Intro and Gameplay
I'm a sucker. A sucker for incredibly talented developers and there are plenty coming from Poland and the surrounding areas. CD Projeckt Red has risen from that great nation to give us the Witcher series and now, Bloober Team hails from the same country to scare the bejeezus out of us with Layers of Fear. Granted, most horror media I find either extremely overdone in a teenage/childish fashion or just gross-out unappealing. So, it was with great reservation that I jumped into this title but immediately, I knew it was something different..
And so it begins. You arrive at the entryway of a home with the rain pouring and thunder crashing with little to no context of who you are, where you've been placed, and even more so, what does this house of horrors really even mean? Well, that's for you to find out but be warned, this game is not for the faint of heart. It gets under your skin. It terrifies you in the best of ways. How? Let's just say you'll be opening a lot of doors and by the end, I didn't want to open any more to see what was lurking on the other side. I wanted to hide in a virtual corner and suck my thumb with my little blanky and.. oh, hi. This is a game of exploration and one that subtle details ooze from every object you examine, every disturbing clue you find. This is a short but sweet (?) experience that will guarantee to creep you the f&#! out.
Graphics and Sound
Did I mention I love Polish developers and artists that are absolute masters at their craft? Well, if I didn't, click on any of the screenshots in this review to see them in their full 4K glory. To say that this is a stunning achievement not only in the technical and artistic sense, but in a game oozing in atmosphere, is an immense understatement. This is not a bright nor colorful game in the graphical sense. It's dank, dark, disgusting at times but oh it's so fitting and delicious. Make sure if you are running on PC, to set your SSAO settings to OFF, LOW or your FPS will suffer drastically. Otherwise, this title truly shines in this department.
Think the games looks good? Well then, you should hear it. The game recommends you play with headphones on. F&*! that noise. I played with a surround sound soundbar and sub; that was terrifying to say the least. In a dark room, with a pair stellar headphones? I can't even imagine as my little pansy heart probably would have burst. The voice acting in the game is quite good but it's the clashing of thunder, the screeching and scurrying of a rat across a wooden floor that made the hair on the back of my neck stand in attention. This is the pinnacle of sound design for a smaller title and I loved (and hated) every moment of horror and dread.
Value and Conclusion
We are getting extremely spoiled here at The 'Tyrant with quality games albeit short ones. You know what? I'm totally fine with that. If quality over quantity at a bargain price becomes the norm, I won't complain. Layers of Fear is a shining example of what a devoted and passionate team of devs can do with technology and artistry which is on full display here. Around $20, this is a ride worth taking, if you can handle the terror. I absolutely loved the atmosphere, exploratory gameplay and most of all, the polish (no pun intended!) put into the game. I didn't care for opening way too many doors and honestly, a little bit too many scares all piled together in a shotgun fashion. Other than that, I urge and dare you to jump right in..