Fear Effect and its sequel have garnered a kind of cult following over the years, the 3rd person puzzle solving crossed with stealth, action and the supernatural made it perfect for those who enjoyed both Metal Gear and Resident Evil. Fast forward 17 years and we are treated to a third game in the series, only this time it’s not by the original developer or even the IP owners (Square Enix). Fear Effect Sedna is a successful Kickstarter game which has been released under the Square Enix Collective (their form of Greenlight for Indies) from developer Sushee – who are known for their PC Puzzle game Goetia and the Fear Effect 1 remake, which is due later this year. So, does Fear Effect Sedna satisfy the nostalgia people have for the originals or is it another case of ‘you should have left it alone’? Let’s find out…
Fear Effect Sedna is set four years after the second game in the series, with the return of our protagonist Hana and her sassy partner Rain. After a brief intro/tutorial into the controls and how to perform the various actions, which I’ll come to later, you are met by a mysterious stranger who has broken into your apartment. He hires you to break in and steal an ancient statuette from a Chinese ambassador with no explanation as to why, except a large paycheck.
Upon taking the job, you are reunited with Deke (from previous games) as you infiltrate a dinner event, which is currently in motion, as you work together – all ‘mission impossible’ style – as Deke gathers intel as a waiter, Rain hacks the cameras and drones from the roof and Hana stealthily follows the ambassador through the building. Shortly into the mission, you are also reunited with Axel who was with the ambassador and later on you also get control of Glas. The game starts off quite normal but over time it becomes more and more paranormal and supernatural.
The game does pick up and become a lot more interesting once the supernatural parts kick in as you venture through various incarnations of Hell and fend off beasts from Inuit mythology. You are even presented with a choice towards the end of the game which ultimately changes the ending, which is a pretty cool addition.
The game isn’t too long, taking me about six to seven hours to complete, but there is a decent amount of puzzles, combat and story to keep you entertained throughout – the question is, can you put up with its flaws to get to the end?
We have seen various games change their mechanics for sequels, Fallout 1 and 2 were isometric top-down RPGs which become 1st person Action-RPGs, Resident evil went through many stages before becoming first-person in Resident Evil 7, Zelda went from top-down to side-scrolling then back to top-down before hitting 3d… Fear Effect was originally a 3d third-person stealth-action puzzle game yet Fear Effect Sedna has been presented as a fixed-angle top-down isometric twin-stick shooter style which focuses on stealth, action, puzzles and tactics – that is a lot of characteristics and quite ambitious for a small indie game studio.
Depending on which stage you are one, you can control up to all five of the characters (pre-defined by the game), who can all shoot, dodge, roll, take cover and use a couple of special moves (they start with one and gain another later on) – an example of this would be Glas who can shoot, throw a grenade or lay a turret. All characters can heal as well but they share the same number of medi-kits. Whilst moving around, and before anyone spots you, you can press L3 and your current character will crouch which allows you to move quietly and see the enemies cone of vision.
Stealth is a big part of this game, even though it’s almost impossible to remain in stealth mode for very long. usually, if you go in guns blazing, you will die very quick. If you try and stealthily hide behind something, the CPU controlled character will stand there like a statue – which doesn’t help when you’re trying to hide – and can cause the enemies to open fire! Thankfully, there is an option to tell the CPU to stand still and not move, so you can put them in cover somewhere else – it would have been a lot better if the CPU companions were smarter and adapted to how you were playing the game though. Taking down an enemy in stealth is easy – in principle – get behind them and hit X. However, considering how the game wants you to play stealthily, you can’t hide or even move bodies – this means if you take someone down, the enemies will flock in to stare at the dead body for about 30 seconds then just get on with their routine as if nothing happened. The developers missed out an opportunity here – let us move the bodies or make the guards actively search for people if they see a dead body lying there.
I really didn’t like the combat in this game, it felt ‘off’ but I think that’s down to the way the game is presented and plays out rather than the game itself. The game looks like a twin-stick shooter – however, in those you can just hold the direction on the right stick and fire away. In Fear Effect Sedna, because it’s being realistic with its guns, you have a lot of reloading, waiting and delays in shots. It’s also a bit confusing as to how the aiming works – you don’t have to hold the direction to shoot, just tap it so you lock on, then fire. If you do hold the direction down then you can accidentally swap targets without knowing. One of the big issues was the fact the secondary attacks are mapped to the D-Pad – this means you can’t move and select one without maybe using your right hand to press the D-Pad whilst moving with your left hand.
Luckily, I have a re-mappable Pro Revolution controller, so I just mapped the buttons to the rear pads, but using a standard controller was a bit messy. Also, your CPU controlled companions are useless in battle. Fair enough, they deal a decent amount of damage but they only shoot – no special moves or anything. In the end boss battle, the three I wasn’t controlling would just stand there and shoot over and over and not even flinch if the enemy hit them – meaning they don’t even try and dodge or move, they take the pain and die quickly. I know why, it’s because the game wants you to use it’s tactical mode – which I really didn’t like so I didn’t use after the first few battles. The companions AI needs to be updated so they actually give a damn about their own life and they use their special moves on their own – this shouldn’t be a game about micro-managing every aspect.
