Bloober Team appeared to have done a journey similar to what Frictional Games did with going from Amnesia: The Dark Descent to SOMA: from a horror game taking place in the past to a horror game in a science fiction setting. Unfortunately Layers of Fear, like Amnesia, was not really to my liking.
Walking simulator with psychological horror
Layers of Fear has minimal gameplay. Mostly you move about and fling open doors and drawers to maybe find a story item. A monster makes an appearance here and there but you do not need to hide or run from it -- merely avoid walking into it. Or not, as one of the three endings so requires. There are few puzzles too but largely the game is a straight-up walking simulator.
With such a lack of game mechanics, the story really has to be good and interesting for a game to be entertaining. But unlike Soma, Layers of Fear is terribly boring. The unfolding narrative is uninspired and predictable.
At least I found it a lot creepier than Amnesia. Layers of Fear often succeeds at building a spooky atmosphere in which jump scares have easier time to succeed. Rooms often change behind -- and in front of -- you when triggering something, accompanied by appropriate sound effects.
What really would have sent chills down my spine is if a portrait had suddenly turned to look at me. I thought that might happen considering paintings are an important story element, and there were times when one did melt or morph to something else but that is just not quite as creepy.
A Unity game
Layers of Fear could have used better content streaming as there is a split-second freeze when a door locks behind you and the game loads the next room. It is as if it was doing things in a single thread, which would not surprise me as it runs on Unity.
I think the developers should have played with the movement settings a bit. How it takes a moment for you to accelerate to full speed and how going up stairs really slows you down, really felt like default Unity. Head bobbing one might want to turn off even if not prone to motion sickness. It is more like head swaying and happens even when standing still. It is rather annoying.
I was surprised most mirrors actually show a reflection of you, even if muddy. There were no jump scares related to them but I appreciated it nonetheless. So many games do not have (working) mirrors, even when they have multiple bathrooms like Deus Ex: Mankind Divided for instance.