Vaesen (2020)

Vaesen (2020) is a horror/mystery game from Fria Liga, derived from the work of Johan Egerkrans (specifically his 2013 book Vaesen). His gorgeous art is reproduced throughout and is the lynch pin of the game’s setting. He captures both the playfulness and fearsomeness of the supernatural entities in a warm, autumnal light.

The world of Vaesen is one in which humanity is encroaching on the wild regions where supernatural creatures dwell. While not necessarily hostile, they are incompatible with our industrialized world of reason. Thus, the horror of Vaesen is born out of tragedy. There is a sense in some Hellboy stories that in killing the monsters he fights, he is robbing the world of its magic. Vaesen shares some of that — these mythic creatures are only ever acting in accordance to their nature, not out of malice. Humanity is the interloper, but the monsters are the ones that get punished. So a horror game? Yes. But a melancholy one.

Vaesen uses the Year Zero Engine and this one is more at the lighter, more narrative focused end of the spectrum, in the same neighborhood as Tales from the Loop. Skill and attribute values equal the number of dice rolled, sixes are successes, damage is rendered in statuses that remove dice from your pool. Too many statuses, you can’t do anything and are maybe dead. Pretty standard. Non-standard is that monsters also have statuses, and these dictate their behavior, which is interesting, since solving a mystery isn’t usually about killing a monster, but rather finding a solution to a problem that is forcing the monster to clash with humanity. More on mysteries tomorrow, though.

The other main thing with Vaesen is a fun base building meta-game, derived from Mutant: Year Zero. Your characters are part of a larger society and success in the field can lead to upgrades for their headquarters, which in turn give characters an edge in future investigations. This sort of thing is catnip for me and I think Vaesen’s approach strikes an excellent balance — the base building is an engrossing reward that doesn’t overwhelm.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *