Most would assume that achieving psychological terror in a video game would be difficult. In the case of Layers of Fear, this is achieved successfully with complete narrative disarray. Although an early access game, I felt that by the end of my playthrough, I had experienced all that I was meant to, or perhaps I was just mentally exhausted from playing it entirely.
From what is alluded to but is not confirmed, you play as a man wandering throughout his empty estate. What he is looking for, why he is there, and what is going on is the true riddle. Similar to the obscure psychological theme of something similar to The Shining, the player is thrown into strange events that are meant to tell a story, while still remaining entirely abstract.
From what I’ve gathered, the man you are playing as was not the best person, father, or husband, and he appears to be haunted by that fact. Although not the most successful family man, he is a talented artist. His disturbing, eerie paintings are scattered through out the entire estate, which add to the game’s “layers of fear.”
Creating ambitious artwork requires mental reflection, talent and in the case of the main character, a disturbed mind. His paintings and what they reflect in his psyche are one of the most unique attributes to the game. His paintings will change, appear in disturbing places and almost always appear to taunt the player.
Although fear is achieved through a chilling soundtrack, effective use of lighting and an illusive narrative, Layers of Fear has countless, cheap jump scares. As I wandered through out the halls, I probably screamed in terror nearly 20 times. After a while, I stopped caring and began to wander aimlessly — all of my mental awareness completely spent.
Not only did I become accustomed to the jump scares, I became physically sick with the use of intense lighting, skewed camera angles, and non-stop twists and turns. I began to feel nauseous, similar to a feeling of car sickness or sitting too close to a movie theater screen. I had to leave my PC for an hour and come back to it in order to finish the two-hour experience. However, I wouldn’t allow this unfortunate factor to take away from the integrity of Layers of Fear, considering that one person may hold a greater constitution towards distorted visual effects than another.
Overall, Layers of Fear makes for a decent, short experience and it looks and sounds great. However, anything longer than two hours may take away from the game’s potency. Although I am not particularly thrilled to pack in more gaming time in this nausea inducing, yet incredibly effective title, I am still anxious to have the story explained to me sometime in the future.