“An act of creation begins with an act of destruction.”
A single light-spot. A portrayed illusion. A formless figure behind the curtain. A character to build. A captain.. a quartermaster.. a lost cause.
Alone.. in your cabin.. far from your crew. A missing eye. A story to tell.. A sequence of dementia.
When I first played the first Layers of Fear game I was mesmerized. Portraying a mental illness in a video-game and having the opportunity to live the character’s participation, decisions, visions, illusions, despair, hallucinations, regrets, sadness and hatred was quite an experience.
The second game came as a sweet easter-egg inside one of the horrible rooms in the basements from Observer’s main building. Then I saw the trailer for Project Melier, which became the materialization of Layers of Fear 2.
A horror, first-person adventure-exploration game with a vivid narrative alignment and some puzzles to make the story whole – Layers of Fear 2 brings in front an actor who is trapped inside an internal crisis of building that one special character which he always was destined to portray.
He finds himself on an ocean-liner, working for a hard-to-please director, who never shows his face but dictates disaster through the schizophrenic episodes of the main character’s struggles. As per how things work in the Layers of Fear universe, each turn could potentially lead to another path, closed doors hide secrets and just behind you there is a disfigured shadow ready to consume raw flesh.
You start exploring the ship, noticing that a voice, like a supernatural force is leading you towards accomplishment. But the voice is no friend of yours, and soon you discover that your surroundings are rotten paintings of regurgitated nightmares.
The game is structured into five acts: The Unmooring, The Hunt, Bloody Roots, Breath and Forever. Each of these sections lets you build your character through various choices. The story can be consumed through the game-play, the director’s and the narrator’s speeches, through phonograph cylinders, the movies you collect and posters, letters and documents.
The first act takes you throughout various locations on the ship, before entering the stage where the director demands a first choice – shoot one of the dummies (the male or the female). Throughout the game, real people were replaced with dummies – depicted as tortured beings, dead persons or other characters from the narration.
There are more than 20 riddles and puzzles to be solved in order to continue with the story.
Each act has it’s own mysteries to be solved in order to create the character’s path. Some are quite easy to solve, others require a bit of thinking and further exploration, consulting notes or paying attention to the voice-overs of the director.
Once you get to know your surroundings you will become part of an existence into multiple dimensions, you will fill the stories of other characters, you will discover the tragedies that occurred on board of the vessel.
I’ve finished the game twice and each time I spend time just to explore all the areas, sit and listen to the atmospheric noise inside the cabins and sections of this world. I did encounter two jump-scares that managed to get to me and also listened daily the soundtrack of the game, which is absolutely amazing. Arkadiusz Reikowski did again a great job with this game too.
As the story progresses, you find yourself into deeper and darker corners, without a means to escape. The only way out is down, down into the abyssal conjunction of art. Below are some more screens from the game’s great corners of darkness.