Fear Effect Sedna is the latest installment in the Fear Effect series, the last of which was Fear Effect 2: Retro Helix for the PS1. After 17 years of waiting, fans were able to help fund the development of this strategy/shooter thanks to Kickstarter and the indie French Developer Sushee. Sedna moves the camera up to an isometric view (the first two games were close-third person) but retains many of the things that fans will both love and possibly hate about the series and games from that era.
In-game violence includes attacks with guns and knives, most of which result in a small blood spatter on the ground. Cut scenes include images such as dismembered bodies, killed people, and blood magic. Death scenes abound in instant-fail portions of the game, which can show your characters dying in a multitude of violent ways.
Rated-R language abounds, from the very first cutscene and on.
The two female characters, Hana and Rain, are shown kissing in their apartment after the first mission. Hana walks around in a towel, and they talk about their relationship in different cutscenes. Hana also wears an outfit during one mission that is unzipped down to her chest.
Fear Effect: Sedna is an isometric shooter/strategy game that puts the player in the shoes of the same team from the original Fear Effect games. Players will control Hana, Rain, Deke, Glas, and newcomer Axel, who are all stereotypes. Hana is the strong female protagonist who sticks out her hips or flashes some cleavage often. Her dual wielding pistols make it hard not to think of Lara Croft. Rain is the tough but not as prone to killing character as (she packs a taser). Deke is a “throw another shrimp on the barbie” Australian who sounds like an American impersonating an Aussie (the actor is actually Australian). Glas is a taller Tom Cruise action-hero type, with a permanent straight-line 5 o’clock shadow, and Axel is a sneaky French spy. It’s an odd crew, and their way of talking in stilted one-liners and references to the last two games make it hard to enjoy the cut scenes. I couldn’t help rolling my eyes during most of them.
It’s hard to talk about the story without entering spoiler territory, but if you’ve seen any movies or games from the 80’s or 90’s you might have heard this one before: a group of plucky, good-looking protagonists get hired to do a job. As soon as they are about to finish it, something goes down. They decide to follow up a lead, and travel to a few exotic locales as the rabbit hole gets deeper. Before you know it, they’re fighting off an ancient evil and demons and mutated corpses. Depending on how you feel about the cliches present here might mean you enjoy it, or you may feel like this is a played-out scenario from a wannabe Resident Evil clone, with nothing new to bring to the table.
Sprinkled throughout you’ll encounter several puzzles that will test your critical thinking and observation skills. And while I felt rather smart when I was able to solve them, there were a few tests that made me want to break my controller. The uneven difficulty scaling is something I take serious issue with; a couple of the early bosses and puzzles gave me fits whereas some of the mid-game ones I was able to ace on the first try.
Fear Effect: Sedna gives you the option of stealth instant-kills if you can sneak up on enemies, but in some early levels it funnels you into tight hallways with no way of approaching but guns blazing, which can end bad quick for even a large party (5 is the biggest). It also would have been nice if the developers included something in-game that explained each character’s abilities better. I spent most of the game unaware of how a few of the more powerful abilities worked. Deke has a powerful rocket launcher and flamethrower, while Axel has a hard-to-aim crossbow and a “confuse” ability that I never got to work.
This almost feels like a game out of time. If Fear Effect: Sedna would have released a couple years after the last one then it might have felt new and fresh. As, it feels more like a love letter to the early Playstation era games where bad voice acting, cheesy lines, and undead/demon/ghost enemies were everywhere. Sedna manages to avoid the bad camera-work that plagued that era by pulling up to an isometric view. It’s not perfect, but effectively shows you your surroundings minus the fog of where you haven’t been yet. What I still raise an eyebrow at is that you can be standing just outside a guard’s line of sight (indicated by green arcs when you’re sneaking) and they won’t see you, even if they’re staring right at you. Apparently they’re all farsighted?
Ultimately, Fear Effect: Sedna is hard to recommend. The difficulty feels cheap when the game forces you to fight instead of sneak, and the puzzles make little sense at times. The acting is bad, and the dialogue cheesy at best. It’s not quick enough to live up to the title of “Shooter,” yet it also doesn’t let you do enough planning to pull off the “Strategy” aspect either. If it’s an isometric shooter you’re looking for, you’d be better off with Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris; if it’s a top-down strategy game I’d suggest X-Com or Shadowrun: Dragonfall instead.
Review code generously provided by Renaissance PR.
The Bottom Line
If you were a huge fan of this series, or games from that era, you could find a lot to like here. It's rough around the edges with cheesy acting, and a lot of game over screens, but if that doesn't put you off you could find an enjoyable time here.