Layers of Fear Review (Early Access)

For many, few things are as frightening as a haunted house. Typically, you would be able to escape the terror by leaving the house, but what if the things that haunt you the most are in your own mind?

Layers of Fear takes you on a journey through the twisted world of a painter gone insane. The horrors that surround him are sometimes subtle, yet often disturbing.

As you make your way through this beautiful historic home, the line between reality, imagination, and the supernatural are not only blurred, they’re downright erased. Your goal is to finish your masterpiece, inspired by the events that unfolded in the artist’s life.

Gameplay

The game itself is very linear. You are taken through a story that has definitive progression, but it doesn’t feel as confined as other titles in its genre. You can freely explore the house, ruffle through draws and cabinets, and look at objects that give you added insight into the story.

You can enter some rooms and turn around to find that the door you entered through is no longer there. Walls shift and move as you look around, and most of the action happens when you aren’t looking in that direction.

You can basically do two things. You can walk, and you can interact with an object in front of you. There are no tools or weapons. You might find a key that you will use to unlock something, but for the most part you are at the mercy of the game’s linear mechanics.

You are there to experience a story, not change its direction.

Horror

Jump scares, which are a very common and cheap method of injecting fear into the gameplay experience, are thankfully scarce. You find yourself anticipating the next event for some time, thinking that every cabinet door, every drawer, and ever step is the one that will set off the next supernatural event.

This is exactly what separates a cheap horror game from a good one, and Layers of Fear paints (pun intended) a story that unfolds in a very unnerving way.

The scare tactics used in Layers of Fear are subtle. Things change as you look around, doors are replaced by brick walls, characters in paintings change facial expressions, door handles rattle, and yes, there are the occasional jump scares that leap through the screen and slap you around… figuratively.

Audio and Video

The graphics in Layers of Fear are really good for the genre. A lot of horror games have blocky, unrealistic graphics that make immersion difficult. Layers of Fear took the approach of realistic models, and an interactive environment where you can do things like turn faucets on and knock over physics objects.

Details are rock solid, such as rain drops on the windows casting shadows against opposing walls. Lighting is used masterfully, and every shadow appears as though it was put there for a purpose.

The audio is good. It’s realistic enough that wearing headphones puts you in the world. You hear the rain patter against the glass, the floor creak under your footsteps, and the undeniable sound of someone lurking… right behind you!

Layers of Fear is an early release title, and as such what you get upon downloading is about an hour worth of gameplay and an unfinished story. Based on what the game makers have set up thus far, I’ll be very interested to see how it ends.