After 16 years, the Fear Effect franchise is being revived. Hana, Rain, Glas, and Deke are hitting the PC and current generation consoles hard with not one, but two new games. Well, one is new; the other is a reboot of the first game which launched in 2000 on the first-gen PlayStation.
The first game in the series, Fear Effect was published by Eidos and developed by Kronos Digital Entertainment 17 years ago. Therefore, a brief history lesson might be in order.
It was one of the first, if not the first video game to use cel-shaded graphics. Although the characters lacked the distinctive black outline usually accompanying cel shading, the unshaded textures lent it the same feel. This technique gave the game an cartoon/anime appeal that would later be copied by games like Jet Set Radio and Sly Cooper.
Fear Effect went a step further with the anime feel by animating the entire game like a movie. In other words, cameras would cut to different angles as you played. Sometimes it would be a tight close-up shot; then the next scene might be a high isometric perspective. There were no camera controls, so controlling the characters took some practice. However, the style made it feel like you were playing a movie rather than a game.
The second game in the series was Fear Effect 2: Retro Helix. It was a prequel to the first title. There were not many changes made to the game as far as artwork and gameplay. The controls were redone to be a bit more responsive to the camera angle transitions, but other than that it was more of the same.
A third game, Fear Effect 3: Inferno was planned and saw brief development for the PlayStation 2, but was ultimately canceled when Eidos pulled funding for the title. Kronos tried to get another publisher to pick it up but had no takers. The studio shut down a short time later.
Now, after all these years, we still won't see Inferno (yet), but we will be getting the next best thing: a remake of the first Fear Effect (teaser below) and a tactical variation of the franchise called Fear Effect: Sedna. French Studio Sushee is developing both titles in cooperation with publisher Square Enix Collective.
Sushee promises Fear Effect: Reinvented to be a faithful redux of the original game. It will feature updated graphics of course, and the controls will be optimized as they were for Retro Helix. However, the story, the camera angles, and everything else will be the same.
What is especially exciting about the idea of the reboot is that it opens the door for Sushee to continue the series. Although it has not announced Retro Helix or Inferno remakes, the possibility is there. In fact, Square Enix Collective head Phil Elliott told Games Industry that after announcing Fear Effect: Sedna, emails poured in for them to remake the entire series including Inferno. These emails are what spurred the team to decide to work on a remake of the first game. If Reinvented does well, old fans like me might just get to see FE3 after all.
The other title, Fear Effect: Sedna is a departure from the original series. While the characters and stylized graphics are still Fear Effect, the gameplay is much different. Most of the action takes place from an isometric overhead view. Puzzles are solved in a first-person perspective, and story segments are told through animated cutscenes.
The game will focus on character status management. Health, stress, and skill bars will be factors in Sedna. Enemy AI also appears to be vastly superior to the original enemies who would just stand there and let you shoot them. However, the puzzles seem to be similar in that failure means death.
Steam lists Fear Effect: Sedna with a release date of 2017, and Sedna's Kickstarter page listed the game as releasing May 2017. However, Square Enix Collective confirmed that both games are looking to launch sometime in 2018 for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Windows PC and Xbox One.
Being a player who still has a backward compatible PS2 kept specifically to play the original Fear Effect and Retro Helix, I’m pretty excited.