Back Society » Tech » Game Concept 'Vệ Thần' Crafts a Magical Realm From Vietnam's Wealth of Folklore

The recent renaissance in Vietnam's game-making market has been strongly driven by independent studios delivering highly acclaimed and anticipated productions.

Among these is Hoa, a Ghibli-like platformer that scored several jury awards for its ethereal visuals and soundtrack; while another high-profile title, Tai Ương (The Scourge), has been on every horror fan's watch list since its eerie trailer came out.

Following in these projects' footsteps, an aspiring graphic designer based in Saigon has devised a mystical game concept called Vệ Thần (The Guardian). Enlisting characters from Vietnamese fables and fairy tales — including Sơn Tinh, Thánh Gióng and Chử Đồng Tử — the game offers a refreshing take on the country's mythical world through its unique character designs and elements typical of the adventure RPG genre.

Trần Xuân Lộc, the mind behind Vệ Thần, is not a game designer by trade, but a visual and graphic artist. He previously authored the viral illustration series "Yêu-Ma-Quỷ-Quái" to introduce some of the most elusive beasts and ghouls of Vietnamese folklore. Lộc explained that it has always been the plan for him to make another fantasy-infused, locally inspired work.

But ideas for the game concept didn't arise until extraordinary circumstances forced him and the rest of society to temporarily "log out" of the real world. With more time to spare, Lộc could explore interests he had never had a chance to try out before. Thus, his social distancing days were filled with adventures, albeit in the digital world of Steam staples like Hollow Knight, Hades and Blasphemous.

“I was just completely mesmerized. Exploring different worlds, solving mysteries, and battling evils…are experiences beyond enchanting. They took me back to the days of my childhood, the era of Megaman X4 and Super Mario World,” Lộc said. As his pre-emptive creative plan and a newfound love for gaming loomed, he began to wonder: "What would an adventure game with a Vietnamese mythology theme be like?" This 'aha' moment, according to the artist, was what gave Vệ Thần its initial push.

The main character of the game is Vệ Thần (The Guardian), the armor of a fallen soldier brought back to life by a supernatural spirit. Apart from the protagonist, there are also other NPC guardians of different sizes, shapes and designs featured in the game. However, all designs are based on the creatures that appeared on prehistoric bronze drums of Vietnam, such as birds, crocodiles and deer.

Players will follow The Guardian on their journey through otherworldly realms, where they will meet allies and foes in the reimagined mythical characters. Through Vệ Thần's demo trailer, we can see nods to Vietnamese culture that have been woven into the game, not only through its NPCs but also through miscellaneous items and scenes. One will be delighted to catch Guardians traversing through Rừng Trăm Đốt, receiving side quests from the Land Genie, and buying supplies from cô Tấm as an entrepreneur.

Although the project currently remains just a visual conceptualization, Lộc said he was already preparing a long-term plan to make Vệ Thần a real game with the help of crowd-funding and actual game-makers. However, he believes that the final product will be vastly different in terms of concept and style, “with a lot of changes and upgrades!”

Until the game is realized, let's immerse ourselves in the world of Vệ Thần through these magical snippets.

One of the key scenes in the game in Rừng Trăm Đốt, or the forest of hundred-knot bamboo.

The protagonist will have to befriend and get help from these special NPCs to complete their quest.

A journey map.

Characters powers and role are tied to their original stories in Vietnam's folklore.

Items such as Túi Ba Gang and Golden Starfruit are also taken from popular fairy tales.

[Images via Trần Xuân Lộc's Behance page]

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