Layers of Fear recently released a new DLC, Inheritance. I only know this from browsing the Xbox store. Now, I consider myself pretty in the know about games happenings (surprise, surprise I consume a lot of gaming news content), but it seemed like I completely missed any chat about it. Still, that’s not a negative, more of a curiosity, and since I enjoyed Layers of Fear I picked it up.
The premise of the DLC is thus: The artist’s daughter returns to her old family home to try to gain some answers and insight into her deceased family. The player wanders the ‘realist’ version of the house as the adult woman, and the ‘distorted’ version as a child, collecting memories and drawings along the way.
In this way, it’s pretty similar mechanically to the original game. You walk about, explore, look at things and hear memories. Except there’s less exploring – the fragments you need to find are more out in the open than before.
I would say that’s my overall feel for this DLC, it’s all much less than the main game. It took me over an hour to complete, which I don’t mind. But, if I recall, the main game took me 2ish hours, so it feels a lot lighter for only an hour less of gameplay. The DLC has noticeably less atmosphere than before. The main game left me creeped or disgusted out at many points – at the very least unnerved. Inheritance didn’t really leave me with the same feelings. This isn’t to say Inheritance is a wash out – it is actually a good game. It runs in much the same vein, which is of course to be expected, however I just feel the main game does it better.
This game is beautiful though, even in its ugly moments it still retains an otherworldly feeling, and the set pieces are great. The repeated image of fire is used to great effect in this game – I especially loved the childish drawings of flames that crackled up the walls.
Layers of Fear deals with mental illness as its main premise, so of course it figures heavily in the DLC too. The game starts with the daughter telling us that “insanity runs in my family”. So that gives us all a big hint about the outcome of the game. As much as I enjoyed both of these games, they do treat mental illness in the way that a lot of video games (especially horror games) do: which at best is othering and at worst uses it as a cheap tactic to explain awful actions. I really hate this trope, but having played the main game previously, I was not surprised by it.
This DLC, like the main game has three endings, depending on how many pictures you gather. The first ‘good’ ending, is not actually that good (in a moral sense, rather than as a judgement of the game), and there is also a ‘bad’ ending and a ‘true’ ending. While trying not to spoil them too much, I will say all of them didn’t quite sit right with me, for reasons regarding the above mentioned trope. But Layers of Fear is not a particularly joyful game, so maybe I’m asking for something I won’t get in these endings.
More than anything I’m disappointed – I thought the DLC could be a thoughtful take on how our family and genetics affects our mental health – something I do worry about at times. But alas, no. The game is more about filling in the family life of the artist and the daughter – the mother, while included in some scenes, seems weirdly absent. This daughter is only concerned with her father, and barely mentions her mother in her dialogue. Which again, is super weird to me – surely she had some influence on her child? If not in a positive way through her music and mothering, then surely her disfigurement and death?
It might seem like I’m coming down hard of Inheritance, and Layers of Fear in general, so I would like to make it clear that I did enjoy this game. I think it is good, and I look forward to any other DLCs or new games that come from these devs.