Layers Of Fear is shaping up to be a worthy final act for the series.

Layers Of Fear – Recently quietly renamed from its working title Layers Of Fearyes — is a game that requires a bit of explaining. It shares its title with the 2016 game of the same name and is being overseen by the original developers Bloober Team. But it’s neither a new version nor a reboot; although, in a way, it is both. It’s more of a “reimagining” of the entire Layers Of Fear series to date, as well as its apparent swan song. It incorporates ground-up remakes of the existing two and a half games in the series on Unreal Engine 5, along with a new Gaiden chapter that complements the first game, and an entirely new framework narrative that ties it all together.

I recently attended a preview of Layers Of Fear and had a chat with creative director Damian Kocurek. Listeners of a very specific episode of the EWS podcast may remember that I’m something of a Layers Of Fear lore theorist, so of course I was thrilled to hear what this new game is all about. Similarly, detail-oriented horror fans will share my excitement when I tell them that yes, the rats are back, and they even get a brief glimpse of the Rat Queen.

Much of the preview was taken up with Kocurek showing off footage of the return to the original game. I was surprised to see that our never-before-seen protagonist now has visible hands, which appear whenever you interact with something. I admit that I was a bit disappointed at first. I realized, belatedly, that the way Layers Of Fear previously cast you in the role of a disembodied, floating, and occasionally twisted consciousness added to the uneasiness considerably.

I was reassured, however, when Kocurek excellently pointed out that aside from the increased budget and technical improvements since 2016, there’s a practical reason for wanting hands to happen. The full incarnation of Layers Of Fear will have you switching between half a dozen player characters, so having ways to tell them apart visually will help a lot. OK. Good. Hands are good I guess. There’s also a greater presence of voiceover lines for the protagonists’ internal monologues, though unlike the hands, you’ll be able to turn these off if you’d prefer your ghosts to be a bit more old-school.

The original Layers Of Fear tells the story of a painter haunted by the specter of his late wife.

Another big departure from the original is the flashlight: a mechanic just introduced for the remake that’s part tool, part weapon, part reason to see your hands. Among its numerous functions, the flashlight will allow you to stun the opponent when he gets too close. This raised a number of questions, as in the original there was never an option to counterattack. The closest you got to “fighting” was the choice to either look at the ghost of your character’s dead wife, in which case she might do something nasty to you, or ignore her, thus robbing her of the ability to screw you up even more. This choice was instrumental in determining which of the original game’s three endings you saw, so the fact that you now turn around to shine your flashlight beam on her feels like a world of difference.

Kocurek, in his new role as my Layers Of Fear therapist, assures me that there will still be routes to unlocking different endings, and that such encounters may not always happen, depending on how his behavior up to that point has shaped his path through it. game. He also wishes to emphasize that while the addition of such encounters has increased the game’s difficulty slightly from its original state as an infamous horror walking sim, you won’t need lightning-fast reflexes to get through the new sections. Also, under the hood, the difficulty in those encounters evolves to match player performance, ensuring that more skilled players don’t get complacent, while struggling ones won’t be locked out of progress.

In an unlikely nightmarish scene, the stairway and hallway of a spacious but dilapidated house are littered with oil paintings.  A shadowy black supernatural figure emerges from the densest concentration of images in the lower hallway.

The first reimagined game contains several brand new scenarios within the wacky mansion.

In a completely red-lit corridor, several mannequins cringe into fearful and submissive poses.  Two more humanoid figures can be seen standing at each end of the hallway in more confident poses, though it's hard to tell if they're mannequins or humans.

Layers Of Fear 2 footage is still sparse, but I’m glad they didn’t skimp on the creepy mannequins.

The rest of the preview focused on the new sections of the game, which means I still didn’t get to see anything from the reimagined Inheritance DLC or Layers Of Fear 2. There was a brief discussion about The Last Note: the new chapter that complements the first. narration of Layers Of Fear, which will revisit some family scenes from the wife’s point of view, resulting in an interesting protagonist/antagonist do-si-do like us. finally get your side of the story.

However, the main focus was on the new story of the Writer, star of the framed narrative that aims to unite the disparate threads of the series into a connected whole. He is an intriguing figure. She’s a more modern (though not yet current) artist, and her seemingly biographical novels about the protagonists of her first two games have led her to a secluded refuge in a lighthouse. Cut off from the world except for a shady phone line that allows her to receive calls from her adult son, it seems inevitable that the competing pressures of creative expression and family connection begin to strain her, just as they took their toll on her. her subjects. Also, headlights are inherently creepy; I feel like you’re guaranteed to start seeing ghosts if you spend multiple nights alone in one.

A room dimly lit by candlelight with a typewriter on a desk below the windows.  It is getting dark outside and a nearby chair has a shawl or blanket thrown over it.  The room is very cluttered with books, papers and photographs on the walls.  On the table is an unlit oil lamp.

The writer’s studio, where he’s going to write about all the easter eggs from the original games that he’s obsessively collected over the years. An experience I can obviously relate to.

The new Layers Of Fear is described as both the end of an era for Bloober Team and the capstone work of the Layers Of Fear series. It was the original Layers Of Fear, one of the most lauded games to emerge from the post-PT immersive horror boom of the mid-2010s, that put Bloober on the horror gaming map, after all, and it’s clear that the Bloober Team are ready to wrap up their work on this series, as they move towards their long-awaited remake of Silent Hill 2. But it’s also equally evident in our chat that they intend to do so while honoring the game’s legacy. As a fan of all things Layers Of Fear, it’s heartening to see the series end as the connected trilogy it always felt it should.

Layers Of Fear is expected to be available in June 2023, although we are still waiting for an exact release date, and it will be available on Steam.

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