Layers of Fear 2 Review – An Act of Creation Always Begins With an Act of Destruction
Layers of Fear 2May 28th, 2019
Artistic pursuit in something that must not be taken lightly. An artist pours all of his heart and soul into his or her creation, and this act may bring to light things that are better left in the dark. Some, however, aim to see how far they can go in the pursuit of artistic perfection, unleashing unspeakable horror not only on the world but on themselves as well. This is the story of the actor who stars in Layers of Fear 2.
Just like its predecessor, Layers of Fear 2 starts from an extremely interesting premise which is not explained outright, but only throughout the course of the game and in a very cryptic way. The main character of the game is a well-renowned actor, who's also seen as somewhat troubled due to some unspecified events of his past. This actor, however, is considered among the best and, as such, is invited to take part in the shooting of a movie aboard an ocean liner.
Nothing is what it seems, however, as the movie's director is a very peculiar one who is said to make actors go through hoops to get them into character before they even get on stage. This will force the actor to go through an extremely trying journey that will influence him forever.
The story of Layers of Fear 2 is engaging but it may also be quite difficult to follow, just like the predecessor's. Nothing is explained clearly and players must analyze every little detail provided by the environment to understand what is truly going on. There are also some other tales that are interwoven with the main one, so untying all the knots requires some effort. It's an involving process indeed, but it's extremely satisfying. It's also the main focus of the game, as there isn't much else to do during the course of the adventure. The story also touches on some very interesting psychological themes such as personal identity, so it's even more engaging for those who like them.
What truly sets Layers of Fear 2 apart from the original game is the setting. The ocean linear allowed the team to be extremely creative in the design of the different locations, which actually combine the ship setting and themes taken from cinemas and movie production, like projectors, stages. While scary enough, I feel like the setting of the first game was somewhat more appropriate and cohesive, offering a much more immersive atmosphere. This is not to say that the new setting is bad: at the end of the day, it's just a matter of personal preference.
The Layers of Fear 2 basic gameplay flow is pretty much the same as the one seen in the original game, with a few small changes that don't impact the experience too much. The game is basically a horror-themed walking simulator, as players take control of their character in a first-person view mode as they explore the ocean linear as required by the story. Despite the multiple doors and pathways found on the ship, players can only go where they are required: there's no backtracking and no risk of getting lost.
Inside each room, it's possible to interact with a variety of objects. Some do absolutely nothing, while others provide some additional details on the story and characters or to proceed through the game, as they provide keys to open locked doors and the solution to puzzles.
Puzzles in Layers of Fear 2 are quite simple, as they often require players to input the right numbers to open locks or a safe and so on. New to the series are some more action-oriented puzzles where players must run away from some fearsome creatures while trying to stall them as much as possible by closing doors and the like. These puzzles help heighten the feeling of tension, as failing to escape from the creature results in a game over. The checkpoint system, however, makes sure that not too much progress is lost.
That is all there is to the gameplay of Layers of Fear 2. It's functional and serves the game's main focus well, but it will not be remembered for being the most intricate nor innovative out there.
The Layers of Fear 2 presentation also serves the game's main focus well. The ocean liner is extremely well done, filled with detailed objects that make it feel like a real-life location. Where the game truly shines, however, are the transitions, which can happen at the most surprising of times, warping any location to something completely different. This is cleverly achieved through the use of lighting, which makes these transitions very different from the psychedelic visions of its predecessor, but none the less impressive. It's extremely apt as well, considering we are no longer controlling a visionary painter, but an actor. The music and voice acting, which are extremely well crafted, contribute greatly to the game's atmosphere. Performance is also smooth, with the game running at 1080p, 60 FPS, Ultra settings on a machine powered by an i7-3770 CPU, GTX 980 Ti, and 16 GB RAM. The game is not extremely demanding, so even less powerful PCs should have no problem running the game nicely.
At the end of the day, Layers of Fear 2 doesn't try to do many things differently than its predecessor. The game is definitely engaging, but I wish Bloober Team tried to be a little bolder as the game does feel a little too much like the original game. This is not to say that it's not a very good game, however, as Layers of Fear 2 manages to keep players engaged with its psychological horror themes from start to finish: it just could have been something more.
Reviewed on PC (code provided by the publisher). You can purchase the game for Xbox One via Microsoft Store.
Layers of Fear 2 is an extremely gripping first-person horror game that keeps players engaged from beginning to end thanks to its story, which touches some very interesting themes. The game, however, is far from a masterpiece that could appeal to a wider audience due to its simple gameplay mechanics, linearity and excessive similarity to its predecessor. A solid game and a must-have for fans of psychological horror stories, but definitely not for everyone.
- Gripping story
- Extremely good graphics and presentation
- Excellent atmosphere
- Excessively linear experience
- Too simple puzzles
- Despite some innovations, the game feels a little too much like its predecessor