Heaven's Vault - PC Review


Heaven's Vault is an adventure game where players take on the role of Aliya Elasra, an archaeologist who is searching for a missing roboticist. She embarks on an epic journey to find the man, but along the way, discovers strange hieroglyphics that must be deciphered in order to figure out what happened. It's an intriguing premise.

Aliya travels to different places via The Nebula to find the man. She travels on a flying ship called The Nightingale. This is an integral part of the journey, discovering enough about the places that the roboticist has traveled in order to reveal the mystery. That said, Heaven's Vault is in no way linear and does not hold players hands when deciphering Ancient. I absolutely love it.

Story and Gameplay

The story in this game is amazing and I've spent a lot of time playing it in the last couple of weeks, partly because of my love of story based puzzle games, but mostly because of everything it gives me.

For one thing, players get to be archaeologists, which is something I've always been fascinated by. As an archaeologist, we get to discover new planets and decipher hieroglyphics without being told the correct answer - although, as you figure out words and phrases, the game will cross out incorrect answers and confirm words that must be correct.

Another interesting and unique element about Heaven's Vault is the timeline feature. When progressing through the game, it will log the various decisions you've made as a player, and it can be organized by actions completed on a planet or show the assumptions made for the Ancient language. This adds an element of realism to the profession of archaeology as each artifact will be categorized based on others that were found from the same era or contain similar markings to hieroglyphs already discovered. It also gives players an understanding of the depth in this game. Its size and scope becomes more apparent as players progress, showing that your decisions are part of a larger goal. By looking at the timeline, players realize that decisions can't be forgotten, and they get the sense that the game could play out differently should they commence another playthrough.

Heaven's Vault definitely pulls you in with its story and I find that NPC's remembering how you interacted with them is refreshing. I was kicked out of the office at the beginning of the game because I offended Myari, but other players might not have the same reaction. As a result, my thoughts of this woman has been skewed, and I made decisions based on her dislike of me. On that note, there are people that I cannot talk to because of how I responded to them - which is a game concept that I absolutely love. It's important to know that some of the characters are genuinely good people while others are questionable. So, making friends with NPC's aids in the discovery of the missing man, as well as what he was doing when he disappeared.

Throughout the course of game play, I found satisfaction in exploring every area possible. As such, the game rewards the player by providing objects containing more hieroglyphics to make solving other phrases easier. Sometimes, other characters in the game would have objects that also contain parts of Ancient too.

A feature that I love in Heaven's Vault is the autosave function, which allows players to experience the story without forcing them to manually save the game. There are some drawbacks with the autosaving feature. For one thing, I have no idea how frequently it saves, but it's enough that each time I've needed to exit the game, it recorded my progress. The second thing about it is, players that are accustomed to making decisions and then changing their minds. In Heaven's Vault, they can't simply go back to a previous save. I often find that players use ability too much in video games because they don't like the results of their decisions. This game, in contrast, is designed to pick up and play in the most literal sense and it forces players to stand by their choices. Frankly, there aren't a lot of games that are designed like this and I appreciate it even more as a result.

If I could ever make any sort of minor complaint about Heaven's Vault, it's that there is no run feature. Now, I have two minds about what I just said. The first is that because of the fact that there is a shadow of Aliya as she navigates an area, the game doesn't let you sprint because it doesn't fit the art style - at least, not in my opinion. On the other hand, sometimes our curiosity gets the better of us and we want to rush over to new areas to discover clues. While some people might find a faster speed necessary, I don't share the same view. Sure, it's annoying that we can't always blink or sprint to a new area, but often I found myself too wrapped up in the game to notice this.

Graphics and UI

I've been playing on a controller, allowing me to sit back and enjoy the experience, which is fantastic because there is a lot I love about the game. It has stylized graphics and the entire color palette is muted to other games, I still marveled at its breathtaking visuals.

When traveling on the Nightingale, players end up following a river in the sky called The Nebula - and 'river in the sky' is really the best way to describe it. Players navigate around obstacles while talking with Six about what has been discovered up until that point. Even though there are rocks that peek through the river you traverse, it doesn't appear to cause any damage to your ship. In fact, this section of the game reminded me of traveling through Agartha in Secret World Legends. (Don't worry devs, this is a good thing. I happen to love that game.)

The UI itself is quite simple. The analog sticks are used for movement as well as looking around, the four main buttons are used for various dialogue options and interactions, and the trigger buttons are used to zoom in and out when plotting destinations. Since there is no combat in the game, there is no need to complicate the system. That said, there is a health bar for your character. It will only appear when players encounter a section of game play where it makes sense to show, and it will appear at the top center of the screen.

Music and Audio

Anyone that knows me, knows that I love music, and when a game presents music that complements the player experience, I'm immediately onboard. Heaven's Vault is no different in this aspect. The portions of game play that have audio is simply stunning. Specifically, I'm referring to the moments during your travel through The Nebula, but there are other points where the music is compelling. What I like about these traveling scenes is that it functions as the games loading screen, but that isn't the only thing I like about it. It's that unlike traditional game loading screens, Heaven's Vault gives players things to do like talking to Six, listen to the beautiful music, stare in awe at the breathtaking graphics, and navigate the paths to reach a destination. Honestly, it's something that has to be experienced, so make sure to listen to the music!

I'd also like to talk about the incredible voice acting in this game. Gem Carmella is Aliya and I find that her voice perfectly fits the character because she has a distinguished voice befitting of a university professor - a fact you discover at the beginning of the game. Because of the dialogue and the voice actress, Aliya is a fully realized character. She is also quite strong willed and is very curious.

I don't know if the actress listed on IMDB is the same Gem Carmella, especially since there doesn't appear to be any video game credits. So instead of linking to that, here is Gem's Twitter and the Short Sighted Cinema website and Twitter accounts where she and Kate Williamson have a list of short films they've worked on together. Please feel free to take a look at their works.

Final Thoughts

Overall, this game is brilliant. Aliya is a character that I enjoy because I get to choose my responses to a situation. She is inquisitive, smart, sassy, and has a strong personality. I also really love the fact that this game is non-linear, allowing players to make their own choices about their game progression. I also have a fascination with archeology and so giving me a protagonist that works in that field makes me quite happy.

Heaven's Vault is beautifully designed, has spectacular music, diverse charming characters, and I love it. I need more games like this in my life!

My final score for Heaven's Vault is a 9 out of 10, and I'm only taking off the point for some small issues like the slow movement and the minor issue I have with map navigation. Other than that, I adore this game. Inkle studios has really impressed me with this release and I look forward to exploring more of their games in the future.

Heaven's Vault is available for purchase on Steam and PS4. Later in the year, the game will be released for Mac and iOS. Don't forget to follow the game on Twitter, Facebook, and join the Discord!

Game Information

Inkle Studios
Inkle Studios
Single Player
Other Platform(s):
PlayStation 4
Mac and iOS (later)

Provided by Publisher

Article by Susan N.


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