Technology | The Guardian

Heaven’s Vault review – new worlds, new words

May 13, 2019 at 09:00AM

A gripping adventure from award-winning studio Inkle casts you as an archaeologist translating an ancient alien language

Heaven’s Vault, a science fiction adventure told with the appealing restraint of an Asimov classic, begins as something of a reluctant manhunt. Your character, Aliya, an orphan who as a young girl was rescued from a planet of slave traders by an esteemed academic, is summoned home to the university where she grew up. There, her adoptive mother beseeches Aliya to find an old friend who has disappeared while undertaking an archaeological treasure hunt. It’s an interruption that Aliya, a freelance archaeologist-cum-treasure hunter herself, could do without. Still, through familial loyalty, or more likely a rivalrous interest in whatever treasure the vanished man was hunting, she glumly agrees to the assignment.

So begins a winding but exhilarating galactic sojourn – one that differs from linear fiction in that it remembers and adapts to every choice and every path you follow in order to build a story acutely individual to the player. The choose-your-own adventure is in vogue thanks, in part, to Charlie Brooker’s recent Netflix experiment Bandersnatch. Heaven’s Vault is, however, a different class of work, deeply complex and textured and building upon its Cambridge-based studio Inkle’s Bafta-winning previous game, 80 Days. The result is an elegiac triumph, filled with the kind of sturdy writing and character development that remains rare – all the more thrilling considering the story’s adaptive quality.

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