you completionists out there.

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If you are a casual fan of horror games, as in you like horror, but you don’t partake in it too often because you have trouble getting past parts of a game, or you just don’t invest much time into them, this is a great choice. Easy to pick up, doesn’t overstay its welcome, and has replayability if you are a fan of collecting or want to see different endings. If you play every game that comes out under the horror name, there probably isn’t a whole lot new to see here. As someone in the former category, I thoroughly enjoyed my time traversing the demented mind of the unnamed artist. It had its issues, such as framerate drops (especially bad near the end of the game), and the controller noises to alarm you to the presence of an item were a bit distracting, or even the characters themselves, but overall it left me with a good taste in my mouth.

BUY

Pros

  • Living Environment
  • Unnerving Art

Cons

  • Framerate Chugs
  • Cliché Characters

Layers of Fear was developed by Bloober Team and published by Aspyr. The game launched on PC, PS4, and X1 February 16, 2016, for $19.99. The game was also available on Steam’s Early Access in August of 2015 and X1’s Preview Program in October of 2015. The game was provided to us for review on PS4. If you’d like to see more of Layers of Fear, check out the official site.

 

Here at FFoP we use a rating method that you may be unfamiliar with, so allow us to clarify. When we review a game, we see what sort of BRA fits. Buy, Rent, or Acquire is the rating we give out – we’ve boiled it down for simplicity. A Buy is worth the full retail value; a Rent is something you may want to try before you buy, or grab at a discount; an Acquire is something you can play, but we’d suggest borrowing it from someone, grabbing it in a game bundle, or some other means. If you want further clarification, please feel free to get in touch.

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