While we might be used to the unashamed annual cash grabs and production line sequels, sometimes a second installment can take a little longer than expected. For fans of the 1999 Fear Effect, a return to this beloved franchise was not protracted, it was completely unexpected.
Back near the turn of the millennium, Fear Effect was undoubtedly one of the most unique titles of its generation. Originally developed by Kronos Digital, it spanned a massive four discs and followed the adventures of Hana Tsu-Vachel and her compatriots, as they unraveled a mystery that led them straight to hell. Now, it is back. In 2017 Square Enix announced that French Developer Susheee would bring Hana back for another adventure in Fear Effect Sedna.
While technology has moved on, the look and feel of this sequel are still distinctively Fear Effect. The original game was one of the first titles of its generation to produce cell shaded incarnations of its characters, and Sushee has followed this lead,. Hana, Rain, Deke, and Glas all return to this iteration, set years after the events that kicked off with a kidnapping in Hong Kong. Characters are crisp, clean, and distinctly stylized, in an obvious nod to the first Fear Effect. The dark dystopian Cyberpunk cityscapes of the original are also present and Sushee ultimately understands its source material intimately, Fear Effect Sedna does not, however, languish in the glow of its predecessor as it moves onto new surroundings.
Rather than simply regurgitating the first Fear Effect, Sushee pans back from the claustrophobic action of the original, and moves towards a top-down isometric approach. This provides a satisfying degree of freedom that the original never really possessed. While PlayStation classics like Resident Evil managed to use the fledgling Sony console’s limited resources to create a claustrophobic experience, this never really worked for Fear Effect. By comparison, the rooftops and secret laboratories in Fear Effect Sedna are vast, well rendered, and brimming with detail.
This provides ample opportunity to cram in puzzles, and while Fear Effect has always contained a fair amount of run and gun, the puzzles that present themselves to players here are sufficiently taxing. Puzzles generally tend to be short self-contained events that are a mix of environmental puzzles, numerical door locks, and sliding combinations. These progress blocking problems regularly lean on a series of clues, littered around the environment. Whether it is a diary, security memo, or technical specification, these press players into fully exploring the world that Sushee has created, and are a satisfying alternative to simply blasting your way through all your problems.
Although I found the puzzle systems an adequate distraction, it is far more likely that the game’s combat systems will make you stop and consider just exactly what you are doing. In an attempt to rebuild the combat systems that plagued the 1999 release, the team at Sushee has implemented an interesting array of characteristics to combat. Each of the game’s protagonists wields a unique set of weapons and have a very particular playstyle. Rain’s automatic pistols, taser, and tertiary weapon is a distinctly more discrete arsenal than Deke’s and Glas’s mix of more explosive elements that include a rocket launcher and grenades. These weapons provide an excellent mix of potential approaches to blasting through guards. It is a shame that in reality, this has little impact on the way that combat goes down.
Sushee has attempted to introduce a little more forethought to combat, implementing a tactics screen that allows players to pause the game and issue commands to their team of characters. This should make effective use of the character diversity in Sedna.
While players are able to access a tactics screen, which pauses the game and allows players to issue orders to their characters, live combat regularly falls apart under the bombardment of enemy grunts. When wading into combat, local guards and teammates, have a propensity to simply rush into range, and start firing, ignoring the most basic principles of combat. This happens with such frequency, and speed, that it makes stealth runs a much more appealing approach to clearing up problems. This also makes pausing to direct your roster or utilize their unique combat loadouts somewhat pointless. Outside of the boss encounters, which do require a little more micromanagement, direct combat can quickly descend into a run and gun affair, where cheesing encounters with overwhelming force is the most viable option for success.
This is not the only thing that doesn’t seem to fit in Hana’s return to our screens. While Fear Effect also had a shaky combat system, it did have an effective and engaging script. The same cannot be said here. While Sedna looks absolutely fantastic, the script and voice acting feels disjointed at times. Character motivation can seem flimsy, especially for players who have not invested any time with previous games, and the voice acting feels phoned in. Whether this is down to the actors, the script, or the production is a matter of debate. The end result is, however, a set of characters that are not believable and ultimately feel as shallow as the computer AI that I just gunned down in an open doorway.
Fear Effect Sedna is a mixed experience overall. The graphics are a beautiful nod to the game’s origins, and the environmental design is a solid step up from my memories of the original. The game’s soundtrack is a fantastic piece of work that adequately conveys a creeping suspense while you peer down on the player characters. It is disappointing, however, that in Sushee’s attempt to sure up the problems of Fear Effect, they seem to have stripped away the engaging script and enigmatic characters that made Fear Effect so compelling in the first place. Fear Effect Sedna is out now on PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Switch.
- Looks amazing
- fantastic soundtrack and atmosphere
- well thought out puzzles
- unconvincing story
- really poor voice acting
- combat just seems shallow