FEAR EFFECT SEDNA
By Ferry "Sadhonker" Adams on March 14, 2018
Some eighteen years ago, developer Kronos Digital Entertainment and publisher Eidos Interactive teamed up to introduce the world to an action-adventure game called Fear Effect. In this game, you could play as one of three mercenaries and needed to search for the missing daughter of one of the top dogs of the Hong Kong mafia. Though the game contained a number of cool ideas, the critics weren't exactly entirely positive. Most heard complaints were about the game's clunky controls and performance issues.
A year later, the same studio released Fear Effect 2: Retro Helix as a direct sequel. This game also suffered from the same kind of issues. A third entry was planned, but Eidos Interactive pulled the plug on the project and, after fruitlessly searching for another publisher, Kronos Digital Entertainment gave up and disbanded without realizing their dream.
Fast forward to 2018, when independent developer Sushee picks up where the series left off in 2001 and teams up with publisher Forever Entertainment and releases Fear Effect Sedna as a third entry in the series, as well as a kind of reboot in terms of gameplay and style. Instead of cell-shaded characters that run around on full motion video environments, the game is presented in a isometric perspective and 3D environments. Luckily, the series protagonists are all there! Yes, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls; Hana, Rain, Deke and Glas are back in business! Let's see how they do, shall we?
What I noticed first upon starting the game, is the fact that Sushee managed to perfectly capture the same gritty kind of feel that made the original games interesting. This is mainly due to the cool graphics and matching soundtrack. The gameplay and controls, however, are a different story all-together; they are completely thrown overboard and replaced by more modern counterparts. This shifts the genre of the game somewhat from action-adventure into the realm of tactical isometric action shooter with RPG elements.
The story of Fear Effect Sedna is set some four years after the events of its predecessor. Hana is tasked with stealing a mysterious object which, supposedly, shouldn't be a problem for her. Pretty quickly, however, it becomes clear that there is much more going on than a simple theft and our rowdy heroes are pulled into a fight for their lives! Tons of bad guys, mysterious entities and even other dimensions eventually stand between our band of mercenaries and their goal...
Controlling the characters is easy. Use one thumbstick to move, the other to aim and one of the triggers to shoot. The shoulder buttons can be used to switch characters whenever this is needed or whenever you feel like it. The basic gameplay is pretty straight-forward; kill the enemy before he or she kills you. How you do this is entirely up to you. Developer Sushee added something called "Tactical Pause". When engaging this ability, the game pauses, while you can control your characters as you normally would. When disengaging the Tactical Pause, your characters execute your orders just as you've given them. When something goes awry, you can always cancel all remaining orders by simply moving the character by hand.
Although the Tactical Pause is a nice touch, it didn't quite resonate with me. Now, this may just be me, because I mostly adopt a "guns blazing" approach to most of the games I play. So I'm not saying that it does not work, quite on the contrary, actually. But you will need a player with a much more tactical mindset than mine to take full advantage of this newly added game mechanic. In all honesty, I must confess coming relatively far without using it, mainly because the environments seem to be stocked by someone working at, what I can only assume, is a Medkits-O-Plenty. This isn't a bad thing, per se, but it does detract somewhat from the tactical aspect of the game.
The one thing, apart from the basic story and the characters, that the developers kept of the original games is the one thing the series gets its name from: the Fear Effect. In short, this mechanic denotes the mental and physical state of your character. When you get hit, are surrounded by enemies or experience shocking events, the Fear Effect increases. This means that, while you do more damage, your resistance is lowered accordingly. So, if you plan ahead (something I rarely do) you can actually make use of the increased amount of fear your character is experiencing!
Overall, Fear Effect Sedna is a quite enjoyable game. You get to raise some hell with fun characters in cool environments. The game's voice acting is adequate, although at times, I noticed the lack of fire in the lines delivered. The fun lies in puzzle-solving and switching characters and make use of their individual strengths in order to overcome the various obstacles and enemies the game throws at you. Story-wise, the game follows the path of its predecessors, something which I think the developer deserves due credit.
So, all in all, if you have fond memories of the first two Fear Effect games, do not hesitate to give this third one a whirl. It is always good to reconnect with characters you loved playing, even if (or maybe especially because), you haven't seen them in some new action for 17 years!