We're going to kick things off with a confession. We never played the original Fear Effect games. With that being the case we have to admit that we might have missed out on some helpful context going in, but it also meant that we had absolutely no emotional stake in whether or not it turned out to be good. Sedna is a return of the cult favourite series after 17 years away, and it just released on PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Switch. It was on Nintendo's handheld console that we spent our time with the game, mostly while in transit with the action playing out on the console's portable screen with it wedged between two colourful Joy-Con controllers.
Knowing that we had time to kill and given how the cel-shaded visuals had caught our eye, we decided to take a punt on Fear Effect Sedna despite knowing very little about it. Unfortunately, our experience with the game didn't match our speculative hopes, and the pausable tactical combat that enticed us in quickly turned out to be a clunky mess of a chaotic gunfire, and the thrilling narrative promised turned out to be a bit underwhelming thanks to lacklustre storytelling. As you're probably realising by now, we didn't have much fun with Sushee's modern update, a game which we thought came frustratingly close to being good.
We mentioned that the graphics had caught our eye, and it's true, Fear Effect Sedna is a good looking game that does plenty with its limited colour palette. In their attempts to build a stylish thriller, Sushee definitely did the business on the "stylish" side of the deal. Both the character portraits that appear during conversations and the isometric action viewed from above is easy on the eye, and all told it's an elegantly put together title. That's really where the positives ended for us, however, and even then the visuals aren't without fault.
Our complaints in that area are related to the readability of the action on screen, and sometimes it can be hard to keep track of where your characters are in relation to the scenery. Maybe that wasn't improved by playing on the Switch's handheld screen, but it certainly doesn't help that there are invisible walls gating your exploration in certain places, further limiting the sense of place that the studio is trying to establish.
Our biggest frustration came from the trial and error puzzles. This kind of setup might work for some, but we thought that Fear Effect Sedna was so limiting that it killed our sense of agency and we lost interest fairly quickly thereafter. If you don't do something exactly how the developers envisioned you doing it, you're not getting past. Of course, when it comes to puzzles there can't always be a range of way to progress and sometimes there can only be one solution, but being killed for experimenting jarred against the freedom they tried to deliver with the combat and it ended up being a source of constant frustration for us. More to that point, during certain sections when you're having trouble, the animations where your character dies can get rather annoying; we wanted to be able to get back into the action a bit sooner than we were able to and restarts could and should have been much quicker.
Combat is built around a system whereby you can pause the action and plot out the movements of your characters (up to four at a time), but it didn't feel particularly effective and often things descended into a chaotic spray of bullets rather than a tactical battle of wits, and it was often easier to let things play out in real-time because you'd still get the same overall result. It's a shame because a bit more nuance and depth to this part of the game would have gone a long way to remedying our overall impression of the whole, seeing as how combat was quite a substantial part of the experience. The stealth sections were better, with a few murderously sneaky sequences sprinkled here and there to mix things up, but if and when your cover gets blown and the guards show up in numbers, all nuance is thrown out the window.
With frustrating puzzles, trial and error design, and combat that never really clicked for us, we were relying on the story and its telling to push us through, but sadly that also failed to deliver the kind of experience we were hoping for. The characters were two dimensional, their relationships unconvincing, the script felt a little clunky in places, and some of the performances from the cast were less than stellar (and that's us putting it rather kindly). There's an attempt to draw us into a tale of mystery and intrigue, with a botched robbery and an international adventure drawing on Inuit mythology. However, while it's a story that has some merit, any positives were lost in the telling.
Fear Effect Sedna is largely relying on nostalgia to sell itself, and for someone who has no interest in the series, there is little reason to get involved now. Even fans are going to have to slog through it to some extent, and the game's frustrating and generally clunky execution makes it a hard sell to anyone, regardless of platform or their relationship with the Fear Effects of old.
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