Horror games. A love-hate relationship. In addition to grotesque splatter and raw violence, the team from Bloober further opened the door to a new genre, inspired by P.T. Say hi to psychological horror games and delve into Layers of Fear, 2023 edition.
Bloober and Anshar Studios have joined forces to deliver the latest installment in the series: But what is it exactly? A remake, a sequel? It’s both and, in any case, a true horror blast, absolutely benefiting from the strengths of Unreal Engine 5. What can the latest part deliver, and how does it perform?
Layers of Fear 2023 is a horror-symphony
To clear up the confusion, LoF brings the acclaimed franchise to a gigantic conclusion. It ties together the series’ first two installments, including their DLCs, and delivers a new epilogue. Sounds brilliant, but does this balancing act work?
In the new part, we slip into the role of a writer who has settled in an abandoned lighthouse to draw inspiration for his latest work. While we experience both game’s stories as a single connected campaign, the writer’s new line is embedded, serving as a connecting element. On top of that, this concentrated horror spectacle is developed in Unreal Engine 5, featuring ray tracing and high display resolutions.
The titling in-game is unusual: In the chapter menu, the game options don’t show the usual naming but instead use these of their protagonists, such as Painter’s Story, Actor’s Story, etc.
The good/the bad of Layers of Fear
The title is sometimes mockingly called a “spooky walking simulator” because we must mainly strive through rooms and corridors, exploring and discovering them piece by piece. Admittedly, that’s all you can do. But that doesn’t create boredom because we must constantly interact with the surroundings, pick up objects, and can never be sure what lies around the next corner—jumpscares at its best.
Layers of Fear knows how to keep us on our toes and maintains a constant feeling of insecurity. The name says it all. And that makes the franchise so high quality in that regard. The creepiness mainly occurs in our heads, and the game is the trigger.
Not many gameplay innovations
The remake impresses with its stunning UE5 graphics, but many game segments remain unchanged despite the visual upgrade. A more significant change is the new lantern mechanic, allowing us to illuminate areas, reveal secrets, and keep enemies at bay. This feature is a valuable addition to the game, but to take the old titles to a new level requires more than a lantern that wards off enemies. The second part uses this feature even more coherently with a flashlight.
The stories are confusing and leave us with question marks
If we look at Layers of Fear holistically on the narrative level, the game can provide frustration besides the scary interludes. We are immersed in a complex, tangled mosaic full of stories and puzzles that revolve around the tortured souls of the artists. We live through their manias and psychic thought loops manifesting in changing creepy environments, leaving us much more with questions than it enlightens us.
The game quickly reveals a metaphor: a creative mind always harbors a wild and unpleasant dark place. We find notes and hear voiceovers telling us, “To create is to reach into chaos,” or “Great art carries a heavy cost.”
We have our problems with that view. It’s not the art that’s the problem. Instead, isn’t it the people themselves? In the added storylines, “Writer” and “Musician,” we learn more about the Rat Queen, who is said to be responsible for the unhappiness of artists because she forces them to strive for unattainable perfection. This is a pretty one-dimensional solution that doesn’t really include the individual character as a possible cause.
Our verdict on Layers of Fear
The 2023 edition of Layers of Fear impressively ties together the series’ stories with an elegant arc and breathes even more conviction into the game with its new graphics. But it doesn’t give us an entirely new LoF experience. Still, with this installment, we get the definitive way to play through the award-winning psychedelic horror from 2016-2019 in one go and a new coat of paint. Not more, not less. But that’s OK for $29,99.
Layers of Fear 2023 is available for PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S and can be purchased for macOS and PC via Steam. If you want to get the game significantly cheaper, check out Kinguin (affiliate link).
Don’t want to play excellent horror alone?
What are your thoughts on Bloober’s new game? Does it reach a new level of horror for you? Feel free to write us in the comments below.