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  • Writer's pictureAntal Bokor

31 Days of Horror, Day 23: Layers of Fear

Despite the fact that Layers of Fear keeps coming up in “best of “ lists when it comes to scary games, I just couldn’t get into it. There’s unmistakable talent in Bloober Team, and Layers of Fear was one of the first games of its type. I could be wrong about this one, and you should check it out for yourself.

Most of the gameplay in Layers of Fear involves walking while looking at items and suffering the occasional jump scare. There are some puzzles to solve, but these are sparse. When people derisively describe walking simulators, I don’t know how the Layers of Fear series isn’t mentioned more often. It doesn’t feel like a game so much as a haunted house. While it’s effectively spooky, it never comes close to invoking true terror. Instead, it’s just trippy imagery and walking. Rinse and repeat for hours.

While the developers were no doubt going for an unsettling depiction of characters descending into madness, there isn’t enough to ground the player to what’s real. And because of that, there aren’t any narrative stakes.Even failure (when it’s possible to fail) is just a temporary setback. If the majority of the game plays out like a nightmare, after a couple of hours it starts to lose its effectiveness.

Despite the dominantly boring gameplay, there are actually some moments that got my heart racing. This is when Layers of Fear truly shines. However, these truly scary moments are too far between with long stretches of often nauseating psychological torture that ended up being torture on me.

Even the story in Layers of Fear is lost in all of the howling and madness. Any pretense of subtlety flies out the window within the first few minutes of gameplay, and you’re forced to suffer through ham fisted portrayals of tragedy and angst. For instance, in The Artist segment of the game there is a moment where the character is remembering feeling alienated because of their status as an artist, so the next room has a fish flopping on a saucer with the words “out of water” written on the wall.

Layers of Fear isn’t particularly effective in its gameplay or storytelling, but it sure is pretty to look at. Bloober Team has used every bell and whistle available to them in Unreal 5 to make these games look better than they ever have before. With Ray Tracing and HDR support, Layers of Fear is one of the best looking games I’ve played this year. However, that’s really just putting lipstick on a pig.

I know there are people that absolutely love Layers of Fear (2016) and I wish I was one of them. I feel like I missed the boat, and was subjected to so many imitations that I can’t appreciate Layers of Fear (2016) for how groundbreaking it was. Sadly, that means my patience for Layers of Fear wore thin, and I could only play it in short bursts. Even then, I felt like I was twisting in the same never-ending corridors hoping to find an exit. Luckily, it really only takes pressing the Esc key and quitting to desktop to get out of that nightmare.

Layers of Fear is available now on Steam and the Epic Games Store as well as for PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series S|X

A Steam key was provided to us for this review

This article was originally published on 06/15/2023 at this location.



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