Note: PS4 review code provided by Forever Entertainment.
I did not own a Playstation when I was a young lad so I missed out on the Fear Effect games. However, I was aware of the controversial reveal about leading lady Hana in the second game, Fear Effect 2: Retro Helix. Years passed before Fear Effect was brought back into the public eye. It was around early 2016 when a Kickstarter campaign successfully funded a new entry in the series helmed by Sushee and Forever Entertainment. Two years later the game is released to a…mixed reception. I wanted to see for myself whether it was good or bad so join me as we take a look at Fear Effect Sedna.
Note: This is a review of the game after the 1.02 update patch was released.
Platforms: Playstation 4, XBOX One, Nintendo Switch, PC (Steam, GOG)
Publisher: Forever Entertainment
Genres: Action, Cyberpunk (-ish), Mystery, Puzzle, Shooter, Stealth, Thriller, Yuri. There is one genre I kept hidden to avoid spoilers for newcomers to the series.
Length: 10 hours or so on the first playthrough
Plot Summary: Fear Effect Sedna is set four years after the events of the original Fear Effect game, and things have changed for the team. Hana, freed from the Triad, lives with Rain in Hong Kong and works as an occasional mercenary, while Deke has grown apart from them since Glas returned to the US.
Hana accepts a small mission for a shadowy organization asking for her services. Her target: a mysterious ancient statuette held by the Chinese ambassador in France. She sees it as a good opportunity to visit her birthplace… But this ‘easy’ mission is about to lead Hana to something way bigger than she expected.
Meanwhile Glas is approached by a client who catches his attention enough that he soon sets out for Greenland.
How will these events bring the old team back together?
Let us briefly go over the story. The main mystery is a solid and from what I remember of the stuff I looked up on Fear Effect it stays true to the series’ motif. It starts off as a cyberpunk like action show with the leading team getting together to retrieve a mcguffin but as the story progresses it quickly becomes clear that there is much more to it than that. In the genres section I left out one particular theme on purpose. Fans of the old games can guess what kind of twist awaits. As far as the lead characters and the English actors’ go they are also solid. It is one of those stories that brings up past events but does not spoil anything major. More like it tries to encourage the interested to look up the previous games to learn more about the cast. The interactions they all have here are cool and like the main story it kept me going to see what else they have to say to each other and what else they would do. I only talk about English voice acting in reviews as I am not a good judge of Japanese voice acting. The ones in Sedna did a solid job. The gang exchange intentionally cheesy lines here and there that get chuckles from me. The serious moments were handled well. While the game is Rated R the more violent and gruesome content is not exaggerated but instead used sparingly. That is fine by me as I did not come into this game looking for bloody explosions in every cut scene. Be aware that it does have its freaky and gruesome moments.
Next up is the presentation. As I mentioned in the above picture the cut scene graphics reminded me of comic books and 90’s cartoons, specifically ones that always take place at night. I ran into a few cut scenes that were a bit jittery early on with the transitioning not being quite right. It only happened one or two times. Nothing major. Besides that the characters and settings all looked nice for what the developers were going for. Again it captured the style of the series in my eyes. The soundtrack is one of those that fits the mood and setting. It got the job done.
Let us move on the gameplay and where most of the the mixed reactions emerged. Put simply I thought it was okay. It is neither terrible nor amazing, just decent enough to keep me going to the end. So how does the game play? It is an isometric shooter. It is a style I am most familiar with in Western RPGs such as Starcraft, Baldur’s Gate, Fallout, XCOM etc. There are also isometric action games such as the ones by Supergiant Games and the first one I remember playing, Sanity: Aiken’s Artifact. As far as FES goes it is alright.
