Layers Of Concern — just lately quietly renamed from its working title Layers Of Concerns — is a sport that requires a little bit of clarification. It shares its title with the 2016 sport of the identical identify, and is being overseen by unique builders Bloober Group. However it’s neither a remake nor a reboot; though, in some methods, it is each of these issues. It is extra a “reimagining” of the entire Layers Of Concern sequence thus far, in addition to its obvious swansong. It incorporates ground-up remakes of the two-and-a-half current video games within the sequence in Unreal Engine 5, alongside a brand new gaiden chapter complementing the primary sport, and a brand-new framing narrative tying the whole thing collectively.
I just lately sat in on an early preview presentation of Layers Of Concern, chatting with inventive director Damian Kocurek. Listeners to at least one very particular episode of the EWS podcast may recall that I am one thing of a Layers Of Concern lore theorist, so after all I used to be delighted to nerd out over what this new(ish) sport is all about. Equally detail-oriented horror followers on the market will hopefully share my pleasure once I inform them that sure, the rats are again, and you’ll even catch a short glimpse of the Rat Queen.
A lot of the preview was taken up with Kocurek displaying footage from the return to the unique sport. I used to be stunned to see that our previously-unseen protagonist now has seen arms, which become visible everytime you work together with one thing. I am going to admit that I used to be initially a bit dissatisfied by this. I realised, belatedly, that the way in which Layers Of Concern beforehand solid you within the function of a disembodied, floating, sometimes lopsided consciousness enhanced the eeriness significantly.
I used to be mollified, although, when Kocurek made the superb level that, along with elevated price range and technical enhancements since 2016, there is a sensible motive to need to make arms occur. The total incarnation of Layers Of Concern will see you switching between half-a-dozen or so participant characters, so having methods to visually distinguish between them will likely be a giant assist. OK. Tremendous. Arms are good, I suppose. There’s additionally an elevated presence of voice-over strains for the protagonists’ interior monologues, though in contrast to the arms, you’ll toggle these off should you desire your spooks a bit extra old-school.
One other massive departure from the unique is the lantern: a newly-introduced mechanic for the remake that’s half instrument, half weapon, half reason-to-see-hands. Amongst its quite a few capabilities, the lantern will let you stun the antagonist when she will get too shut. This raised a lot of questions, as within the unique there was by no means an choice to struggle again. The closest you got here to “fight” was the selection to take a look at the ghost of your character’s lifeless spouse — through which case she may do one thing nasty to you — or ignore her, thereby robbing her of the flexibility to mess you up much more. This selection was basic in figuring out which of the unique sport’s three endings you noticed, so the truth that you may now be turning round to dazzle her together with your lantern beam seems like a reasonably main distinction.
Kocurek, in his new function as my Layers Of Concern therapist, assures me that there’ll nonetheless be routes to unlocking completely different endings, and that such encounters could not at all times even occur, relying on how your behaviour as much as that time has formed your path via the sport. He is additionally eager to emphasize that whereas the addition of such encounters has elevated the sport’s issue barely from its unique standing as an notorious horror strolling sim, you will not require lightning-fast reflexes to get via the brand new sections. Moreover, beneath the hood, issue in these encounters evolves to match participant efficiency, making certain higher-skilled gamers do not get complacent whereas those that wrestle will not be locked out of progressing.
The rest of the preview centered on the sport’s new sections, which implies that I did not get to see something from the reimagined Inheritance DLC or Layers Of Concern 2 simply but. There was a short dialogue of The Final Observe: the brand new chapter complementing the primary Layers Of Concern narrative, which is able to revisit some acquainted scenes from the spouse’s point-of-view, leading to an fascinating protagonist/antagonist do-si-do as we lastly get her aspect of the story.
Primarily, although, the main target was on the brand-new story of the Author, star of the framing narrative which goals to attract the sequence’ disparate threads collectively into one related complete. She’s an intriguing determine. She’s a extra trendy (though nonetheless not present-day) artist, and her seemingly biographical novels concerning the protagonists from the primary two video games have introduced her to an remoted lighthouse retreat. Minimize off from the world apart from a dodgy phone-line permitting her to take calls from her grownup son, it appears inevitable that the competing pressures of inventive expression and familial connection will start to pressure her, in the identical method they took their toll on her topics. Plus lighthouses are simply inherently spooky; I really feel such as you’re assured to start out seeing ghosts should you spend a number of nights alone in a single.
The brand new Layers Of Concern is being described as each the tip of an period for Bloober Group and the crowning work of the Layers Of Concern sequence. It was the unique Layers Of Concern — one of the vital lauded video games to emerge out of the post-P.T. immersive horror increase within the mid-2010s — that put Bloober on the horror gaming map, in spite of everything, and it is clear that Bloober Group are able to wrap up their work on this sequence, as they transfer into their long-awaited remake of Silent Hill 2. However it’s additionally equally obvious from our chat that they intend to take action whereas honouring the sport’s legacy. As a fan of all issues associated to Layers Of Concern, it is heartening to see the sequence bow out because the related trilogy it at all times felt prefer it must be.
Layers Of Concern is anticipated in June 2023, although we’re nonetheless awaiting an actual launch date, and will likely be accessible on Steam.