Game Previews

Fear Effect Sedna Preview – A New Interpretation of a PS1 Classic

(Fear Effect Sedna, SQUARE ENIX)
(Fear Effect Sedna, SQUARE ENIX)

You can choose to watch a 50 minute video of me playing it if you want to see the game in action. Although the sound is a bit quiet. On the other hand, below lies the written form.

When I saw Fear Effect Sedna appear onto Kickstarter, I had that double-take moment. Maybe even spit-take a spoonful of tea. To most, the game title likely means as much as the majority of the games that creep onto Kickstarter. To me though, it represents something special. As I played through the original Fear Effect game many, many, many years ago, and its sequel Retro Helix about three years ago. Even occasionally I had thought of “what if Fear Effect 3: Inferno wasn’t cancelled…”

So to see a sequel arrive was a pretty special thing to me. So I backed it. Undeterred by, and even curious of, the new gameplay approach by new developers Sushee. Rather than a static-camera action gameplay, it seemed to have a more isometric strategy take to it. Perhaps I would have taken it worse if there wasn’t some Eidos Interactive (the original developers of the series) veterans on board like John Zuur Platten (writer). Fortunately, I got to get my hands on an early alpha of Fear Effect Sedna.

Gameplay wise, it appears uncertain of what Fear Effect Sedna wants to be. Cover being a bit wonky, unlimited ammo and a fair share of health left me thinking they were going for a more action pulpy approach of “who fires first wins.” This was made more significant as tactics were a smidge simple. “Go to this cover,” “fire at him,” “use ability.” On the other hand, your characters have a rather simplistic nature to direct combat (e.g. no combo elements), have limited ammo capacity before reloading and limited skill useage that suggests a more strategic approach.

Fear Effect Sedna, SQUARE ENIX

(Fear Effect Sedna, SQUARE ENIX)

Overall, the general impression I got was I was looking at a Fear Effect version of Baldur’s Gate without the RPG elements. Something that sounds like “couldn’t miss the point harder of Baldur’s Gate,” but in reality I’m actually not against the idea for combat. Especially as each character functions differently enough to encourage particular tactics. Although there is enough missing that upon addition may finally settle on the precise tone of the combat.

For instance, stress. Apparently, higher stress increases damage and decreases armor. Making characters into, what scientists call, “a glass cannon.” Right now, it doesn’t quite feel noticeable. Plus, being in a glass cannon state (which can be induced or stopped via drugs) seems to suggest a more strategic angle I’m not quite seeing yet. Although part of that could be I don’t have numbers to chew on, because it isn’t that kind of game.

However, what is likely a safer area to gnaw on is the voice acting. This is likely where the purist in me is likely emerging like a bear from hibernation. I admit the original voice acting wasn’t exactly ground-breaking, simply good. It has also been 15 years since Retro Helix so the original voice actors have likely gone on to brand new projects.

Yet, the voice acting feels off. Hana, Rain and new-comer Axel sound okay. Even if Hana’s Americanized accent is maybe a smidge too Americanized, but that’s nit picking. However, Glas, since the events of Fear Effect, has been huffing sulfur hexafluroide gas. His voice now bizarrely low, in contrast to his original medium-pitch gruffness. In contrast, Deke seems to have stumbled upon the opposite effect as he’s partial to helium. Now more high pitched than he used to be.

While most newcomers may not notice (although some may find Glas WAY too low pitch), fans may end up bothered by the new voices.

Fear Effect Sedna, SQUARE ENIX

(Fear Effect Sedna, SQUARE ENIX)

Although speaking of Deke going through a change, it seems his mentality has taken a turn. Perhaps I’m misremembering, but I recalled Deke as a pragmatic individual with a malicious streak. Never one to pick a fight, but one to return the punches gleefully if they come his way. On the other hand, some of his conversations in the level I tried hinted that they’re toning down on the pragmatism and increasing the maliciousness. As every time he talks, it seems directed towards shooting someone. Getting a chance to, doing it or having done it. Perhaps it is an intentional shift, but it feels like there has been a shift.

If it sounds like I’m saying Fear Effect Sedna‘s alpha is bad, but I’m kind of not. If it was bad to its core, I’d either struggle to work out what to say or I’d be beating every single part of it. It’d be a verbal lashing so grand, the editor would have to remind me, “it’s an alpha, calm down.”

The fact I’m having to go precise means that it seems like it is going in the right direction, but still there’s a good amount to go. I criticize small pedantic details like voice acting because I care, and because there is potential for something true and spectacular to come from this.

An example of how Sedna shows potential is its aesthetic. Sometimes a successor, after many years, can be either stuck with aged graphics in an attempt to be true. Even more oddly, sometimes they feel they need to reinvent it all lest someone accuse them with the “damaging” claim of faithfulness.

Fear Effect Sedna, SQUARE ENIX

(Fear Effect Sedna, SQUARE ENIX)

Fortunately, Fear Effect Sedna leaps off the original distinctive cel-shaded effect. While similar, it doesn’t have quite the 2D feel of the originals. It instead feels updated, slick and smooth. Of course there are some current oddities (especially in the animation department), but most of the aesthetic is there and works wonderfully.

As of right now, there is no release date and you cannot order Fear Effect Sedna quite yet. However, it is on Steam if you want to follow something.

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