Game Review | Layers of Fear Shines But Can’t Get Its Story Straight

Layers of Fear, the latest release from Polish studio Bloober Team, showcases impressive visuals and level design that immerse players in a surreal and psychological horror experience. Developed in collaboration with Anshar Studios, the game combines the original 2016 Layers of Fear with its DLC, Layers of Fear 2, a new DLC, and additional content to create a complex and visually captivating journey. However, while the game’s visuals shine, its narrative falls short, struggling with ambitious intricacies and contrived storytelling.

Layers of Fear introduces players to a cast of characters, each suffering from their own personal struggles and aspirations. As players progress through the game’s divided chapters, they assume the role of different characters, uncovering their distressing pasts through notes and haunting voiceovers. The game delves into the characters’ obsession with their art and their willingness to sacrifice earthly matters in pursuit of greatness. These characters turn to the enigmatic Rat Queen, introduced in Layers of Fear 2, who offers them a supernatural path to achieve their creative desires.

Layers of Fear is often referred to as a “spooky walking simulator” due to its focus on exploration and discovery rather than traditional gameplay mechanics. Players spend their time walking through the game’s meticulously designed levels, uncovering secrets, and solving puzzles. The game’s unpredictable environments, which morph and shift when least expected, create a sense of unease and suspense. The addition of a handheld light source adds a new element to the gameplay, allowing players to illuminate the darkness and interact with certain puzzles and enemies.

While Layers of Fear excels in its atmospheric design and gameplay, its narrative falters. The game’s attempt to delve into the psychology behind great art comes across as contrived and self-indulgent. It references renowned works such as The Picture of Dorian Gray and Faust, emphasizing the supposed heavy cost of creating art. However, the game struggles to effectively convey its intended messages, leaving players feeling disconnected from the characters and their experiences. Layers of Fear’s storytelling relies on metaphorical allusions without providing a clear and meaningful exploration of its themes.


One of the game’s narrative shortcomings is its portrayal of art as a dangerous and uncontrollable force. The Rat Queen, a central antagonist, coerces traumatized characters into pursuing unattainable perfection, suggesting that art itself is the catalyst for their suffering. This portrayal fails to acknowledge the complexities of creativity and places blame solely on external forces. Blaming art rather than examining the flawed individuals involved diminishes the narrative’s depth and contributes to a one-dimensional perspective on the creative process.

Layers of Fear impresses with its stunning visuals, intricate level design, and ability to create a genuinely eerie atmosphere. However, the game’s narrative struggles to match the quality of its presentation. The ambitious storytelling, while admirable in its attempt to explore the psychology of art, falls short in conveying meaningful messages and engaging players on a deeper level. While Layers of Fear remains a visually captivating experience, its narrative limitations hinder its overall impact.

Layers of Fear introduced a unique and immersive psychological horror experience to players. The game’s emphasis on atmospheric exploration, suspenseful storytelling, and surreal visuals created a distinct style of horror gameplay that resonated with many players. It demonstrated that horror games can be more than just jump scares and gore, emphasizing psychological tension and the fear of the unknown.

Layers of Fear employed a fragmented narrative structure, allowing players to piece together the story through exploration and discovering various clues and objects. This non-linear storytelling approach provided a deeper level of engagement, as players had to actively uncover the mysteries and uncover the layers of fear within the game. The success of this narrative technique in Layers of Fear inspired other developers to experiment with non-linear storytelling in their games.

The game’s focus on art and creativity as central themes brought a unique perspective to the horror genre. Layers of Fear explored the torment and obsession of artists and the blurred lines between reality and imagination. By incorporating elements of famous artworks and literary references, the game highlighted the potential for games to be an artistic medium for storytelling and expression. It demonstrated that games can tackle deeper themes and provoke thought and introspection.

Layers of Fear’s success as an indie game demonstrated the viability of smaller studios creating immersive and unique experiences. The game showcased the talent and creativity within the indie game development scene and proved that smaller teams could create memorable and commercially successful games. This success inspired and encouraged other indie developers to take risks and explore new avenues of game design.

Layers of Fear’s impact can be seen in subsequent titles released by Bloober Team and other developers. The game’s success paved the way for Bloober Team to create other psychological horror games, such as Observer and The Medium, which continued to explore immersive storytelling and atmospheric experiences. Additionally, Layers of Fear’s influence can be seen in other horror titles that adopted similar gameplay mechanics and narrative structures, further shaping the evolution of the horror genre in the games industry.

Layers of Fear’s innovative approach to psychological horror, its artistic themes, and its impact on indie game development have had a significant influence on the games industry. The game’s success and critical acclaim have inspired developers to explore new storytelling techniques, artistic expressions, and immersive experiences within the horror genre and beyond.

Featured Image Credit.