Frustration is the Effect of Sedna!

Fear Effect Sedna, developed by Sushee, published by Forever Entertainment and The Square Collective, and funded through a Kickstarter campaign.

Senda is the third instalment in the Fear Effect franchise and it’s been away for a long time. After the franchise debuted in 2000 and Fear Effect 2: Retro Helix hit the shelves in 2001, it’s been a long time since we first met Hana, (the face of the franchise) so what has a 17-year break done for Fear Effect?

Hana Tsu Vachel. Character design is great throughout the game.

Well, there are no prizes for guessing that the franchise isn’t on the tip of everyone’s tongue and with the latest effort I can’t see it being there anytime soon.

Now, I have to admit right off the bat that being a gamer of ever advancing years I’m old enough to have some fond nostalgic memories of Fear Effect and it’s sequel. So when I tell you I’m disappointed in this entry to the franchise, note that I do so with a hint of sadness and frustration.

Fear Effect Sedna, an isometric stealth action game with challenging puzzles, which sounds like a jumble and to be honest, it is. I had hoped that the varied gameplay elements would work to provide a nice mix of tense action and brain aching cerebral delight, however, the games combat fails so horribly that at times I didn’t want to suffer through it to reach the next excellent puzzle.

One of the unique elements of Fear Effect has always been Fear itself. Your health bar is reminiscent of an EKG and the faster your pulse the more damage you’ll take and the less you’ll deal out. Once critical it beings to pulse and flash red until you pass out, have this happen to your entire party and it’s game over. Now there are things you can do to lower your pulse and ‘restore health,’ such as the obvious medkits you can loot from defeated foes or performing such actions as stealth kills. One issue, however, is that during some of the all-out action sequences you’re simply not able to run off and wait for the usual attention-span-lacking goons to lose interest in you, allowing you to sneak up and regain your calm.

Combat in Sedna is frustrating, dull and heartbreakingly challenging for all the wrong reasons. The game gives you the option to pause the scrapping so you can issue orders to the ragtag bunch of mercs we know and love but X-Com it isn’t! Rather than issue orders and resume the flow of battle, you’ll need to micromanage almost every aspect of the characters. So even while ‘tactically paused’ the combat feels clustered and messy. The experience is even more frightful if you allow it to ‘flow’ (exceptionally loose use of the term flow) in real-time. Each character has several special abilities which take varying amounts of time to pull off (too long, *looks at Glas deploying his turret). The A.I won’t use these abilities by themselves meaning even more micromanagement.

When in real-time, the combat consists of selecting your target with the right analogue stick, (selecting, not aiming!) and holding the trigger to use whichever small arms weapon the character you happen to be controlling has. Weapons, for the most part, consist of semi-automatic weaponry, meaning that holding down the trigger feels exceptionally unnatural and passive. Many a time I found myself tapping the trigger expecting Axel to quickly unload his sidearm into whatever foe had incurred my wrath, but tap, as I might it, made no difference, instead, I ’d have to hold the trigger and wait for him to empty the magazine. It might not sound like a big deal but it makes the combat feel completely detached, which combined with the frustrating difficulty ruins any joy I was otherwise having as far as the core combat was concerned.

There’s also a dodge roll option, which at times is the only way you’ll be able to get outta dodge, as it reduces the damage you take and can be used to quickly find cover. Cover that at times is lacking, and you’re forced to roll around like a certain blue hedgehog but never quite able to escape your attackers. So you’re forced to stand and fight, meaning more often than not, dying, over and over. (Zombies I’m looking at you, oh how I hate you so!)

The result of many a failed combat! Damm Zombies!

It’s not all bad and the game isn’t entirely about combat. Stealth is a big part of Fear Effect and it’s stealth works like most games, crouching makes you harder to see and reveals enemies vision in helpful cones that branch out ahead of them. It even changes into checkered lines to reveal blind spots in their vision, giving you the opportunity to advance to these areas for a satisfying stealth kill. However, speaking of opportunity, I feel that Sushee missed one here. The animation for a stealth kill is nothing more than a quick flick of the character’s arm resulting in a pained grunt from the clueless goon as they collapse to the ground. Now those of us who’ve played the previous games remember the rather graphic death scenes that would precede that ever so familiar game over screen (Resident Evil eat your heart out). While these do make a return much to my enjoyment, I’d have loved an in-game cinematic for a stealth kill specific to each character, but alas it was not so. That disappointment aside the stealth aspects are passable if unremarkable.

Puzzles, now we are getting to the reason to actually pick up Fear Effect Sedna if you lack the nostalgia associated with the franchise. Sedna has some of the most brilliant and challenging puzzles in any game I’ve played in my many years. I will admit that the tanker puzzle had me screaming with frustration, I became so miffed at this challenge that I drafted in my fellow GameHype writers. Alas, on this night it had defeated us all. I was but one step away from just entering every single one of the possible 10,000 4 digit codes. Well, that turned out to be a very small step indeed. Once I’d input over a hundred unsuccessful codes I decided to sleep on it. Well as so often happens in these situations, I completed the puzzle first attempt the next day.  Now as you can tell, I do not like the combat in Sedna at all, however, such was the elation and relief I felt finally defeating each puzzle that onwards did I play, through death after death just to reach the next puzzle. This pattern continued for most of the game, it’s puzzles are fantastic. Just not good enough to save the game from it’s many flaws.

Whether you’re a fan of Fear Effect as a franchise or not, I’d have to advise avoiding Fear Effect Sedna. Great puzzles aren’t enough to save this one and at times it’s Kickstarter budget are all too obvious, with so many interactions being nothing more than voice acting over static images of the characters.