Video review to follow shortly
Fear Effect Sedna is the result of a kickstarter by Sushee who are also working on Fear Effect Reinvented, a remake of the original flawed but interesting survival horror game that released on the PS1.
Fast forward 17 years and we have a completely different style of game set in the same world.
Set a few years after the first Fear effect Hana and Rain are back along with a number of familiar and new faces.
Hana and Rain, partners in work and life take on a job to steal some artefacts – a bread and butter mission that leads them into something much darker. The story unfolds in classic fear effect stylish comic cutscene fashion that stays true to the series feel and the grandiose plot also fits.
Some of the sleaze is dialled back that shed the first and particularly second games into a bad light though I am pleased they didn’t shy away from the relationship completely and kept the mature swearing that feels right for these rogue heroes.
As you progress further you get embroiled in a gross evil plan involving demonic human splicing, Inuit mythology and a number of old acquaintances.
The story is not bad in an easy to watch movie kind of way but the delivery and script let it down.
The tracks in Fear Effect Sedna are pretty good, these atmospheric songs capture what you want in a gun slinging, stealthy tactical game but their use is oddly limited.
At times though the music is strangely absent in places you would expect to find the volume cranked up – during boss battles or major actions scenes which really lets the score down and detracts from the action.
From here things get even worse, the sound effects are poor. Shooting your gun feels less impactful than firing a nerf gun at a tank, there is just no bite to it. None of the other sound effects fare better, I don’t know if this was a mixing issue and the sound levels got overlooked to make poor sound effects even worse but the volume doesn’t resonate well in my ears.
The game is fully voice acted which is something that is a big undertaking for any developer and in this case they got it wrong. Each of the actors sounds flatter than a pancake, the tone and delivery is poor as if the actors didn’t grasp the context of the lines being delivered.
Visuals & Performance
The cutscenes in Fear Effect Sedna have a certain charm to them, a comic style quality that pops off the screen without them being technically beautiful.
Visually the gameplay portions are a mixed bag, we follow the squad on screen in a fixed isometric camera angle not too dissimilar to Invisible Inc or Shadowrun and the characters and enemies are drawn well though movement doesn’t look quite right to the eye. The landscapes themselves are all very boxy which is a result of the camera angle and sprite based design but none of the visuals are drawn to trick your eyes into seeing more curves then there are. Some of the small on screen details are nice like the lights and little details scattered across the map.
The war of fog style shrouding gets in the way at times with the draw distance being slightly too short, it came with some surprise to me as a result then that I did experience a few small areas of slowdown.
The atmosphere and art style work well but overall the visuals lack some polish.
Sushee saw the core of a great franchise in Fear Effect and correctly identified gameplay issues opting to head in a different direction this time around. In the early part of the game you are introduced to the core mechanics, the idea is that you and your team head into a mission, laying out the plan on the way over and then jumping into the action in the style of xcom mixed with metal gear solid, certainly an exciting prospect.
You can choose how to approach each mission either by way of stealth or a full on gun fight either in realtime or through the use of a tactical pause where you can issue up to 3 commands per character at a time.
Early on opting to sneak is satisfying and plays out like you might expect, crouching lets you hid behind objects and you can see your enemies field of vision. Guards walk a predictable pattern allowing you to time your sneak – slashing them down before moving on to your next target.
Once you get a bit further however the sheer number of enemies make this option less viable which is a shame.
Another approach is to use the tactical menu, each character has some great secondary skills to choose from ranging from a decoy to a deployed turret so the idea of pausing time, lining up some devastating combos and hitting the button to watch your masterpiece work is great.
Unfortunately the AI lets you down, I found that I often couldn’t use my secondary skills in the tactical menu – lobbing a grenade for example was not something you could do effectively and characters often got confused or just didn’t act out my orders as I intended.
I found it odd that you are not introduced to any of your teams secondary skills after the first few minutes in which you get to grips with Hana and Rain and wondered if maybe this is the reason – your characters won’t use them effectively so its really down to you to switch between characters if you want to use the full arsenal available to you.
Because of this issue I found this method led me to die a lot and soon gave up trying.
Your final option is good old fashion realtime shooting, the game opts for simplified enemy selection and switching with the right stick and firing with ZR. You need to reload with X and can roll with B to get out of the way of enemy fire which works well 1 on 1 but breaks down in bigger numbers. Whilst you are doing this your squad mates tend to mess up, quite often.
I found that once you get up to a couple of enemies on screen just blasting away and standing still until they die was the most effective method, hardly a visceral experience.
The Fear Effect itself – a heartbeat that rises and falls based on your fear level was a good idea. The more heightened your fear the faster your heart beats and the stronger your attacks get, conversely you take more damage.
Its a nice idea but honestly, I never noticed the effect – it didn’t play a major role in the game.
Some of the battles are tough and the game gives you a huge number of med kits throughout which you defiantly need.
I can see what Sushee aimed for with these choices, figuring out which way to approach a battle and using either tactics, stealth or a massive gun fight is a great idea but the problem is whichever way you do approach it – none is perfect and battles ended up being stealth where possible and stand and shoot at other times.
The odd exceptions in Fear Effect Sedna where I got to deploy a turret or use a grenade were nice but not essential.
Your characters could of just as easily not had additional skills and the game would not change.
In between this action there are a large number of puzzles, the likes of which hark back to the titles survival horror roots.
These are a welcome break and whilst tough are all solvable, some of them are quite devilish and involve you to think outside of the box. One major gripe with the puzzles however is failing to get them right resolved in a game over on almost all puzzles. Some make sense like the bomb at the beginning which you need to disarm but others really didn’t need to have you die.
Its annoying to load a puzzle 15 or 20 times when you are trying some variation out and this doesn’t add anything outside of the 1 or 2 locations in which it would of made sense.
It took me over 20 hours to complete Fear Effect Sedna and for $17.99 in the US and £14.39 in the UK thats decent value.
You won’t play the game a second time around though there are a few hidden totems to collect if you are into that side of things.
Stays true to the Fear Effect feel