As Indiana Jones would know, the work of an archaeologist is never easy! Especially Aliya Elasra who is tasked with finding the lost professor Janniqi Renba somewhere out in the atmosphere. With very little leads and only a brooch that was left behind she will have to traverse the whole Nebula region and search unknown moons and planets with the help of a trusty robot named Six. But she does this stuff for a living so she should be fine! Right?
Heaven’s Vault by Inkle games is a science-fiction adventure game that has you flying all around a world known as the Nebula. You will talk to people who can be rather helpful, and rather rude at the same time. You have to search for clues to figure out what happened to Renba and perhaps discover that something much bigger is going on than just the disappearance of a college professor!
The game starts off a bit slow as you get used to the unique interface. First of all, Heaven’s Vault is very non-linear so the story will change depending on the choices you make and locations you explore. This is not a “point and click” game so you won’t find yourself collecting a ton of items and using them to solve puzzles. Though you will collect the occasional item such as a key or object to help you open something, plus some cool junk to sell (seeing as you are an archaeologist and that’s what they do!). It’s mainly walking around, talking to people, and searching objects.
As I said you can pretty much take any path you want, however Aliya does give you hints and ideas of where you should go next. Plus certain areas are locked off if you no longer need to go there or if you can’t yet. Also Heaven’s Vault keeps this nifty time-line of all the things you found out and when. This is especially nice if you are one of those people who take a break from a game and then completely forget what to do next!
One of the main objectives of Heaven’s Vault is deciphering a lot of unknown hieroglyphics. This part I found very fun and intriguing. You start with no knowledge of the alphabet or glyphs and basically guess at the symbols until you get a sense of the words might mean. Just like a real archaeologist would do with a new language! At first Aliya can only guess if her ( really your) interpretations are correct, then as you find and learn more glyphs she will start to trust herself and say “yes this interpretation is correct!” and the word will be set. The only way to really learn the words is to search EVERYTHING and find more and more words to help you notice patterns. This was definitely my favorite part of the game!
You get to different locations in the game by flying your ship the Nightingale. You manually fly the ship around the Nebula by directing it back and forth. You can find hidden ruins along paths as well that hold either books with new glyphs or items you can later trade. You have to fly to all the new locations yourself but you can opt to have Six take the reins and fly to previously visited locations.
The dialogue is a bit different as well. It is shown as word bubbles next to characters heads, and you have some choice how you respond as well. The way you respond has some effect on how people treat you etc. so be careful! Also while you are walking you can talk to Six and gain a bit of background and maybe even dig further into the story. Your dialogue choices are timed as well (you can change the time allotted in the options menu.) If you don’t make a choice in time then it picks one for you and that might not be the one you want. I wasn’t a big fan of that, mainly because I am a slow reader and like to think a bit about the best thing to say. The art style is also very cool as it mixes 2d art with cool shadow effects that show you where you were a second ago.
Added all up, I felt that Inkle’s Heaven’s Vault was a very fun and different adventure! It made you feel like a real archeologist navigating new locations and trying to decipher a brand new ever branching text. The open-endedness and the fact that game remembers and adapts to every decision you make gives it great replay value, in fact the game will almost be completely different the second time you play it! I didn’t like the times dialogue choices and it was a bit slow in the beginning, it also has a tiny bit of a learning curve since the game play is so unique but I absolutely LOVED translating all the new glyphs. I give it 4 outta 5 Anhks.
All you adventure and sci-fi fans have to check out this one! It is available on the Steam store or on Playstation Network for $24.99. For more information check out the website here Inkle studios. Happy trails!
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