Layers of Fear (2023) (PC) Review

Layers of Fear 4

At first glance, Layers of Fear (2023) may seem like an unnecessary remake, considering the original game holds up rather well and its sequel even more so. However, Layers of Fear (2023) is much more than a remake or a simple compilation of the first two games and their DLC. 

Rather, Layers of Fear (2023) is an earnest reimagining of the series proper, with new sequences featuring a writer following the game’s events, contextualizing and better bridging the first two games together. Other additions include brand-new assets, utilizing Unreal Engine 5, raytracing and HDR visual flourishes and even some minor but welcome changes to the core gameplay experience, primarily with the introduction of a torch system that grants the player the ability to not only illuminate their surroundings but burn down objects in the environment and impede the occasional encounter with malevolent forces.

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If you’ve never played any of the Layers of Fear titles in the past, Layers of Fear (2023) is the perfect entry point for newcomers. The latest iteration of Layers of Fear combines the first two entries into the series and can be accessed in any order. However, starting a new game is recommended, as that gives players access to the Writer’s perspective through a new prologue playable sequence. Chapters further in the game also occasionally get broken up with new sections featuring the Writer’s character, ultimately aiding in fleshing out the overarching world of Layers of Fear while telling its own unique story. 

The original Layers of Fear from 2016 placed players into the shoes of a painter, with its eventual DLC passing the torch to his wife and daughter, offering further insight and perspectives into their dysfunctional lives.  

Layers of Fear (2023) is much more than a remake or a simple compilation of the first two games and their DLC.”

Its sequel similarly followed another creative mind, this time an actor aboard a cruise liner who, like the painter and his family from the first game, gradually descends into madness brought on primarily due to the pangs of putting art and the pursuit of creativity over family and one’s mental health. 

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Mental health is a topic at the heart of both Layers of Fear games and, thus, intrinsically a part of its 2023 counterpart. Thankfully, Bloober Team does an excellent job of portraying such a sensitive topic in a manner that not only serves as fodder for good horror but does so in a respectful and nuanced way.  

If you’ve never played the originals, Layers of Fear (2023) is largely the same from a gameplay standpoint, with the addition of the aforementioned torch/lantern with the ability to stun and burn. Players are tasked with exploring the shifting halls of the family manor and, eventually, the cruise liner, with very light but enjoyable puzzles thrown in for good measure.  

The real hook of Layers of Fear lies in its ability to seamlessly transform the environment around the player, which now, thanks to its Unreal Engine 5 upgrade, looks better than ever. This is especially true in regard to the manor, which feels more refined and less obvious in conveying some of its frightful set pieces. 

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Ironically, although impressive, the raytracing present in the game can sometimes lead to unintentional humour, as mirrors and other highly reflective surfaces now show the player character, which, in contrast to the stunningly realized Victorian-era decor, feels a bit lower on the polygon budget.  

“The real hook of Layers of Fear lies in its ability to seamlessly transform the environment around the player, which now, thanks to its Unreal Engine 5 upgrade, looks better than ever.”

Ultimately, however, Layers of Fear (2023) isn’t a game for everyone, as it’s mostly a game about exploration, which at times can feel slow or repetitive, but if you’re like me and enjoy atmosphere and storytelling in games, then Layers of Fears is worth checking out.  

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In partnership with Anshar Studios, Bloober Team has brought their first game up to parity with Layers of Fear 2 while delivering a robust package that goes beyond ironing out some kinks, delivering their true vision of both games in one essential package. Hopefully, this level of quality will continue when Bloober unleashes its take on the recently announced Silent Hill 2 project

If you’ve already played the original Layers of Fear or its sequel, then I can only recommend Layers of Fear (2023) if you’re a devout fan of the series or are at least a few years removed from either title, as even with the added flourishes, the game is essentially the same experience, albeit in a much nicer package. 

Final Thoughts

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