The atmospheric horror game Layers of Fear returns to haunt us with a supplementary downloadable content titled Inheritance. But does this continuation of the frightening game maintain the scares, or paint itself into a corner?
Inheritance sees the now grown-up daughter of the mad artist from the base game return to her family mansion to confront the traumas of her past. The extension of the story in this way is actually a well-fitting conclusion to the narrative, and offers a glimpse into the psychological scars that can be inflicted in troubled homes. Its smaller, tighter story doesn’t ever explore these themes or deviate from the primary game’s themes too wildly, but is a bit more manageable to follow and comprehend this time around and perfectly fits the idea of a small expansion.
But it’s the haunted house-esque venture through twisted, creepy rooms and fun jump-scares that made the original such a blast to play through, an area where Inheritance never really hits the same high beats. The DLC actually moves away from the focused linear corridor progression to more open areas with an emphasis on the surreal than true fear, resulting in a slightly less memorable experience.
While the larger areas of exploration and branching paths offer a more freeing way to approach these zones, it can actually become confusing and frustrating when trying to find the progression path or solve a puzzle. Nothing kills tension and horror more than getting lost or stuck on a puzzle, a situation I found myself in too often for a DLC that lasts less than two hours.
Admittedly I actually got wandering aimlessly in a number of rooms that seem to present a puzzle with no obvious solution, only managing to finally progress by completely abandoning the room and backtracking instead. Whether it’s my own fault for not understanding where the developers intended me to go, or their own for implementing unusual methods of advancement, it nonetheless dampened the intended immersion several times.
While the dreamlike imagery of Inheritance is often a visual treat, it does come at the price of the pure horror that Layers of Fear originally executed so well. It is both too familiar, playing old tricks and reusing similar concepts, and yet not reminiscent enough of the terrifying effects the original was able to convey. It’s not bad by any means, but it is safe and somewhat disappointing for a game that managed to surprise and frighten me so well before.
Layers of Fear: Inheritance ultimately ends up as a decent, if somewhat derivative expansion. The experiences players have with these cerebral “walking simulator” games can be so subjective based on your own state of mind, expectations, and exact playing experience however due to their personal and stripped-down nature. While I may not have had the most gripping and tense ride through it, I can easily see others finding enjoyment in its strengths (and even weaknesses) that I didn’t. Fans of the original Layers of Fear should look into picking this one up as well if they want more of that PT-like creepy entertainment that’s all the rage now.