Uncharted Lost Legacy, This is not
If you judge a book by its cover you might be inclined to think Heaven’s Vault as a game is looking to capitalise on Lost Legacy’s tone, but that is not the case as Heaven’s Vault focuses on discovery of an ancient culture and learning a new language, oh and also, it’s set in a nebula.
Platforms: PS4 & Steam
Release Date: 16/04/2019
Age Rating: 12+
Genres: Interactive Story, Adventure, Point Click(ish)
Price (PS4): £17.99
This review for Heavens Vault was based on PS4 version of the game from a key provided to us from developers Inkle
What do you do?
Heaven’s Vault is an interactive story with some aspects of a point and click. You play through the game as archaeologist Aliya from Iox University. She has an itch for valuables and treasure with a sense of adventure where she’d love to be off exploring ruins across the moons of the nebula she is from. You are alerted to return to Iox University from a message as Myari has some concern over a the disappearance of a brilliant roboticist from the university and quests Aliya to track down what happened to him. She offers assistance to Aliya in the form of a robot friend who is later named six.
This is the set up for what will become a truly engaging game filled with plenty of narrative choices, exploration of environments and choices with consequences.
The game itself when upon different locations is some what linear for the most part, in that you progress pretty much one way through the new area till you come to the item or point of interest associated with the location. There isn’t too much to worry about in terms of getting lost within a new destination. Your ally Six will often ask you if you’re ready to head back to the ship. You can refuse and say you’d like to explore more, but eventually it becomes clear you’ve tapped the area up of all its points of interest and are then asked again if you’d like to be transported back to your ship by Six.
All the locations seem to be inspired by Middle Eastern or North African countries, which is a unique look, especially for a game that’s more of a sci-fi game. The locations all seem dated and old as opposed to the setting of the game.
While exploring the moons and ruins of the nebula, you are almost free to constantly engage with your robotic ally Six and ask questions or speak out what your thinking to which he’ll respond honestly. Quite entertaining hearing his opinion on how much he feels some ideas are really bad and shouldn’t be done. One case where you are ambushed on a moon and what you thought to be a friendly face double crosses you and attempts to steal your ship. As you can use a hopper to beam back to the ship from Six, there is no real panic you’ll lose the ship. But when you return you see the suspects who attempted the double cross stranded on the moon to which you begin thinking should you save them, Six will flat out give you his opinion on this.
Yup, plenty of them, even some what small decisions apparently can have particularly large consequences.
There’s a certain mystery to the choices you make. You don’t want to seem too friendly if trying to suck information from someone. You don’t want to see to abrupt and rude to someone in case they are vital for events later on, even if said character you are interacting with is coming across as petulant.
And you definitely don’t want to get suckered into some terrible trades. Trading away two valuable items for a pet gecko that runs away, when 30 seconds later finding out I might have been able to use said items to trade for valuable information about the location of an observatory. Instead due to lack of valuable items to trade, concoct a plan involving smoke and mirrors that back fires and losing an ally in the process. Woops.
Break the code and learn a language
Aside from the interactive story telling that drives Heaven’s Vault, Inkle have created a whole new language for the game which Aliya has to learn and translate. These aspects of the game are really fun too and actually leave the player with a sense of achievement. Especially later into the game when symbols and hieroglyphs start to become familiar and the word solving aspect seems to get easier as you remember the meaning of some of the text. I personally enjoyed discovering artefacts covered ancient text throughout the journey and trying to decipher them.
Sail the rivers
As mentioned the game is set in a nebula built up of moons in which Aliya and Six venture throughout for clues and in search of items or points of interest. To navigate throughout the nebula you take control of your ship, The Nightingale, and you glide it down the fast current of the bendy rivers between moons. That’s right, you aren’t flying through space, but rather traversing down awesome rivers with incredibly beautiful back drops around the river. The ships is controlled by simply moving it left or right with trigger buttons, and there is a guidance system when rivers interconnect to tell you which one you should be aiming to sail down to get to your destination.
Pros and Cons
+ A plethora of narrative choices to keep you entertained
+ Love the setting and environments of the nebula
+ The do I don’t I aspect of the choices is genuinely great
+ Great sense of achievement as you start to decipher the codes
– A tad buggy on the PS4 (Aliya disappeared during some conversation)
– Travelling between Nebula on the river is fun at first, but then a tad dull
– The limited voice over parts sounded really unenthusiastic
Heaven’s Vault is best described as a slow burner. The opening scenes where you return to Iox and learn of the disappearance of Rebna, it didn’t strike me as an exciting adventure to follow. However once you find your first clues and discover this isn’t simply a case of missing person the game interest peaked for me. The learning the new language and solving the codes are really good fun and I loved later on in the game how I was familiar with text. Wait am I having fun learning? The travel between moons is beautiful but once you’ve done it a few times it gets a bit dull and you wish a fast travel mechanic were available.
For me the shining aspect of the game is the dialect you have with Aliya and everyone else. I played through in a seemingly cautious not trusting anyone way with the few exceptions of outbursts at rude people and thoroughly enjoyed it.
Visually the blend of 2D characters on 3D environments works well, especially with the story driven aspect of the game, it’s like an interactive comic book in that regard.
Story wise there’s a good 12 hours here to play and more if you are eager to explore every possible nook and cranny of the moons throughout the Nebula. But it’s not the strongest part of the game, which sadly, a story always should be.
Let’s hear your feedback in the comments, does Heaven’s Vault’s interactive story telling have you interested? You can pick up the game for PS4 here.
Since publishing the review, developers Inkle have heard the various feedback and reviews with regards to the fast travel aspect of the game. They have since patched the steam version a few days back and PS4 version of the game today.