2016 has been a weird year when it comes to video games and certainly not in a good way. While the holiday season is quickly approaching, the majority of this year can be summed up as a bunch of Triple A let downs and a slew of decent indie games. Sure XCOM 2 and Dark Souls III came out. But even those were considered to be decent, but mainly forgettable at best. 2013, this year is not. While I hope to get a good review of XCOM 2 before the year is out, now I am stuck to reviewing indie games on Steam that my friends and I stumble upon to create a semi decent best and worst of 2016. With that being said, let’s talk about Layers of Fear. Ever since Amnesia: The Dark Descent came out, there seems to be a steady stream of copy cats and re-creators out there who are looking to capture the terror and lightning-in-a-bottle fear that that game managed to create. The exploring a random spoopy house when shit starts to go horrifically wrong whether it be by stalking evil creature or by hallucinogenic paintings, these things seem to be all over the damn place. While Layers of Fear is certainly not the worst offender of this list, the game presents a decent showing that comes part and parcel with tropes that have already been done to great extent in the past.
Taking on the role of a nameless painter, Layers of Fear is a psychological thriller set in a vaguely Victorian style house. The person is trying to create their masterpiece and has to collect a number of clues in their house in order to accomplish this. Tragically this game isn’t so simple. Shit starts to get creepy as the house begins to warp and the hallucinations begin to worsen. The protagonist must fight forward in order to finally complete his life’s work.
The Power of Amnesia Suspense
While the game may be a recreation of Amnesia the Dark Descent, it at least does a great job at mimicking it. It is the same basic premise. Guy wakes up, we do not know who they are… They probably don’t even know who they are. You start wondering around this building, unsure of what is to follow, only that shit is about to get real. Spooky shit starts to happen as ambiance certainly becomes a thing and suddenly you are in all kinds of hell as the house or the creature stalking you seems to want you 100% dead. The game certainly is trying to cash in on that genre of video gaming but at least it does it rather well.
The area that Layers of Fear succeeds in is building a true sense of dread and fear. The game does not rely on jump scares in order to create a sense of unease. Instead they focus on taking a person out of their comfort zone by creating situation that are unsettling. Sure, there is a moment when a painting flies off the wall. But the truly terrifying moments is when you turn around and a painting is now closer to it and begins to melt. You open one door, you reopen it and it is a completely different room. The entire house is completely unsettling and the game does a great job at building dread and leaving you too afraid to keep pushing forward.
Graphics Aren’t That Good… Even for an Indie Game
Typically, I am not one to get on an indie game for graphics. They do not have as much money as Triple A and I understand that… But man… These graphics can be so much better for such a simplistic game. I have said it before, indie games need to have at least one thing that they max out. Great gameplay, okay graphics; Excellent story, okay gameplay; Great graphics, simplistic story. The list goes on. The thing is that game play is okay, the story is okay, and the graphics are okay as well… But the worst culprit of the whole show.
They have reached the bare minimum that I would expect from a video game coming out in 2016, but that is about it. If you are making an indie game in 2016 though, you need to give me something better than okay across the board and graphics are the worst part.
It Brings Nothing New to the Table
While this game is an excellent recreation of previous games like Amnesia the Dark Descent the fact of the matter is that they are still just that, recreations. There is nothing new brought to the table. There is nothing unique that separates it from other games. It is, by all intents and purposes, completely one note. There is just nothing new, nothing exciting, nothing that separates it from the rest of the pack. Sure, what it does, it does well. But you need to bring something new, something original, something that can set it aside from others. But this game is nothing more than Amnesia the Dark Descent lite.
While the game is a decent psychological horror, the problem is that it is just a retreading of well worn territory at this point. It is a one note game that does manage to do what it came to do rather well. If it is on sell for cheap, it is worth a single play through, but beyond that, it is going to quickly be lost to the sands of time.
Final Score 2.5/5
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