Here is how the game works. It is part action, stealth and puzzle. I took the most advantage of the action and puzzle parts whereas the stealth not as much. There was nothing wrong with the stealth. It worked fine. Basically the player controlled character crouches and while doing so the enemy’s line of vision, meaning the green area in which the player can be detected, becomes visible, leading to potential stealth kills. However, there were very few times Hana, Rain and the others went on solo missions so there was not really much need for me to go down the stealth route myself though as someone in the comments pointed out it is possible to go through most of it stealthily if the player is patient and skilled enough. Basically the best phrase I have to describe the game is the following: “THANK GOODNESS FOR MEDKITS!”. Were it not for there being a decent amount of them per mission I do not know how I would have managed considering my preferred “guns blazing” style of play. Because of that I could pull through a not so easy game.
Each character comes with three different weapons/abilities, the third one becoming available between the second and third quarter of the game or so. Some of these include a gun with bouncing bullets, a flamethrower and a confusion thing (It can get enemies to attack each other). Other skills include “telling your teammates to stand still” (It has it uses believe it or not) and the “tactics” button which allows the player to simulate their next move by having the character move forward scouting enemies and attacking them accordingly. Think of it as a battle recording skill. I admittedly did not find much use for it but it is there for players who want to give it a go.
The other thing to keep an eye on is the Fear Meter on the top left. The more damage the character takes the faster their heart beats, lowering their defenses and accuracy. Again this is something that is best applied when going solo or having your teammates stand still and the player character moving ahead. Since more often than not the player is in a party of three or more (even two is enough) the “guns blazing” approach got me out of several jams until near the end of the game. Like I said, “THANK GOODNESS FOR MEDKITS!”.
Most of the missions take place in buildings or facilities meaning the enemies encountered will mainly consist of hired thugs with guns. Every now and then a new foe will emerge until they become more frequent. Point being that for a while the firefights are battles of attrition which depending on the reader is something they are okay with or could feel a sense of repetitiveness surging. Personally I am in the former as I wanted to keep going regardless. It was still amusing shooting down thugs and rolling out of the way when possible. Plus when Deke got the flamethrower I had a naughty smile. The bosses are neat with there being more than one final boss depending on the path chosen near the end.
One of the best parts of the game (depending on who one asks) are the hacking puzzles/mini-games. Personal favorites are the non-numeric code ones as they are like neat mini-games whereas the numeric code ones have players search the area paying attention to specific numbers. My least favorite being one in the third mission (set in France). There are also some environmental puzzles. So some of the earlier puzzles are “eh” but as the game progress they become more fun figuring out the patterns. Be careful though, some of them are trial and error, meaning that failing certain ones come with a Fear Effect tradition of “death animations” such as an explosion or being frozen solid.
Oh yes. One important thing I forgot to mention. Before the 1.02 patch the game had what it called a “Fog of War” which covered unexplored areas in a black fog that would get exposed as players got further. While some were cool with it I thought it made things unnecessarily tougher. The update introduced the option to turn off the fog. This made exploring levels MUCH BETTER. Worry not. Removing the fog does not lower the difficulty by much. It is still decently challenging. Oh and there are also hidden Bonus Totems (hidden little gold dots) that unlock illustration items and other stuff and scattered documents revealing more details on what is going on alongside the cut scenes.
And now the main reason I became interested in the Fear Effect series in the first place, the so-called controversial relationship introduced in Retro Helix, Hana X Rain. The developers did say they would not shy away from the two being a yuri couple and I can confirm that being the case from the scene after completing the tutorial mission to other times they show affection for one another every now and then from adorably cheesy lines to sweet moments when in private. That was all I hoped for, the two being openly acknowledged as a couple and that is what I got. OG approves.
Overall Fear Effect Sedna is a solid game. It is nowhere near as bad as critics say, especially after the option of turning off the “Fog of War” was introduced. It is not amazing either. It is a decently enjoyable title. I used the adjective solid throughout the review because that is the best way to describe the game. The presentation, characters, story, voice acting, gameplay (barring the repetitive thug fights), all solid. The puzzles start off as nothing special but get better as the game progresses. As for who to recommend the game to…whoever found what I had to say about it interesting enough to check out.