Layers of Fear Remake Explained
Image via Bloober Team.

Layers of Fear Remake Explained

Seven years after Layers of Fear came out, Bloober Team has released… Layers of Fear? To further complicate matters, it’s actually a remake of several different Layers of Fear games. If you’re scratching your head, don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. Here’s the Layers of Fear remake explained. 

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Here’s What You Need to Know About 2023’s Layers of Fear Remake

Bloober Team’s Layers of Fear (previously known as Layers of Fears) is not just a remake of 2016’s Layers of Fear. It’s an anthology encompassing several different stories, some connected, others not so much. It contains remakes of the following games:

Layers of Fear
Layers of Fear: Inheritance (Layers of Fear DLC)
Layers of Fear 2

It also features two new stories:

Layers of Fear: the Final Note
Layers of Fear: the Writer’s Story

The Final Note, aka the Musician’s Story is about the wife of the painter. The Writer’s Story is a frame narrative that wraps around all the other tales. If you’ve seen Creepshow or Vault of Horror, you’ll know the sort of thing. It bookends the other stories and is sometimes revisited between each tale. 

What is Layers of Fear Remake about?

I’m going to be getting into serious spoiler territory here. While I won’t cover the endings (you can find that discussion here), I will be spoiling a lot of the surprises. Also, the game covers some pretty heavy themes, so we’ll issue a general content warning for the summaries that follow.

The Writer’s Story

Most of Layers of Fear’s characters are unnamed, so the writer is just The Writer. As the game begins, she arrives at a secluded lighthouse. The game then jumps back ten years to reveal that she writes fiction and has won a competition to stay at that same lighthouse hermitage. 

She’s to remain in the secluded lighthouse, with the idea that the solitude will help her conjure up some stories. The story takes place in the relatively modern era, probably the late 1990s. 

The other stories in the game are presented, initially, as her own fictional tales. However, as the game progresses, it’s implied that the stories (the Painter’s Story, the Actor’s Story, etc) actually happened. The first tale she writes is the Painter’s Story.

The Painter’s Story

The Painter, again unnamed, marries a musician (a pianist and violinist) and, for a while, they are happy. However, the Painter becomes increasingly obsessed with his art, to the point of neglecting his wife and daughter. 

There’s a fire, apparently the result of the Painter using open flame lamps instead of the electric lights his wife prefers. His daughter survives unscathed, but he loses a leg below the knee and his wife is badly burnt. She has to rely on a wheelchair and her hands are so damaged that she can’t play music any more.

The Painter grows even more obsessed with his work and, desperate and lacking any kind of support, his wife suicides. When you take control of the Painter, she has been dead for some time and his daughter has been taken away by the authorities.  

He’s been living in the house, hallucinating wildly and attempting to create the perfect portrait. It’s not absolutely confirmed, but it’s almost certain that he’s using his late wife’s body parts to create his perfect painting. 

He imagines himself voyaging through a warped version of his house, pursued by visions of his late wife. He also encounters rats which, while they could be in his mind, could also be a manifestation of the entity the Writer is about to meet. How the Painter’s story ends depends on the decisions you make. 

The Writer’s Story continued

The Writer becomes increasingly unnerved. She has a late teenage/early adult who she communicates with via the phone, but she’s also in contact with the competition’s organizer. The organizer seems a little too insistent that she gets writing and talks about her breaching her contract. 

She’s then contacted by a being who players know as the Rat Queen. This entity claims that the Painter was real and that she influenced his art. She offers to become the Writer’s muse and with a little reluctance, the Writer accepts.

The Daughter’s Story (Inheritance)

Both this and The Musician’s Story are optional. After The Painter dies, his daughter returns to the house. She recalls her rough childhood and her outlook upon leaving depends on your choices. This doesn’t add a lot to the overall story, though.

The Musician’s Story (The Final Note)

This one adds a little more to the tale of the Painter and his wife, the Musician. After the fire, she unsurprisingly struggled with her own mental health. However, as you play you uncover information that people were attempting to separate the two. One of her so-called friends wrote to the Painter suggesting he distance himself from her. One doctor, at least, suggested she be sent to a place for “Troubled Women,” essentially an asylum. Nothing you do alters her ultimate decision to end her life.

The Writer’s Story continued

This is where things start to get a little fuzzy for The Writer. From the player’s perspective, you’ve been in the lighthouse since the game started and never left. But the Writer left for ten years; you saw them coming back in the opening scene. Or… was that even real?

Between the letters, artifacts and other items you find, there are a couple of possibilities, particularly since she makes reference to wanting her son back:

  1. She left the lighthouse and had a major literary comeback. However, she became as absorbed in her craft as the Painter was and the Writer grew estranged from her son. There’s a line from her son (or an illusion) saying that her writing was always the most important thing in her life. 
  2. She never actually left the lighthouse and has been writing for ten years. Maybe, again like the Painter, you’re experiencing one loop of many. She also comes across a reference to Ouroboros, representing infinity. 

We know her son is (or was) ill, so it’s also possible he passed away before she reached the lighthouse. Unwisely, she continues to write which leads to the Actor’s Story.

The Actor’s Story

As revealed in a flashback, The Actor had a troubled early life. After the death of his abusive, alcoholic father (implied to be his sister’s doing) he and his sister, Lily, stowed away on a ship. However, the ship sank, leaving the Actor the only survivor. 

Unusually for a Layers of Fear character, the Actor does have a name. He’s called James, but I’ll stick to calling him the Actor. Years later, in the 1940s, he has become a professional actor and is shooting a film aboard an ocean liner. This is where the player comes in. 

The Actor can hear the director but never sees them, and there are no other people on the ship. With possible involvement from the Rat Queen, he journeys through the ship. It’s eventually revealed that the whole scenario is taking place in the Actor’s head. It’s his way of dealing with his sister’s death, which has haunted him for years. The ending depends on whether you obey the director (another part of the Actor’s mind) or not. 

The Writer’s Story continued

Halfway through the Actor’s story it becomes apparent the Writer is either losing her mind or being directly influenced by the Rat Queen. My take is that it’s a combination of both. She starts wandering through rooms from both the Actor’s and the Painter’s stories. 

When the Actor’s story concludes, she decides to break her deal with the Rat Queen. Or at least she tries to by burning the painting. It doesn’t end well for her.

You can question whether anything the Writer sees is real. When she finds a film reel relating to the Actor’s backstory, is that because the ship crashed on these rocks? Or is she imagining it because she wrote about it? 

My take is that the Rat Queen is, indeed, real. But she’s not in complete control, she instead manipulates people and gets them to create their own nightmares. A lot of this game is open to interpretation and the Writer’s ending feels a little rushed. But if you wanted the Layers of Fear remake explained, there you have it. 

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Chris McMullen
Chris McMullen is a freelance contributor at The Escapist and has been with the site since 2020. He returned to writing about games following several career changes, with his most recent stint lasting five-plus years. He hopes that, through his writing work, he settles the karmic debt he incurred by persuading his parents to buy a Mega CD. Outside of The Escapist, Chris covers news and more for GameSpew. He's also been published at such sites as VG247, Space, and more. His tastes run to horror, the post-apocalyptic, and beyond, though he'll tackle most things that aren't exclusively sports-based. At Escapist, he's covered such games as Infinite Craft, Lies of P, Starfield, and numerous other major titles.