A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this game.
Though rooted in a sci-fi setting, the story touches on familiar real-world issues such as learned prejudices held by people with differing backgrounds. The branching dialogue demonstrates that what we say has consequences, both in terms of how events unfold and how people interact with each other.
Positive Role Models
Aliya is a smart, confident, and resourceful historian and scientist, but also sometimes a little bit rude and condescending to those with whom she interacts. The player can customize her personality to a degree by choosing how to respond to other characters.
Ease of Play
Exploration and movement are simple, and dialogue selection is intuitive. But the hieroglyph translation puzzles will leave some scratching their heads, and sailing Aliya's ship between moons can be a bit frustrating thanks to awkward controls.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know Heaven's Vault is a downloadable futuristic adventure for the PlayStation 4 and Windows PCs. The game is about a historian attempting to decipher ancient hieroglyphs found on moons in a strange nebula. It hasn't got any inappropriate content. The heroine is a smart, strong-willed scientist who uses her intellect to solve problems and collect information from people -- though, depending on dialogue choices made by the player, she can sometimes come off as a bit rude and condescending. Players gradually come to understand that their choices have consequences, since the characters with whom Aliya interacts remember what she says to them. Parents should be aware that even though there's little here that's inappropriate for younger players, the translation puzzles and narrative themes are geared for a slightly older audience. The story lightly touches on some familiar real-world issues, such as learned prejudices held by people with differing backgrounds.
Is It Any Good?
An open world adventure focused on storytelling and puzzles and free of fighting makes for a refreshing change, but it may not be for everyone. Heaven's Vault's greatest strength is also bound to be what turns off some players: Its translation puzzles. Inkle has done an admirable job making a game out of the process of examining rune shapes and using what you've previously learned to make educated guesses as to their meanings. It really does feel like you're playing the role of a historian doing a historian's work. The downside is that there are times when this work, well, feels like work. Players stab around in the dark -- much as a real translator of hieroglyphs probably does -- until something finally clicks with Aliya and she becomes certain of a word's meaning. Some players will relish the authenticity of these puzzles and may even feel like they're really learning a new language, while others are bound to quit playing in frustration.
Assuming you're among the former group and you keep at it, there's plenty of other stuff to enjoy -- especially if you like discovering new worlds. Aliya is a compelling character, and getting to know her quirks -- such her frequent annoyance with Six -- is a pleasure. Plus, the millennia-spanning timeline that slowly develops as the game progresses tells a separate but equally fascinating story of a mysterious and powerful empire, and how the subject of our search is connected with it. Time spent sailing the waterways between moons can get a little tedious, mostly due to awkward controls, but thankfully far more time is devoted to exploring each location, finding artifacts, and getting to know the locals. If you take to the challenging translation puzzles, Heaven's Vault should prove a smart and charming alternative to action-oriented open world games.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.