For anyone that never played the first two Fear Effect games on the original PlayStation, don’t worry because you weren’t missing much back then. Fear Effect Sedna is the third game of the series that continues the story of Hana Tsu-Vachel and her group of mercenaries as they complete jobs as freelance agents for hire. Yet unlike the first two Fear Effect titles, which were third-person action games, Sedna makes a wild change for the series by having isometric view and tactical-action gameplay. And while it might be great for fans to see the gang back together again in their cell-shaded style after all these years, there’s very little else to love about Sedna. A combination of poor design choices, an outdated sense of humor, technical hiccups, and frustrating difficulty spikes make Fear Effect Sedna lose what little charm that may have still been within the series.
Anyone who has played Fear Effect 1 and 2 will enjoy seeing Hana and her colleagues working together again as mercenaries. The story picks up four years after the events of the first game, with Hana and Rain being together while taking on whatever assignments they can complete to get by. After Hana agrees to take on a new job for a mysterious organization, a crazy series of events leads her to cross paths with other characters, as well as confront Inuit folklore and legends. As a whole, the story does have moments of suspense, but can often be spoiled by dialogue that can be downright annoying.
The humor in the conversations in & out of cutscenes can feel like an outdated 90s spy movie, with a lot of innuendo and forced one-liners. Some scenes look terrible with what appears to be wonky animation for the characters, as well as spoken dialogue that feels like it was delivered with no emotion whatsoever. Unless you really like the characters of Fear Effect, you’re not going to connect with them very much with how they’re spotlighted here.
The gameplay of Fear Effect Sedna can be the cause of most frustration, despite being a welcomed radical change for the series. Instead of moving around in third person, you have an overhead view of the area and can move freely to complete puzzles and engage enemies. However, not everything is all good. The isometric view during each stage can sometimes hinder your ability to see key objects or tell the difference between walls and platforms, mainly because of the poor choices in color scheme for each area you explore.
You might find yourself trying to move carefully, but accidentally run into a wall or trigger a trap because of how hard it is to tell things apart in the environment. This can be incredibly annoying when you have to search the area for clues to solve a puzzle blocking your progression, especially when failure to do so leads to your immediate death.
Combat in Fear Effect Sedna feels restrictive and can be a real drag when you’re forced into engaging enemies. While it’s always preferred to be stealthy and take out enemies unnoticed, you’ll eventually have to get into an open firefight with them. When this happens, using your weapons and evading can be stiff and feel like you’re trying to move underwater. It doesn’t help much when your enemies also have phenomenal aim and can soak up your bullets like a sponge, often forcing you to use a medkit to stay alive.
Dying in Fear Effect Sedna shows you a death screen that changes depending on the situation, which can happen quickly with traps tied to some puzzles throughout the game. However, the game needs to load each time you die rather than immediately going back to the previous moments before your untimely death. Loading can vary, but still be noticeably long in some portions of the game with a lot happening on screen. What’s worse is how the checkpoints in Sedna can be placed poorly, sometimes forcing you to rewatch dialogue that you cannot skip.
Which leads to the biggest hurdle one will experience in Fear Effect Sedna, the many bugs and technical quirks that happen throughout. In cutscenes, the combination of various effects on screen can cause the camera to go crazy and lose sight of the action. One scene in-between stages on a helicopter has a constant stuttering of the camera, making everyone talking during the scene completely irrelevant to the distraction happening in the forefront. During gameplay on some stages, enemies that react to your movements can get caught in walls or appear to fire at you through barriers, yet still be protected from your attacks. These types of hiccups can sometimes break the game and cause you to reload the checkpoint. This can be a remedy for most issues that happen, but it’s still incredibly frustrating to deal with, especially in later parts of the story.
Outside of the main story, you don’t have a lot else here besides some bonus content. As you play through each stage, there are hidden artifacts to find that unlock extra concept art to view in the bonus menu. These are filled with character designs and other pre-production art from the making of Fear Effect Sedna, which may appeal to fans of the series.
However, their payoff and challenge to unlock them may be a little offsetting to some, particularly to anyone who feels they need to force themselves to overlook the game’s various issues. It would’ve been a nice touch to have the artifacts unlock fun references to earlier Fear Effect games, such as unlockable outfits for the characters, trailers, or other unique nods to the series.
Fear Effect Sedna tries it’s best to bring back a forgotten series, but misses the mark despite taking liberties that could’ve worked out very well. The isometric gameplay is an interesting take that distinguishes Sedna from the previous games, but the technical bugs and poor level design bog everything down. The story is somewhat decent, but the dialogue and humor is rather lackluster and archaic. Hana, Rain, and the crew were cool characters for their time, but they just don’t have the charm on this adventure like they use to, maybe next time they’ll do better.
This review was based on a digital review code for Fear Effect Sedna for the PlayStation 4, provided by Square Enix.