Way back on the PlayStation, there was a game that took aspects of survival horror games at the time, and added an interesting spin on health. Fear Effect had stylised cell-shaded graphics placed on top of full-motion video environments, and was received well enough to get a prequel the following year with Fear Effect 2: Retro Helix. However, the series ended with a follow-up being cancelled when developer Kronos Digital Entertainment closed.
Since publisher Eidos Interactive was acquired by Square Enix, all of their IP were absorbed as well. When they created the Square Enix Collective, they tasked small studios with pitching games based on their established IP -- so Sushee Games submitted their pitch for Fear Effect Sedna.
Sedna retains the stylised look and certain mechanics of the past games, but has sought to improve upon them. It brings back the anxiety meter, which is where the title ‘Fear Effect’ comes from, but rather than replacing the health meter it’s in addition to it. The most obvious change is the camera -- the original two had fixed camera points, similar to the original Resident Evil or Dino Crisis. Sedna instead has an isometric viewpoint for the gameplay, similar to Shadowrun Returns.
You control Hana, Rain, Axel, Deke and Glas, and it takes place four years after the events of the original game. I hate to be so vague about the story, but since I only played about 20 minutes I haven’t really seen enough of it to comment. The portion I played was at an arctic facility (judging by the snow), which allowed me to try out the combat and puzzle mechanics.
I was quite happy to see the ‘death cutscenes’ from the previous titles make a return. For instance, failing one puzzle kicks in a cutscene that freezes everyone with liquid nitrogen, followed by a Game Over. Yes, you don’t want to keep seeing the same cutscene over and over again, but it’s different to just falling over dead like most games.
The game can be controlled by keyboard and mouse, or by controller. Weirdly it also recognised my flightstick, which overrode the keyboard and mouse, so I had to unplug it. The controls are simple and effective, with movement on the keyboard and aiming on the mouse. You can move and shoot, hide behind cover and shoot, or use your secondary weapon. That changes depending on which character you’re controlling, so it could be grenades or even a flamethrower.
Due to the new viewpoint, it opens up perfectly for the tactical mode. At any time you can pause the game with a button and tell each character what to do, with the camera giving you a slightly wider view of the field. This lets you split your forces, make each character attack someone different, or make sure someone with a high anxiety meter is kept out of tense situations.
The build I played didn’t have anything associated with the anxiety meter, apart from it going up and down. I’ll be honest, I don’t really know what it does in Fear Effect Sedna, because it’s not related to health. There are health packs to heal and drugs to raise or lower anxiety, so I believe that it feeds into special abilities.
The portion of the Fear Effect Sedna that I played was enough to whet my appetite. There were some framerate issues and some stiff voice acting, but on the whole it’s a good looking game with a great soundtrack. I’m sure that any issues I could highlight are being worked on -- if they haven’t been ironed out already. There’s still no firm release date set, so they certainly have time to tighten things up and make a proper tutorial.