Bloober Team is back, this time with a sequel to Layers of Fear that shares no story relation with the first. As someone that hasn’t played the original, this allowed me to jump right in and get a taste for what the series is all about. It’s definitely a visually striking game if anything, but does falter when it comes to story and certain gameplay sequences.
Excellent and fitting visual design. One thing that you should know right off the bat is that this game is more of a glorified walking simulator than a gameplay-centric horror game. As such, a lot of emphasis is placed on its narrative and aesthetic and it really shows. Not only is the game visually stunning, but it does so with some incredibly creative environments, excellent lighting, and a general sense of unease that really goes along well with its overarching themes.
The game may be a linear experience, but the environments are so well-done that it hardly feels like one. Walls are constantly shifting, entire areas oftentimes open up right behind you, and the game really just does a good job at keeping you moving. I would go from exploring the interior of a ship to somehow ending up at a factory full of mannequin workers, then back to the ship by passing through a stage production. It was really cool how the game managed to link these different environments together without it feeling jarring.
Journey through film history. As a big fan of film, I quite liked how Layers of Fear 2 was able to incorporate the medium into its environments. The game draws from many famous films, including Metropolis, The Wizard of Oz, The Shining, and even A Trip to the Moon. Not only does the game draw scenes from these films into its environments, but it also makes use of some of their themes, even if that does lead to some problems (more on that later). Regardless, it was cool seeing such films reconstructed to fit within a horror game.
Great optimization. I saw some people posting on Steam and Reddit wondering if Layers of Fear 2 would have the same optimization problems it did as the first game. As I haven’t played the first game, I cannot compare the two, but I can say that Layers of Fear 2 is pretty well-optimized, at least from my own experience. I played through the entire game on its highest settings and had some incredibly smooth frames, only dropping maybe a couple times throughout. This was on a GTX 1070 Ti and a last gen i7, so it wasn’t like I have the best setup either. Considering how dynamic the game’s environments are and its heavy use of lighting, this was actually pretty surprising.
Granted, it is sad that good optimization is something that needs to be discussed. This is something we should expect from any new PC release, but unfortunately, many games release without it. As such, Layers of Fear 2 was a nice breath of fresh air in that regard.
Uninteresting story. I may have liked the game’s visual design and use of film references, but they unfortunately could not save the story. That is because the story here is simply not interesting, nor does it make much sense for most of the game. It’s the type of story that is haphazardly put together by random notes, drawings, and other objects scattered about.
And, while I liked how dynamic the environments were, they definitely didn’t help in telling a coherent story. If anything, it felt like the story came second to the visual design, when the two really should have matched each other’s pace. Given that this is a walking simulator, the lackluster story definitely doesn’t do the game any favors.
Repetitive sequences. For the most part, Layers of Fear 2 is constantly changing, putting you in new environments and introducing new gameplay mechanics to keep things interesting (even if said mechanics are pretty basic). However, the game does occasionally fall back on some rather boring gimmicks. There’s the scripted chase sequences, the predictable jump scares, and even an entire act that has you revisiting the same area over and over with little change.
The scripted chase scenes in particular were quite annoying, as they didn’t really add anything to the experience and felt like they were included just so the game could get the horror tag. The fact that they were repeated so often just makes it that much worse. Really, the game could have done without some of these gimmicks.
This is the kind of game that you have to go into with the right expectations. It’s not so much a horror game, but rather a glorified walking simulator with horror elements scattered about. Sure, there are some puzzles here and there, but for the most part, your time is going to be spent walking through the game’s many creative environments. It makes for a pretty cool walking sim experience, even if the story is a bit on the weaker side.
I would compare it to that of a dark ride — those amusement park rides that have you sit down and guided through a series of scenes made up of dolls, animatronics, etc., a lot like Disney’s Haunted Mansion ride. If you’re into that kind of thing, then Layers of Fear 2 may be for you.
You can buy Layers of Fear 2 on Steam here.
I was provided a review copy of the game in order to write this review. Read more about how I do my game reviews here.