Fear Effect Sedna (Switch) Review – A Fearsome Endeavour
Platforms: PC, Nintendo Switch (reviewed), PS4, Xbox One
Publisher: Square Enix Collective
Release: 6th March 2018
Originally an Eidos Interactive property and released in 1999, Fear Effect quickly become somewhat of a cult classic, only to be put on ice after receiving a sequel. Now Square Enix, the new right holders, put the franchise into the hands of their French Collective developer Sushee, resulting both a remastered and the prequel Fear Effect Sedna, Let´s just hope, the remastered will be better than this one though.
Playing before the original Fear Effect, Sedna sets out to tell a compelling prequel story with the already existing and established cast. Circling all around Inuit mythology and diverse set-pieces, it doesn´t sound too bad, if only it could actually make use of any modern story-telling technique.
Feeling like a game ripped straight from the early 2000s, Fear Effect Sedna relies on almost the same humour, characterization and plot one would expect from a retro title. The cast consists of a group of stereotypes that utter one-liners, stupid sex jokes and whatnot in an almost endless fashion, lacking any kind of depth and overall, becoming more annoying the longer the game drags on. Surely Sushee wanted to mimic the original but forgot, probably even delivering more of the exact same thing, but forgot to actually add something new to the mix, a unique flavour. It´s not remastered, where the age can be blamed, Sedna is a modern prequel, yet not able to incorporate the evolution of gaming into itself. Imagine a cringy 90s parody and you pretty much have a good grasp of its writing.
Even the gameplay suffers from this exact problem. Like the original, Fear Effect Sedna is a top-down shooter, mixing strategic mechanics together with more action-oriented ones. Every character has only a very limited health pool, medkits are rare and taking cover during encounters is a key aspect, as both shooting and controlling them is a rather clumsy, passive endeavour. In combination, the game relies on the ability to pause the action and transform into a turn-based action game.
Unfortunately, neither of those options offer too compelling gameplay. Playing in real-time suffers from a heavy lack of tight controls, everything feels somewhat passive, clunky and bad. Once in cover, moving a character becomes a hassle, since they move incredibly slow and nothing really feels responsive. The fact they shoot mostly on their own, with only special abilities that can be activated manually, the “real-time” approach, feels like a turn-based game without turns. So the other playstyle quickly became my way to go. Sadly, even this one is nothing more than a generic copy paste without anything new, often falling over little problems like the lack of fast battle progression, damage values or anything else resembling a tactical depth.
Though, the iconic “fear” system should´ve brought the change, altering the damage and defence values of every person depending on their health. If an ally or enemy has low health he deals more damage but receives more as well. It actually works pretty well, infusing the generic system with a breeze of fresh air from time to time. Surely Fear Effect Sedna does not give a single fuck about telling the player the amount of bonus damage but at least it´s there on paper and might even show itself from time to time when a boss goes down far easier during the last third than before.
On top of all that comes the horrible puzzle and level design, consisting of the ever same, boring, linear corridors. In combination with the occasional riddles, which require backtracking or seemingly unthinkable solutions, Fear Effect Sedna regularly bores the player or breaks the pacing even more. Hell, the first puzzle demanded from me to walk back the entire level to check signs and I still couldn´t figure it out without guessing. Such situations are a common “design choice”, reminding one of the decades old games but not a recent one.
Graphically, it´s nothing to write home about as well, featuring a cel-shading look accurately described as “standard”, there´s nothing unique nor interesting in it, just a plain, generic copy-paste of a popular style. During gameplay, in particular, the textures, anti-aliasing and alike can´t hold up well on Switch, offering a pretty disappointing but solid running experience, taking up a whopping 6.2Gb for not much content.
Fear Effect Sedna isn´t a good game, it´s a prequel to a decade old game, grabbing tightly onto its idol, while never able to bring anything new to the table or offer a compelling, fun experience.
[A Review Code was provided by Square Enix Collective]