Speaking of the Tactical mode… Where do we start? Once you engage in battle, if you press the touch-pad then the game will enter ‘tactical mode’ – the game will pause and you can freely move your characters around (as above). you can pick up to three actions at a time, so moving anywhere will count as one, then shooting or using a special is another and then if you move or shoot then that’s your third. You switch between all your characters and you can plan out what you want them to do – hit the pad again and watch it play out. The problem with this is it means you are micromanaging everything and sometimes it’s pointless – you go into tactical mode, throw a grenade where the enemy is and then run behind cover and shoot – you unpause and in the time it takes for him to throw the grenade, the enemy has moved and is now attacking someone else.
Don’t get me wrong – I love tactical games and strategy games like X-com, but they work because the whole battle plays out in a turn-based system. Having it as a hybrid of live-action and tactical didn’t really work. However, as I said above, if you don’t invest into learning how to micro-manage literally everything then the non-controlled characters will just stand there and shoot their regular gun with no care of their own life. I had to resort to using this for the end battle in one of the endings as they were all standing there whilst being ripped to shreds so I had to manually tell them all to move. Other than that, I didn’t really use this unless I needed to have a look at the enemies and plan out in my own head what to do next – or if I had to heal someone and didn’t want to get shot whilst swapping between characters.
One good thing, which I didn’t realise until later – if a companion is knocked out – you can revive them for free without using a health pack, just go up to them and press X – they don’t get much health back but at least they are alive again.
As the name suggests, fear plays a role too – if you see a monster or you start taking damage then your ‘fear meter’ will rise. The higher your fear, the more damage you both take and deliver. It’s an interesting idea but you do die pretty fast, so if you are low on health then you are best using a medi-kit (if you have any – they become scarce towards the end of the game). It feels like this part has been added to build tension and add into the whole tactical approach of the mechanics, but I never really noticed any benefits for having high fear other than knowing I’ll be dead if one or two bullets hit me.
I know it seems like I didn’t enjoy the game, but in reality, I actually did. The combat wasn’t too bad once you were used to it and you accepted your companions are useless cannon-fodder and the boss battles are a pain and did seem too hard in some stages – but with a little micro-management and a lot of swearing, I managed to overcome them. In between these parts though, you get some pretty decent puzzles. The answers to the puzzles are always either in the puzzle itself or your surrounding locale – for example, the first puzzle is a bomb you have to disable which has three sets of three wires in three colours. If you walk around the area, you will see posters with the colour and a number on it – those are the wires to cut. Another puzzle revolves around disabling a door via the server room as you must use the status of the servers and the display on the PC to crack the code. They aren’t hard, but they were fun and satisfying to complete.
There are a few trial and error puzzles as well which offer no clue as to what to do or why you are doing it – these ones were okay but not as clever as the ones which had a lot more thought put into them.
Graphically, the game is presented in a 3d cel-shaded visual style which looks okay – it’s hard to judge the quality of cel-shaded titles as a game on the last gen could have looked just as good – but technically, it looks nice and there is a lot of detail in the world. Speaking of the world – the level design is very good. Every area is different with its own puzzles, challenges and enemies – so hats off to them for the level design as it really stood out and made me want to play more to see where we go next. The cutscenes are okay with decent enough animation and fluidity.
Audio-wise, I had a few issues. A few of the accents are off and the levels are all over the place in some scenes. In one of them Deke was talking and it was a bit quiet, then it shot up pretty loud, then normal level and back to quiet – he wasn’t moving or the perspective didn’t change – it was like the recording of the lines was at different levels. Other than that, the voice acting wasn’t the greatest, it felt a bit wooden in areas but the dialogue itself was okay. The general sound effects are good and everything sounds as it should along with a decent, subtle soundtrack which is sometimes over-powered by ambient sounds.
Trophies – There are a few ‘missable’ ones regarding certain levels being done undetected, killing certain people in a certain way, using various special abilities and completing puzzles in a set time/moves. Then there are a few kill X amount of people with X attack trophies as well – other than that, the rest is story based. I didn’t look at the trophies until I completed the game and I have 41% completion. There is also a trophy for reading all the documents – this one will either need a guide or you must be on the lookout for every single document.
First 15 minutes:
Fear Effect Sedna may not be the true sequel fans were looking for, but it still delivers an enjoyable story along with creative puzzles and detailed environments. If you take the time to learn how to fully utilise the tactical mode, or you just love micro-managing things, then the combat may work out better for yourself than it did for me. If you don’t mind the issues the game currently has and you are a fan of the original games then you may want to try the game out in order to see Hana and friends on their new adventure, however gamers new to the series may not enjoy the story and the setting as much as the fans.
Fear Effect Sedna£15.99
- Interesting story
- Detailed environments which all look different
- Really good set of puzzles that get you thinking
- Some really interesting mechanics like the waiter section
- The game runs great on the Pro
- Tactical mode doesn't seem to fit this game - and didn't always work
- The fear meter didn't really affect much
- Contrasting the great puzzles, there were a few that were trial and error which just ended in your death
- Lots of micro-managing if you want to defeat some of the boss battles