Vernon’s Legacy: An Early Access Look

Shaping a Horror Game with Community Feedback
Shaping a Horror Game with Community Feedback

Vernon’s Legacy is a first person horror-tinged adventure that takes place around the time of the Great War. Before you say Dear Esther or Gone Home let’s just clarify something: this is not a walking simulator. It’s worth mentioning because when you begin chapter one of this title, feelings of déjà vu may creep in. Your uncle recently passed away, and you have arrive at his estate to pay your respects. However, there is no one in his home. Instead of butlers and relatives, there are letters and notes left behind. The home is somber, abandoned, and unnerving.

One of the first things that will stand out is the detailed environments and good use of soft lighting and high detail textures. Most of the house is either shrouded in shadow or in muddled dark green hues, with numerous furnishings. The atmosphere is dark and foreboding.

There is plenty of puzzle solving to work through between letter collection. These puzzles are often intricate, involving a thorough scouring of a few rooms before a solution becomes apparent. There are items to be gathered; keys that need locks, codes that need cracking, and liquids to reveal hidden messages. There were plenty of times I sat befuddled, staring at my monitor, rubbing my chin stubble trying to figure out what to do with the latest bauble. It is commendable to find this initial chapter both casual enough for novice gamers to navigate, yet challenging enough for veterans to chew through.

PromisingVL

There are some things however, that raised questions as I explored through the silent corridors of Uncle Vern’s abode. Where the scares at? What about some foreshadowing? There’s one dead-end hallway where you hear a symphony of mysterious whispers. Why are there whispers there, and no where else? While upstairs the hallways are too dark, white text appears across the bottom letting you know that you need to turn the lights on first. Later, you find a fuse box downstairs and again white text appears asking you to find the missing fuse. Why not narrate those portions? Hearing Robert, and all the vocal subtleties that could go along with each discovery would be interesting.

That missing fuse by the way, is inside a locked wooden combination box. Do people keep fuses in locked boxes? Perhaps that’s an antiquated turn of the century habit? That brings up another point, some of the puzzles make no sense and are difficult through being illogical. Most of those are solved by diligent searching, not through an exercise of wits. I tend to favor the later.

FixThisEA

The second act of Vernon’s Legacy takes a sharp turn in a different direction. The extensive note collecting is replaced with a deadly cat and mouse chase through the basement tunnels. There is no explanation as to what is chasing you. It is a shifting shape, draped in shadows. A skull with darkened vapor trails that patrols the stone corridors.  It took many deaths to realize I can actually outrun this thing. Searching for items was still a necessary task. As well as, solving some simpler puzzles — while avoiding the apparition hunting you. A few times I was startled, running into Mr. Skull for a sudden but quick death. While some jump scares are good, it is also frustrating to have to restart the same sections over and over again while you trying to memorize the basement layouts.

In it’s current state, Vernon’s Legacy can appear uneven. Isn’t that the great thing about Early Access? Developer’s like TripleBrick can utilize gamer feedback and opinions like a whetstone. Refining aspects that work, and reworking others that don’t. There are only two chapters available to play, while the final two chapters are being sharpened into a memorable horror experience based on what players are expecting.

Detailed art-nouveau decor, provide a nice visual setting for this grim tale
Detailed art-nouveau decor, provide a nice visual setting for this grim tale
Fortunately it's 1918, Freddy Krueger boiler rooms haven't been invented yet.
Fortunately it’s 1918, Freddy Krueger boiler rooms haven’t been invented yet.

I look forward to the coming months as this game’s conclusion is finished. There is a lot of potential for Vernon’s Legacy to be memorable thriller. I can’t help but draw comparisons to Layers of Fear, another game that evolved into a masterpiece after months of Early Access testing. There is a story being told and explained, there are good puzzles to sink into, there is even frantic chasing and legitimate jump-scares in Act II. These elements are not easy to pull off and tie into a detailed story. Vernon’s Legacy could prove to be a sleeper horror hit this year, and all it takes is for the right group of fans to write up their thoughts on Steam’s forums.

Steam