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Heaven’s Vault

Posted by GG Goblin On May - 8 - 2019

A narrative adventure with a whole new language.

Inkle Studios, already known for their excellent smartphone and PC title 80 Days, make their first appearance on console with the narrative adventure Heaven’s Vault. An ambitious project, Heaven’s Vault not only gives the player an impressive branching narrative with memory, but also throws a whole new language into the mix and challenges the player to begin translating.

hv1 (Copy)

There is something quite magical about Heaven’s Vault. At first glance, from the simple visual style to the ponderous pace of the game, players may decide that the game is not for them. But, with some time and a few conversations, Heaven’s Vault will draw the player in to an incredibly deep and satisfying tale.

Players take on the role of Aliya, an archaeologist living on a university moon which makes up part of a nebula that serves as the setting for the game. Things all start out fairly simply with Aliya, and her robot companion Six, being charged with the task of finding a missing student. Before long though, the player will find themselves jumping all around the nebula as they explore ruins and find artefacts, looking for clues and trying to translate the mysterious language that the game has become known for.

Through the various explorations, and indeed during travelling, the player will strike up conversations with all manner of different characters, including their companion Six. These conversations really are one of the highlights of the game, as they are seemingly endless and all have a purpose. The branching conversations are really quite amazing, with the different choices made by the player affecting how they are received or how much information they get. But it continues beyond this, with conversation choices that even seem like idle chit chat having meaning or revealing further conversation branches that could lead to yet more discovery.

Aside form a few lines during the game, the conversations are all written, which is a shame as the voice work that is available is very well done. Anyway, the conversations are nicely varied, with the player able to mix their mood into the responses given, and manage to bring real life to the game. Also, with the huge number of different lines of conversation that seem to be found within the game, and the different routes that any conversation can take, replayability is increased just so players can try different things.

hv2 (Copy)

Not that players will need to replay Heaven’s Vault for a while. The game is surprisingly big, with an extensive map that the player will unlock as they gather more information, giving plenty of new locations to visit or revisit as they continue to search. The individual locations may be quite small, but there are plenty of them, and travelling to them can be part of the fun. Players will jump on their airship, the Nightingale, and then start navigating the rivers of the nebula that link all of these locations together. There is a nice, easy mechanic to the sailing side, something that players will pick up easily. However, no matter how cool this idea of riding the rivers may be, and it is cool, the actual travel can take some time and it does become very repetitive. There is a fast travel option available, in which Six takes over while Aliya rests, but this always runs the risk of the player missing something.

But still, all is forgiven when Aliya discovers another artefact and finds an inscription. This is the jewel in Heaven’s Vault’s crown. Players will be presented with an entirely new language, and it is beautifully written as well. It can be a little complicated to grasp, but basically the player will have to try and guess the meanings of these symbols as they are presented, and the guesses that the player makes carry through to future phrases, whether they were right or not, allowing the player to use their context to translate yet more words. It’s a brilliant idea that can lead one player in a totally different direction to another, depending on how their translations pan out. Sure, this can be somewhat intimidating at the beginning, but after a while players will be able to recognise some symbols straight away. It really is a great little gimmick.

As already mentioned, the visuals are simple, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have merit. Character models are all 2D and set into really quite beautiful 3D environments. Moving from one location to the next, the player will get plenty of variety as they explore the game. The colours pop and bring the world to life. Even the character movement, which in itself is a simple thing, has a quirk in that Aliya moves along as if in frames, with her legs disappearing in one locations and reappearing at the destination. It is unusual and may not be to everyone’s taste, but I kind of liked the strangeness.

hv3 (Copy)

Heaven’s Vault is by no means going to appeal to all gamers. It can be slow and repetitive, and the main language-based puzzles can be frustrating. However, for those looking for a deep and meaningful adventure in a fantastic world, heaven’s Vault is certainly worth checking out.




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