Title: Layers of Fear 2
Available on: Windows PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Developer: Blooper Team
Publisher: Gun Media
Genre: First-Person Horror
Version Tested: Windows PC
Official Site: https://layersoffear2.com/
Release Date: May 28th, 2019
I didn’t play the first Layers of Fear. I heard nothing but great things about it. A psychological horror game with a Victorian-inspired atmosphere? Sounds awesome. So I had wanted to play it for sure. I Just never had the time or opportunity. So when my editor-in-chief offered me the chance to review the sequel Layers of Fear 2, I didn’t hesitate to accept the offer. When looking at other reviews, I have seen that a lot of criticism comes from comparisons to the first game. Since I never played it, I did not go into Layers of Fear 2 with any expectations. So my review is not coming from that direction. Now that we have the introduction out of the way. Please continue reading to see what I thought of my time with this first-person psychological horror game.
So what is Layers of Fear 2? Well, as I said, it’s a first-person horror game. But much more in the vein of something like Amnesia than something like Resident Evil 7. It’s primarily story focused. And it tells a great one. Obviously, I can’t go into detail without spoilers, but the writing in this game is top-notch.
They go for a “show don’t tell” style of storytelling. The game doesn’t even have an opening scene. As soon as you get past the title screen you find yourself in a creepy hallway, no explanation. And from there you naturally proceed with exploring the environment. And this is how the game conveys most of its narrative. As you wander around, you can interact with various items. And as you do, you are given small snippets of story. Whether through text or audio clips. It’s not the first time a game leans on this mechanic, but it is really well done here.
So who are you, and where are you in this game? Well, you take on the role of an actor, onboard a 20th-century ocean liner. You learn pretty quickly that you have been summoned there by a director in an effort to help him complete his cinematic masterpiece. By the way, this director is voiced by Tony Todd of Candyman fame. And he and the rest of the voice cast do an amazing job throughout Layers of Fear 2.
As you travel deeper into the game’s world you’ll see a lot of imagery that pays homage to classic cinema. One of the game’s main themes. I’m sure there is a ton here to unpack, but I’m not a classic movie expert so I’ll leave that to them. Even without that expertise, it’s easy to see a lot of nods to movies like The Wizard of Oz, and Trip to the Moon.
The ship itself is the star of the show in many ways. The environments here are so well crafted. It feels like a living, albeit, unsettling world. What really makes it come to life is the fact that it’s not entirely static. Things change. Doors and hallways occasionally move or disappear. Areas that were inaccessible previous will suddenly be open to you. This obviously leads to a lot of scary moments. Layers of Fear 2 also makes heavy use of jump scares. Which is standard for this genre, but not one of the game’s strengths. It could have perhaps been better with fewer of them. And there is a chase sequence partway through the game that I have seen many people complain about. I tend to agree with them that it’s not necessary and the game could have done without it.
The sound design and lighting effects are both on point here. They combine to create a fantastically eerie atmosphere. I wouldn’t call Layers of Fear 2 terrifying. But it is definitely creepy, unsettling, and unnerving. As you advance the story and learn more about what happened to the people onboard the ship things only feel more otherworldly. And excellent writing is consistently great throughout. There were many times I had to sit back and put some real thought into what I had just read or heard. This game really inspires that sense that you are experiencing something profound.
Verdict: If you are looking for a game with a great story and something compelling that will stick with you for a while after you step away from the keyboard, then Layers of Fear 2 is perfect for you. It stumbles in a couple of places, notably when it employs tropes like jump scares or chase sequences. But overall, I would recommend Layers of Fear 2 to anyone looking for a good creepy time. At only about 8 hours long and it’s a perfect game to play over a couple of evenings.