I think it’s fair to say that survival horror in video games has gone through a couple of rough patches. Over the years the genre has had to reinvent itself a number of times to ensure its continued existence. By no means was this a simple task with the rampant growth in popularity for action orientated gaming looming. This growth saw big game franchises that were synonymous with survival horror such as Dead Space and Resident Evil practically ditch the genre entirely and instead opt for over the top action. With the big developmental studios leaving survival horror in the past it was up to the smaller, lesser known creators to step up and remind us what it was that made this genre capable of giving us some of the greatest, most memorable moments in gaming history.
Back in 2014, first-person psychological survival horror video game P.T. ignited the passion for survival horror gaming once more. Naturally, this has led to a number of “clones” which have attempted to recapture a fraction of the buzz that P.T. managed to create. These games used photo realistic environments and gameplay that is almost entirely about story, exploration and discovery.
Layers of Fear follows a similar pattern to P.T and games like it but is it just another clone or is it something more?
Layers of Fear is a first-person psychedelic horror game with a heavy focus on story and exploration. Players take control of a painter whose sole purpose is to finish his Magnum Opus. The player must navigate through both a constantly changing Victorian-era mansion and ghastly visions of the past.
As I stated above, these types of games are almost entirely about story, exploration and discovery and Layers of Fear is no different in that regard. You make your way from room to room searching cupboards, drawers and so on looking for any type of clue to explain what the heck is going on. Along the way you’ll find a number of items that reveal very interesting little details about the protagonist, his mental state and what may have led him to his current situation.
The ways in which you interact with the environment will lead you to trigger certain events that will help progress the game and more than likely lead to something spooky going down. These events happen so seamlessly and without fault, it’s extremely engrossing.
You’ll walk through a door only to turn back and find an entirely new room behind you. Paintings will shift and change, entire environments will twist and much more. This is the type of horror game that I used to dream of playing and it’s wonderful to experience.
This type of game lends itself perfectly to “jump scares” and while there are a number of them I felt they were done well and thankfully not overdone. Some of Layers of Fear’s strongest aspects are the atmosphere it creates with fantastic lighting effects and sound design as well as an absolutely beautiful soundtrack. Walking down a dark corridor as the lights begin to flicker can be extremely unnerving, the game creates some very tense moments.
Also, I have to praise the story of the game even if it can be quite a confusing mess at times. Be sure to check every last drawer if you don’t want to miss some pivotal narrative explanation items. I found myself intrigued throughout and felt compelled to understand exactly what had taken place; it’s a very well done story for this type of game. Those that may not take the time to check every nook and cranny might feel underwhelmed by the story which is a shame and a failure on the games part. Basically, if that’s something that doesn’t sound fun to you then this may not be the game for you. Layers Of Fear isn’t just trying to scare you with cliché moments although it does have a number of those, it is attempting to tell a story and I think it succeeds very well in that department as long as you’re willing to explore.
Is it the scariest game ever made? No but it got me a couple of times and certainly had my heart racing throughout.
I think it’s most glaring issue is its lack of replayabillity. Now, there are reasons to run through the game again with there being three different endings but I can’t help but feel that all of the stuff that made it great the first time would diminish rapidly a second or third go round. I plan to wait a while before revisiting the game so it becomes fresh once more, I don’t wish to tarnish my initial impressions.
Layers of Fear is another strong notch in the resurgence of survival horror. It’s very subtle at times, you might find yourself just waiting for something to happen but I prefer that to the alternative. Sure some of the jump scares are cheap and sure it’s littered with a number of horror clichés and troupes but it’s still very enjoyable and I’ll definitely look back on it fondly for years to come. The atmosphere it creates is immense, it’s very pretty visually and the storyline while confusing will at least make you think and has led me to think of a number of theories regarding its ending.
Layers Of Fear