NEVER GO HOME
Ah, Layers of Fear! When I first reviewed it back in February, I found it to be a perfect horror gaming experience. With an enticing new piece of downloadable content (DLC) released, does a second trip into its creepy mansion hold up?
Featuring an all-new protagonist (the daughter of the original’s mysterious artist), Layers of Fear: Inheritance aims to bring some closure to the story. Indeed, the woeful tale unfolded throughout the first trip through the mansion told of an ordinary family torn apart by tragedy, and its ending was fittingly open-ended. There was definitely room for further exploration… but should they have bothered?
Probably not. Inheritance begins much like the main game, right at the entrance of the now dilapidated house. What is immediately apparent is that the nameless daughter is much more chatty than dear old daddy was, frequently commenting on the surroundings and — irritatingly enough — reacting to the jump scares. This may have been Bloober Team’s direct response to some of Layers of Fear’s most vocal detractors, who decried its lack of obvious character development.
For me, this change is an annoyance. The main game masterfully developed its character through hidden notes found only by avid explorers, all of which added to the shocking twists and turns of the story. Giving voice to the nameless avatar we inhabit seems like an error in a game where we were initially meant to project our own experiences onto it. It also accentuates the ridiculousness of the names being blanked out within the aforementioned notes, which continues even in this DLC.
Hearing her react to jump scares is particularly cringe-worthy, as the few “scares” packed into this hour and a half DLC are uninspired and, sadly, failed more often than not. That’s all well and good — this little epilogue focuses primarily on the story, after all — but my eyes rolled involuntarily whenever this happened.
Even so, the significant lack of effective scares in Inheritance is quite egregious, mostly because the number of poltergeists has doubled when compared to the main game. Whether you interpret them as actual hauntings, or merely the figments of the protagonist’s damaged imagination, there was still so much more Bloober Team could have done with these apparitions. Those damned dolls have also returned as well, and though it surprises me to say this, even they failed to do anything memorable. They were there, but I’ve already forgotten their purpose several hours after completing the DLC — save for one treehouse sequence, of course.
Story aside, the gameplay is largely unchanged. Like most of the so-called “walking simulators,” you meander around a single location and pick up objects. Layers of Fear made great use of these basic mechanics with frightful hallucinations and the occasional puzzle, and Inheritance has its own approach to that formula. It’s “puzzles” may be weak and nearly non-existent, but that clearly isn’t where the focus lies.
Having lived through an insanely traumatic childhood, the nameless daughter often feels small and helpless when faced with something troubling. Moving through her former home, she will flashback to times when her parents argued, memories of her father going on a drunken rampage, and moments when she was punished for her mother and father’s failings. It’s all dark and depressing stuff, and the DLC shines during these bits. What Bloober Team also nailed is the feeling of being pulled in two different directions when your parents have such a tumultuous relationship. You will be forced to choose one parent over the other at several different times, with each altering the path ahead of you. This is when the developer’s inclinations shine through what is otherwise a disappointing experience.
THE VERDICT: 5.0 OUT OF 10
Even the best moments of the Inheritance DLC can’t distract from the overall pointlessness of this tale. While I may have been keen on a sequel with an all-new plot, this feels like a somewhat dull continuation to game that was better left undisturbed. The music is as good as ever, and there are a couple of creative, touching moments to be found here, but this DLC doesn’t end things on a high note. More like a thud, really. Should you buy it, there is some replayablity in the form of branching paths and collectibles to extend beyond the initial hour and a half.
Bloober Team now seems to be moving on to a new project called Observer, and that may be a good thing. Sometimes the past is best left where it lies.
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