Polish developer Bloober Team has been an active developer since 2010, but it was only six years later, with the psychological horror game Layers of Fear, that the studio achieved widespread recognition. While some themes like mental issues haven’t been addressed properly in some of their titles, it is undeniable that Bloober Team changed the landscape for narrative-driven horror games forever, so much that Konami has tasked the Polish studio to remake one of the most popular survival-horror games ever made, Silent Hill 2.
While the game in development with Konami is the studio’s most anticipated title, Bloober Team is hard at work on other games as well. Among them is Layers of Fear, originally announced as Layers of Fears, a reimagining of the entire series which brings the stories told in the first two entries in the series together in a comprehensive package that is setting out to be the definitive Layers of Fear experience.
Earlier this week, I had the chance to check out an 11-minute long gameplay demonstration of Layers of Fear and chat with Damian Kocurek, Creative Director at Anshar Studios, the development studio that’s rebuilding the entire series in Unreal Engine 5. The experience definitely looked familiar, but the developer is going the extra mile to update both gameplay and visuals while staying as faithful as possible to the originals.
While at its heart, Layers of Fear will be the same linear, narrative-driven experience of the first two entries in the series, everything will be brought up a notch. The environments, which will be more haunting than ever thanks to the power of Unreal Engine 5, will sport way more interactivity, allowing the developers to expand on the originals’ story and characters in many ways. The increased interactivity also leads to new gameplay mechanics, such as the ability for the Painter to fight off the Wife using a lantern. While this doesn’t bring Layers of Fear to the same level of survival horror games with a combat focus as the Resident Evil franchise, these additions move the franchise’s formula slightly forward, giving players something more to do as they travel to the deepest reaches of madness.
The new features of Layers of Fear don’t stop at expanded gameplay. The story of the series will be expanded with two additional stories, called The Final Note and The Lighthouse. The first one will let players learn more about the Painter by letting them play from the point of view of the Wife. The second is a brand new story featuring a new character called The Writer, which will help bring together the stories of the first two entries in the series and the Inheritance DLC.
Where Anshar Studios is going all out is immersion. The power of Unreal Engine 5 allowed the developers to make the Painter’s house and the Actor’s sinking ship more haunting than ever, with more complex transitions and a lighting system taking advantage of Lumen which is unlike anything we have seen so far in horror games. According to Creative Director Damian Kocurek, dynamic lighting helped the developers the most in creating their vision, which definitely shows. On PlayStation 5, the DualSense’s controller haptic feedback will increase immersion even more for a truly definitive Layers of Fear experience. It is not yet known if the DualSense features will be supported on PC, but those with the hardware capable of running the game with ray tracing will still be able to get a much better visual experience compared to consoles.
While the series may not yet be done, it is undeniable that Layers of Fear is setting out to be the pinnacle of the franchise. The developer is putting every care into its creation, so horror game enthusiasts have some really great to look forward to when the game launches worldwide on PC, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, and Xbox Series S this coming June.