- Developer: inkle
- Publisher: inkle
- Release Date: 28/01/2021
- Price: £14.99 / $17.99
- Review code provided by inkle
Introducing: Heaven’s Vault Nintendo Switch Review
I didn’t know a lot about Heaven’s Vault when I was given the review code. In fact, all I knew is that it was made by inkle, a popular developer in the mobile phone realm. But that was enough to get me excited for this title and see what it was all about. In a way, I like going into some reviews blind where I know as little as possible about what I’m about to experience. To say the least, I was pleased with what Heaven’s Vault had to offer and can easily recommend this game as a must buy for 2021. Read my full review to see why Heaven’s Vault captivated me and why you should download it immediately.
Waters Connect Everything
As Aliya Elasara, a talented archeologist, you’re set on a quest to rescue an errant roboticist by your mentor. At first, the world encompassing Heaven’s Vault is small with sparse settlements scattered on distant moons. A sprawling nebula connects these moons with rivers seldom sailed. Already equipped with a small ship, you’re entrusted with a robot with whom you can bounce ideas off of during the journey. Early in your travels you uncover a threat of sweeping darkness which is to bring about the fall of human life. It’s up to you and your robot sidekick to uncover the truth of the nebula and either speed the process along or halt it as best you can.
Heaven’s Vault is a masterpiece in storytelling. From the dialogue to the plot, I hung on every moment during my 20 plus hour playthrough. The writing is sublime and to further the exquisit adventure, you’re given a lot of control on how the game will play out. Your choices affect the people and world around. Sometimes, inaction is just as impactful as making a stalwart decision. The narrative was so gripping that even during my “free time” I still turned to Heaven’s Vault over any of the new games I purchased this year. I simply couldn’t put it down.
Among Distant Moons
Heaven’s Vault is an adventure game blended perfectly with a visual novel which you help write based on a few factors. The gameplay, though simple, was quite engaging. Exploration is critical as you scour the nebula for clues of an ancient past threatening to re-emerge. Each location you visit has areas to search and occasionally people to interview. Most of the dialogue is prodded by pressing Y to ask a question or B to make a remark. Whether you state these inquiries to yourself or your robot, it serves to examine your thoughts and gain insight into recent events. Other times, several dialogue options with flushed out sentences will be available to help drive the story onward.
Outside of creating the dialogue, you also seek to understand an ancient language made up of mysterious glyphs. Like any good archeologist, you start by looking for commonalities between words you’ve learned and new markings you find. A lot is inferred in the beginning but luckily your robot will offer occasional assistance. You can also visit some old friends who deal in antiquities or are scholars of the past empire. They will look over artefacts you have found and help with translations or share similar items they have come across. All of these actions are up to you and help the universe of Heaven’s Vault feel more cohesive. I never knew deciphering an ancient language of over 3,000 words would be so gratifying.
The only part that felt slow from the gameplay was traveling the rivers of the nebula from place to place. You’re given freedom of where to go and when, granted you have to find enough artefacts to unlock new locations. As you sail the streams, you have to follow the flow and you can’t back track. Traveling is made better by adding a few wayward ruins which typically give you an immediate relic. These sporadic ruins aren’t explored in person but your robot will quickly retrieve anything of note. As you tour the nebula, you’ll be able to steer your craft and engage in conversation with anyone on your ship, including the robot. If you’d rather skip straight to your destination, that’s an option as well.
The Flow of the Nebula
I was fascinated with the artstyle they used in Heaven’s Vault. When exploring various locales, Aliya leaves an imprint of herself behind each step. Rather, a duplicate image of the character appears on screen and slowly fades. Almost a whisper or echo proving she was there. I’m not sure if that was the intention, but it meshed perfectly with the setting of analyzing the past and examining remnants that ancient people left behind.
The music was beautifully crafted. The soundtrack accompanying your journey in Heaven’s Vault is an exemplary example of how music can uplift the environment and add to the story. Furthermore, the voice acting was spot on. Not every word is spoken, rather occasional thoughts reverberate at key moments improving the already stellar narrative.
Ancient Script and Crumbling Ruins
Heaven’s Vault was a smooth experience. I loved playing handheld on my Switch Lite but the advantage of playing on the big screen so my wife could enjoy the story was not lost on me. Either way you choose to play, Heaven’s Vault will run exceptionally well. The only bug I encountered was in the menu. When going back to phrases I was unable to translate, word options would duplicate at the bottom of the screen making it hard to read the various combinations. This in no way ruined my experience or prevented me from enjoying the game. In actuality it was a minor issue but still worth mentioning.
If it hasn’t been clear to this point that I was completely enraptured by Heaven’s Vault, I don’t know what more I could say. Heaven’s Vault is unlike any adventure I’ve embarked on and I was lost in it’s wonderfully crafted world. The story mesmerized me and the gameplay had me hooked. Interpreting glyphs and translating ancient works and lost tomes was more enjoyable than I thought possible. I felt like a modern Indiana Jones, surfing a mysterious nebula trying to solve an archaic calamity with a robot at my side. With new game+ and infinite ways to approach the story, Heaven’s Vault deserves a place in the annals of history. Or at least a spot on your digital shelf.
- Immersive World
- Gripping Gameplay
- Stellar Story
- Minor Menu Glitch