Wednesday, 19 June 2019 12:51

Layers of Fear 2 Review

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Layers of Fear 2, developed by Bloober Team and published by Gun Media, is a first person psychological horror game and the sequel to Bloober Team’s first entry into the genre. As such, one would expect that it would reap the benefits of experience from the first entry and Observer, but Layers of Fear 2, while visually stunning and filled with snippets of the story you attempt to piece together, only manages to match the prequel in terms of its story and mechanics, and takes a huge step backwards with the addition of some major frustrations.


From an artistic perspective, Layers of Fear 2 manages to impress with its wonderfully detailed environments, perspective-based visual trickery, and effects that this team is so well known for. Each area that you explore manages to have a distinct feel. From the pristine hallways of the cruise liner, to the sets of film production, warped childhood homes, and the distorted depths of the sea, Bloober Team really flexes their talent in making these areas come to life. Pairing this with the way doors and hallways shift around you, finding your way forward can be a challenge, but holds true to what made Layers of Fear so memorable.

The audio shines here as well. A hauntingly creaky ship moans around you at all times, as subtle whispers guide you to hidden secrets and superb voice acting contributes to the wonderfully horrible atmosphere. The story can be a bit difficult to grasp at times, due to the surrealist and symbolic nature through which most of it is told, but comes together nicely by the end, as well as rewarding a greater understanding for those dutiful enough to hunt down most of the secrets.


In stark contrast to the fantastic aesthetic and design, Layers of Fear 2 falls into predictable, underwhelming, and downright frustrating gameplay that, at best, manages to be more of the same, and at worst, borrows the same trite and tedious ideas that plague so many games of this genre. It's difficult to call Layers of Fear 2 more than a walking simulator. With the extent of the player mechanics being walk, run, grab, and interact, the vast majority of your time will be spent looking, clicking, dragging, and walking.

Even most of the puzzles (if they can be called that) are boiled down to simply finding and interacting with objects that are indicated by a small marker, save for two or three instances through the whole experience where the onus is on the player to actually solve something. Add on top of this the amount of time you will spend with a black and white filter that hinders the clarity of the interaction markers. The triggers for some of the shifting doors and hallways can be obscure at times, leading to several instances of aimless wandering, unsure if you are looking for something to interact with or just need to look at something from the right direction. All of this is amplified by the about four hour first playthrough. While the game's story and scenes increase in intensity throughout, little to nothing changes in terms of gameplay, making the experience feel repetitive with no sense of progression or challenge.


As with its predecessor, Layers of Fear 2 has something of a hard time finding the psychological aspect of psychological horror, falling back mostly on audio and visual jumpscares. These do little to instill any sense of lingering dread, trading that in favor of constantly startling you. The constant flow of these startles ends up growing tiring, as most of them are nothing you need to react to, but just environmental set pieces that detract from any building tension the atmosphere had been working towards. But all of this is outside the bounds of the game's biggest flaw: the monster.

Pulling from the greatest plague upon the horror genre, a shadowy, malformed, and visually distorted creature will appear at set times to give chase, whereupon failure means no consequences besides having to retry the section. A few of these instances will have you using the click and drag mechanics to attempt to temporarily block its movement to frustrating effect. Given that the small prompts and slow movement do not mesh well with a frantic chase, they are a time-consuming interaction that adds nothing but tedium on repeat attempts. The creature will occasionally spawn, though not in any random fashion, from objects that would be impossible to predict without prior knowledge, creating a disincentive for exploration, which is something pivotal to the understanding of the story. This contradictory conundrum was a pretty baffling inclusion in a game that relies so heavily on exploration and investigation. The creature has a symbolic part to play in the overall story, but detracts from the overall pacing, atmosphere, and tension.


Offering far more content than the prequel and some alternate story paths based on your choices throughout the game, Layers of Fear 2 has far more replay value if you are up for the task of replaying the rather long chapters. Though a little expensive for the quality of gameplay, if you are looking for a jumpscare-filled romp through a surrealistic nightmare ship, it's definitely worth your time, though not at launch prices.


The Verdict: Fair

Falling short of its predecessor, this beautiful, surreal, and potentially terrifying adventure hinders itself with a few poor design choices and lackluster gameplay, but is still worth playing for fans of the genre or studio.

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Coal Fire

CoalFire is an enthusiastic gamer who has spent the last few years digging for the hidden gems of indie gaming. A scientist by education, he breaks down the components of games sorting out what works, what doesn't and how it all works to create a cohesive experience. When he's not analyzing them, he's still playing.


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