Heaven’s Vault

Uncover a forgotten past and decipher a lost language.

Heaven’s Vault is the new game from Inkle Studios where you explore an open-world with archaeologist Aliya Elasra and her robot sidekick Six. Your job is to explore The Nebula, an ancient network of scattered moons and solve the secrets of the past. Along the way, you decipher an ancient language and as you uncover more the story unfolds.

I sat down and had a chat with Joe Humfrey from Inkle Studios and we discussed the upcoming release of Heaven’s Vault.

Heaven’s Vault is a beautifully crafted game with a compelling story that draws you in and keeps you coming back for more.

Exploring the landscapes with Aliya and Six

The main gameplay mechanic is deciphering an entire hieroglyphic language through a series of puzzles. You are presented with hieroglyphics and guess at what they might mean. As you progress through the game an uncover meaning related words are translated. It sounds complex, but it’s not. The game eases you into the puzzles and you’ll pick it up quickly and it really reinforces the sense of discovery and mystery. The translations you choose feedback into the story affecting the main character Aliya’s ideas about what she’s found.

The game has a non-linear design meaning you can take on the story in an order you wish. The game remembers choices you make, and the ones you don’t and feeds that back into the narrative for what happens next.

Aliya and Six travel around the Nebula on their ship discovering lost sites, exploring ancient ruins and uncovering the secrets of the past. There’s a whole range of characters to interact with and not all of them are happy to see you snooping around their moons and asking questions.

Story

You start the game as Aliya is introduced to Six in the main city. Six has been assigned to Aliya to help out on a quest to find a colleague who’s gone missing. It sounds simple but the story is gripping and keeps you wanting to find out more.

The game starts with a simple statement – you are needed urgently and off you go. From there you ask questions, discover clues and you’re taken through a mysterious world. I don’t want to give away any spoilers but the story is all about discovery.

The story is subtle but the game contains a timeline mechanic to allow you to discover more of the back story as and when you want it. Each action is recorded on your timeline for you to go back to when you want. Events from the game are recorded and crucially events before you start the game, are also there in the timeline for you to go back to. It’s a neat feature of the game which allows you to dip in when you want to find out more. If you don’t want to then you can simply continue with progress through the Nebula.

Graphics & audio

The game has a blend of 3D environments and 2D art style for characters which is simple, but very effective. The characters are partially animated but there’s a very serene quality to the animation which adds to the beautiful story-telling.

The audio tells a similar story to the graphical art style. It minimalist but gives you enough information at the right time to keep you hooked. I was chatting to a character and pressed them too hard for clues, clearly offending them. The music turned to the minor keys and made me feel uncomfortable. Much as my questioning of the character must have made them feel uncomfortable.

Sailing through the Nebula

First impressions

Heaven’s Vault isn’t like other games you play. It’s not loud, brash and in your face. It’s subtle, beautiful and very refreshing. The game has a retro point-and-click feel to it harking back to Day of the Tentacle and Full Throttle.

From the first moment I played Heaven’s Vault I was drawn in by the story, the art style and the characters. I sat down for a session and before I knew hours had gone by and I found myself thinking about the game long after the session had ended.

It’s great to see a British Developer with confidence clearly on form. Heaven’s Vault follows on from Inkle’s successes of ’80 Days’ and ‘Sorcery!’. I’m looking forward to the full game release and we’ll follow this up with a full review once the game has been released.

Check out the trailer for Heaven’s Vault below.

Heaven’s Vault is available this spring on PS4 and PC via Steam.

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