Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: 06/03/2018
Platform(s): Xbox One (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, PC
After a long hiatus of seventeen years, the Fear Effect series is back with Fear Effect Sedna. Whilst gamers familiar to the series might remember the third-person adventures of the original PlayStation era though, this new release has been completely revamped – it’s now an isometric adventure that utilises twin-stick shooting-like mechanics and a bigger focus on working as a squad. It’s an interesting new direction for the series, but it’s one that the developers at Sushee haven’t quite managed to utilise perfectly to make the game essential playing.
Mixing up mythical elements with a tale of espionage, Fear Effect Sedna sees veteran mercenaries Hana and Rain working for a mysterious benefactor as they look into an art heist. Of course, this art heist is a lot more than it initially seems, and they end up finding themselves mixed up with scientific experiments based around the mythological beliefs of the Inuit people.
Fear Effect Sedna’s story is stand-alone from any other entry in the series, so complete newbies could play it with no fuss. Don’t get me wrong, knowing the relationships shared between some of the characters would add to the experience, but it isn’t a necessity to enjoy the narrative.
The mysterious story is neat enough, though some aspects of the script and voice acting just felt a little off. Some lines of the game didn’t really make full sense given the context of the situation, whilst other times the exaggerated accents of the voice actors just felt a bit over the top. Don’t get me wrong, there was nothing absolutely horrible on show, but it definitely could do with a bit of work.
With the switch to an isometric viewpoint comes a new combat style, with the game adopting tactical twin-stick shooting mechanics that’ll see you carefully picking your shots as you gun down enemies around you. You can utilise cover too, as well as issue commands to your allies mid-fight.
The combat of Fear Effect Sedna sees you switching between a variety of characters, each armed with their own weapons and skills. These skills come in real handy too – it could be the use of homing missiles, mines, turrets, grenades, or even bouncing bullets. They all have a cool-down attached to them so you can’t spam them, but they’re certainly useful when it comes to killing enemies.
Fear Effect Sedna’s twin-stick shooting mechanics are neat, but they don’t always function that well. Aiming and shooting could be inconsistent – you’d automatically lock onto an enemy in view and could switch between them with the right stick easily, but when shooting it’d be difficult to work out the best way to take them down. If you hold down the shoot button for example, it’ll slowly automatically keep shooting at enemies. However, if you tap it, you’ll find your bullets come a lot faster but don’t always shoot. It’s a little weird and it’s not always clear what is the best way to take enemies down.
You can swap between characters on the fly, though they’ll also be controlled by the A.I. when you’re not using them yourself. This is a bit of a mixed bag – typically they’d just stand still and shoot, not worrying about taking damage from the enemy or being in the line of fire of an incoming attack. To combat this, you can use the paused tactical view which allows you to issue commands to your allies without worrying about the threat of incoming fire. Whilst this is a neat feature, I didn’t always find I needed to use it; sure, my companions were dumb, but for the most part simply having them standing around and attack was surprisingly efficient.
There just isn’t a solid balance to the game’s difficulty. Sometimes you can just stand still and take out enemies with no problems, whilst other times you’ll see yourself absolutely annihilated whilst doing the same tactic in a similar situation. On the final boss encounters, I managed to beat them by running around in a circle and simply shooting whilst my companions stuck in one spot, which is a little disappointing as a finale. There are an abundance of health kits available throughout each level too, so even if you do take a lot of damage it’s never too difficult to heal up again.
In fairness, it’s not always the case and there are some enemies that’ll really require some thought to take down (especially the monsters), but for the most part Fear Effect Sedna’s mixed difficulty can prove a little underwhelming. In fact, when it does amp up the challenge it could feel a bit unfair – there’s one scene later on in the game where you have no cover and have to take on an onslaught of enemies, which could be a bit hit-and-miss given the often awkward shooting mechanics.
At least the stealth mechanics were a bit better, with the player able to sneak through most levels and take out enemies with a silent takedown. As long as you’re crouching, you’re able to see each enemy’s cone of vision too, so you can work out exactly where you need to go and where you can hide to stay out of view. The level design of Fear Effect Sedna is solid, so there are always multiple routes you can take or places to hide when utilising stealth – it made it really satisfying to take the approach when working through levels.
Whilst the combat could be a bit of a mixed bag, the puzzles of the game are a lot more inspired. Some of them take some real thinking to solve too, especially those that demand you carefully observe the environment and put your memory to use. Don’t get me wrong, there were some occasions where they felt a little bit overly obtuse, but that eureka moment where you solve them always satisfied. They’re just an enjoyable addition to the game, and add to the surprising amount of variety that Fear Effect Sedna features.
I really liked the revamped visual style of Fear Effect Sedna, though there might be a bit of bias there seeing as I’m a big fan of isometric games anyway. There’s no denying that the cel-shaded character models look great though, whilst the environments themselves are detailed and well-varied. The cinematics and death scenes looked good too, even if there was some rather uninspiring acting involved on the voice actors’ side.
My only real beef was that there’s this black fog that surrounds areas you haven’t explored yet. This is a common feature of isometric games and I get what the developers were going for, but the way it cleared in Fear Effect Sedna just looked weird and added a somewhat ugly hue to the game’s surroundings. It’s not game-breaking, but it’s especially noticeable when scouring through each environment.