The Fear Effect series, which last saw a game 17 years ago, is finally getting a new entry in the series with Fear Effect Sedna by French developer Sushee. Can they recapture what made the originals so memorable? Let’s find out.
The Gang’s All Here
Fear Effect Sedna carries on after the events of the first Fear Effect‘s best ending, but outside of the occasional reference to things like having been in hell before, it doesn’t really reference it (nor the prequel Fear Effect 2: Retro Helix) very much. This is likely for the best as it has been over a decade since the originals came out, allowing those who have not played the original two or have forgotten them to still enjoy the plot.
The plot covers Hana and Rain being hired to investigate a series of art thefts, and as before, they wind up finding the supernatural world is strong at work behind the scenes, albeit using Inuit mythology this time around instead of Chinese. Along the way they meet up with their old companions Glas and Deke, as well as newcomer Axel.
The story is perhaps the game’s strongest point, but it’s not without its flaws. The story can feel rather rushed at times, and the writing itself occasionally comes across as unnatural. The characters as well feel more like they’re simply inspired by the original cast rather than the original cast themselves. I do applaud that they took a different angle on the supernatural side of the plot, and with a mythology not often represented at that, but that makes their failings all the more disappointing.
The Less Action, the Better
Fear Effect Sedna is a massive gameplay shift away from the survival-horror-inspired earlier entries, instead opting for an isometric tactical experience where you’re often controlling multiple members of the cast at once. Like the originals however, there is a blend of stealth and action segments, puzzles, and traps, with unique cutscene deaths for failure. The titular Fear Effect, which shows the stress level of the player, is still around but has been changed from your life bar to a mechanic that increases offense and decreases defense as the tension rises.
The stealth and puzzles are generally well done, with all the typical stealth concessions given to a decent stealth game and puzzle solutions that are just hard enough to make you stop and think without being likely to stump players.
…which leaves the action segments. In a game where everything else is at least passable, any time the game requires open shooting it suddenly becomes a lesson in frustration. Any character you’re not controlling appears allergic to cover and will just stand there shooting whatever’s close. There’s a “tactical” mode you can enter to give each character up to 3 chained actions so they can still use their special tools or try to move to a better location. However, it doesn’t do a very good job of showing the time required to do these actions, or how enemies may move in the meantime. This can often lead to characters just running over to where they think they should go to aim their tools and either enemies have since moved, or they just get shot full of lead on the way over there.
Speaking of the tools, I got the feeling that using these effectively was the intended key for finishing fights without burning through medkits. However, only a few of the tools even have an explanation for what they do. Most of them are just introduced with absolutely no fanfare, not even a NAME until you pick up ammo for them. Even once you figure out how to effectively use them, the tools have a lengthy delay after using them before you can even move again. Setting up a turret in the middle of a boss fight may sound like a good idea, but spending a second standing around once it’s up just leads to getting slammed.
Unpolished and Inaccurate
Presentation-wise, Sedna is a little hit or miss. It emulates the cel-shaded graphical style of the originals, especially during cutscenes, which is a definite plus. Then the cutscenes are ruined by line-read voice acting and characters talking over each other. During gameplay there are a number of notable typos and, worst of all, the button prompts only show PS4 controls, despite me using an Xbox controller. This wouldn’t be so bad on it’s own, but the prompts don’t correspond to their Xbox equivalents: To clarify in the screenshot above, RT was fire, X was reload, B was roll and closing the menu, and A was to take cover, or R2, [ ], O, and X for PS4 buttons that matched the layout.
It’s a beautiful game right up until someone opens their mouth or you stop to read something. Outside of the voice acting, the sound direction is simply forgettable.
Back to Waiting
It’s clear that not enough love was given to Fear Effect Sedna. The lack of polish shows all over the place, and little flaws that could have been ironed out with more testing cripple the experience. The things it does well are rendered disappointing by the frustrating mess one needs to slog through to reach them. This also doesn’t bode well for the upcoming remake of the original Fear Effect, titled Fear Effect Reinvented, also being developed by Sushee. One can only hope that’s where all the effort has gone, otherwise the long wait by fans has been sorely unrewarded.
~Final Score: 4/10~
Review copy provided by Sushee for PC. Screenshots provided by reviewer.