It’s been years since their last outing, but Hana’s crew of adorable psychos is back to dealing with theft, espionage and world-ending supernatural threats, this time of an Inuit flavour. This is Fear Effect: Sedna.
Genre(s): Tactical Action
Publisher: Forever Entertainment
Release Date: March 2018
Played Full story
Platforms: PC, Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch
I first saw Fear Effect: Sedna at last year’s Rezzed, playing the alpha prototype and dying repeatedly throughout, as it was quite difficult. In fact, on receiving the code for this review, some information was missing from the press package so instead of the full game, I first played through the same alpha demo. I consider that fortunate because upon reaching the same area in the full game, I could see just how much had changed.
Fear Effect: Sedna takes place a few years after the original Fear Effect and reunites the cast of unlikely mercenary buddies Hana, Rain, Deke, Glas and newcomer Axel. In the time since their last outing, Hana and Rain have become a couple, though in true Fear Effect fashion, it’s not really treated in a mature way, only there for their incessant flirting and innuendo. Deke is back and he’s still a bit of a psycho and perhaps the game’s most lovable character for his unending sense of humour and high opinion of himself.
The game opens with Han and Rain completing a mission, which serves as a tutorial, while Glas sees a ghost from his past and is put on his trail. On returning home, Hana and Rain meet a new client, who gives them the task to acquire a rare piece of Inuit art from an ambassador, for which they drag in Deke for help and end up running into Axel, the newcomer to the series and failed bodyguard to the ambassador.
What starts as art theft and a little payback soon turns into a deadly plot involving Inuit mythology, hybrid monsters from genetic experimentation and seemingly inspired by legends and the realm of the gods and the underworld.
I liked the plot of Fear Effect: Sedna, especially the use of a real mythology and correct sources. Every note, every monster and even the major villains draw heavily on Inuit tradition and though it’s perhaps not the deepest of explorations, it’s perfectly accurate, even if you allow for some creative license, it is a game after all.
What I didn’t like was how rushed the narrative is. The storytelling is decent until you reach the snowy section of the game, where everything seems to rush, all mysteries and villains revealed without so much as a proper introduction and culminating in a choice that leads to three different endings, none of which really feel conclusive or satisfying. They’re too open when you consider the stakes and the scale of the story as told, and the drama feels flat as there is no time to form a bond with this cast of miscreants, a difficult task on its own.
It’s regrettable it went this way as I would have liked more time to explore things from certain characters’ perspectives, particularly Glas, Axel and the major antagonists, who don’t get much screen time.
Not only that, but Fear Effect: Sedna shows a good deal of variety in its stages and missions, from traditional stealth to infiltration-type missions, where you must blend with the crowd while obtaining information, to puzzle-heavy sequences that are a joy to play if not sometimes vague on the clues. So, I would have preferred a much slower pace for the final act, both on a narrative point of view to properly explore central character motivations, including the villains, and to have a few more of those entertaining scenarios.
The original Fear Effect games played in the Resident Evil style, third person with “tank controls.” For Fear Effect: Sedna, the team at Sushee decided to shift the point of view to an isometric one to go with their tactical gameplay. It’d only regrettable that the tactical mode, where you pause and give your characters commands, is all but useless and unnecessary. During my playthrough, I only used it once and it was during the tutorial for it.
Instead I just used the different characters’ abilities in real time, never needing to take a breather as there is never anything so intense or tense to make the tactical view a necessity. Even during those moments and fights where the controls refused to respond in a timely manner and characters stuck to their primary weapon when I wanted them to use their secondary ones, there was absolutely no need to pause the action.
As for the eponymous Fear Effect, it could’ve used some refinement. As implemented, damage and horrible critters raise the characters’ fear level. The higher your fear, the higher your damage done and received. Using medpacks reduces the fear level and heals one character, so the idea is that you may want to hold off on healing to take advantage of the damage bonus. But the damage inflicted by enemies and the rather limited intelligence of your party members—who will always stand on bad things, never take cover and will even get out of cover—when the AI controls them, makes it a moot point, as you will always use the medkits. Otherwise you simply won’t survive.
The isometric perspective makes it so the character visuals are rather basic, but the environments are great and have lots of details, some of which are often clues to the deadly puzzles. And as with its predecessors, the story come in dozens of small cutscenes, from boss introductions to heavy narrative sequences.
The only annoyance is that when you die, and you will considering how much of a grind fights become as you progress through the game, in addition to the specific death animation video, you get a second one, an animated Game Over screen that does nothing but get in the way and prevent you from reloading and retrying. You can skip them of course, but it’s still quite frustrating.
Music is great, with a powerful soundtrack that along with the puzzles remain the most memorable aspect of Fear Effect: Sedna. The voice acting is subpar though, with character either hamming it up completely or more often just failing at any dramatic tension. One of the worst at this is Michael Osborne’s Deke, though I have peculiar fascination with this portrayal, particularly how upbeat he sounds even the worst of circumstances, a tone that doesn’t match the dialogue or the scene, which makes him sound positively sociopathic and I just love it. It’s that kind of bad that becomes good out of sheer awfulness.
That’s not to say the actors have much to work with as the script is rather weak and a collection of one liners and innuendo.
Fear Effect: Sedna is an enjoyable entry into the franchise and could’ve been amazing if not for many of its flaws. They don’t fully detract from the experience but they do keep the game from surpassing its predecessors.
3/5 – Alright