Fear Effect Sedna is an ambitious and unique project for an indie studio. It is perhaps one of the best example of Square Enix Collective working in some capacity, but its execution is so flawed that the overall result is terrible. On the one hand, I want to praise the efforts of the developer and publisher to bring back a classic IP, but on the other hand, this also comes tied in with huge fan expectations which is something that Fear Effect Sedna has failed to deliver in any capacity.
Fear Effect Sedna might use the same IP and its brand name but the gameplay is a complete departure from the classic Fear Effect games. Gone is the fixed camera perspective that was slowly becoming a staple of most games back during the generation of the PlayStation 1. The change to gameplay is a major one which makes it feels like an RPG with its isometric top down view. There are multiple playable party members now under your control as you switch back and forth between them in order to solve puzzles and go through some of the combat encounters.
The major issue with Fear Effect is that the story is now all over the place. If you haven’t played any of the past games, you won’t have much of an idea what is actually going with the story. The characters are also hard to relate for newcomers and the game never tries to establish them, which means you are basically looking at a mess when it comes to the story and character development. If the series was returning after a big hiatus, it would have been far better to introduce the characters to the players, but this is unfortunately not the case here.
This doesn’t even begin to explain the way the story is laid out. The exposition for major elements is underwhelming and the game hardly bothers to try to make you care for the characters, so you will struggle to acknowledge and pay attention to the story. I have nothing good to say for the story aside from the issues like it is weak, disjointed, and barely interesting enough to keep your attention across the course of the game.
This brings us to the other important aspect: gameplay. Fear Effect might ditch its iconic fixed camera in favor of a more isometric view but does this work for the game? The answer here is no, it doesn’t really add anything major to the gameplay and infact adds to the already mediocre experience that the game offers. I wish there was something interesting to talk here regarding the gameplay, but the combat encounters are lazy and feel like there wasn’t much thought put behind them. The game also offers stealth which makes killing easier, but this is marred by a poor AI system that is essentially braindead.
There are a wide variety of different mechanics so aside from the stealth, you will also be solving puzzles or managing your squad. When things heat up, there is plenty of shooting to be had as well which works in the format of a twin stick shooter, but the core of all these ideas is executed terribly making up for a flawed experience. The game doesn’t really offer much fun in the way it lays out these mechanics. Quite simply put, it doesn’t work the way as one might hope. The shooting suffers from stiff controls where you don’t get much option. Simply use the auto lock-on to target an enemy and then fire away. Even if you can try to manage your squad, the game is not challenging enough to offer strategy here and most battles play out rather simple, even ending to your team mates getting revived so essentially lacking the high stakes and thrill to make them interesting.
Despite all of the major issues that I had with the game, I quite liked the art style of the visuals presented here. Even on the Nintendo Switch, the game seems to look rather nice in cutscenes but the frame rate does drop at times during these high quality cutscenes. The visuals are entirely cell-shaded and scale well with the game engine. It is a shame that the gameplay is just not as polished compared to the visuals. I had huge expectations after the opening scene that were all letdown the more I played of the game.
I can understand the big ambitions of the developer however it feels like the game needed more time in development to polish out most of the issues. The combat could have been tweaked so it is fun. The AI polished enough so that the stealth actually feels like it serves its purpose instead of simply being another way to take down enemies quickly. The strategical part of the game could have been expanded with more focus on managing squads. The game could have also worked better with slightly more budget since even the voice acting is also rather shoddy and it is distracting enough that you will be taken out of cutscenes.
Fear Effect Sedna Review (Switch)
Game Reviewed on: Switch
Game description: Fear Effect Sedna is an upcoming indie role-playing video game developed by Sushee and published by Forever Entertainment under license from Square Enix Collective. The game's development was funded via a Kickstarter campaign.
Fear Effect Sedna is a major disappointment especially if you are a fan of the series. The game certainly is ambitious but that doesn’t help it solve many of its underlying problems.