Review – Heaven’s Vault (Switch)

The vast majority of games I review in this website can be easily compared to another recently released title. It’s rare to find a game that feels unique, fresh, completely different from everything else I have played up until this point. That’s especially true in the realm of adventure and puzzle games, but there’s always an exception to the rule. Heaven’s Vault, originally released on Steam two years ago and just recently ported to the Switch, is an example of what I’ve just described.

Heaven's Vault

Heaven’s Vault is a looker.

Heaven’s Vault is a story about finding what happened to a professor working at the same university as you. It’s also an archeological adventure because your main character, Aliya, is an expert in ancient civilizations, especially when it comes to translating ancient languages. Finally, it’s also an excuse to flesh out your main character’s personality and backstory, as a good chunk of the game is focused on her relationship with Six, a fully sentient robot helping her out in her mission. As to be expected, because it’s the most obvious cliché in the book, Aliya hates robots, yet she’s forced to work with one.

The translation puzzles are the best thing about Heaven’s Vault. At first you might feel a bit lost, but considering how the game never truly punishes you for making a mistake (you can basically redo any puzzle at any time), it encourages you to try out word combinations until you find something that makes sense. It’s also a true test of logic, as you can use previous translations to help you out whenever you find a new word. An example is when you discover the word for “holy”, only to find a very similar combination of letters later on that can be translated as “God” or “Goddess”, considering the obvious logic of having such similar meanings being written with (mostly) similar letters. This is just one of the various puzzles scattered throughout Heaven’s Vault, and boy does it feel rewarding when you manage to crack a code.

Heaven's Vault

Yes, this is a sci-fi game and you can sail through nebular rivers… or whatever the hell those things are.

Even though the game’s highlight is whenever you’re given text to translate, most of your time will be spent talking to NPCs, especially your robot companion. It’s a lot of talking, but the game does give you a certain amount of freedom as far as how to tackle these sections. No, I’m not talking about having tons of dialogue options for every situation, but letting you decide how much you want to talk with people. If you so choose, you can reply to a character more than a dozen times, with new information and lines of dialogue showing up every single time.

It’s a nice way to handle conversations in a game completely devoid of action. Unfortunately, you can’t exactly tinker your protagonist’s personality with your answers as much as you think you would. Aliya is bitter and antisocial, and that reflects in her remarks, especially with the adorable robot companion Six in the beginning of the game. Sometimes I’d end up acting rude towards the poor robot simply because there was no other answer besides being borderline racist with any being made out of metal.

You WILL feel like scholar solving those language puzzles.

Finally, in order to go from one area of the game to another, you need to sail your intergalactic ship towards your destination. You read that right: Heaven’s Vault is a sci-fi game, which completely caught me off-guard. Sure, I knew there were robots in this world, but I wasn’t expecting to sail on nebular rivers just like that totally underrated Treasure Planet movie released by Disney a few decades ago. Sadly, the sailing controls are really clunky and probably the only time the game doesn’t deliver when it comes to its controls.

Sailing through the nebula is one of best showcases of how gorgeous Heaven’s Vault is. I don’t think I have ever played a game with such a unique art style. Every single environment is fully polygonal, but characters look, move, and interact like fully detailed cartoons. Not exactly like Paper Mario, as they move in 360 degrees, but more akin to, say, how characters in the Archer TV show interact with the environment. Not only does Heaven’s Vault look amazing, especially on a smaller screen, but it also runs surprisingly well on the Switch’s limited hardware.

It also features a decent soundtrack and even a bit of voice acting. Sadly, the voice acting is only limited to particular cutscenes where Aliya is talking to herself. Every single dialogue section is completely mute, which isn’t exactly a bad thing, but considering how the rare instances of voice acting are well-performed, I ended up wanting a bit more.

Aliya isn’t the friendliest of protagonists, but she does have a very interesting arc in this game.

Issues aside, Heaven’s Vault is still a worthwhile experience. It’s a completely unique kind of game, mixing deep character development, intergalactic sailing (literally), mystery solving, and even ancient civilization linguistics. To top it off, it looks gorgeous, sounds decent enough, and runs surprisingly well on the Switch. If someone ever dares to tell you that there’s no more room for creativity in today’s somewhat predictable gaming industry, use Heaven’s Vault as your trump card. It might be in need of a bit of extra polish, but it’s worth checking out.


Graphics: 9.0

I don’t think I have ever played a game with an art style like Heaven’s Vault‘s. Not only does it look amazing, especially on a smaller screen, but it runs surprisingly well, considering the limited hardware.

Gameplay: 7.0

The language solving is the best thing about Heaven’s Vault. The amount of dialogue choices, as well as the freedom you’re given to dive into a conversation was also pretty interesting. The camera and movement controls can be quite awkward at times, depending on the level you’re in at the moment.

Sound: 7.5

Really impressive (but brief) voice acting coupled with a decent soundtrack. The sound design did not feel ambitious, but it did its job with honors.

Fun Factor: 7.0

Heaven’s Vault suffers from some pacing issues and the fact that it’s not exactly replayable, but it’s a fun and gorgeous puzzle adventure while it lasts.

Final Verdict: 7.5

Heaven’s Vault is available now on PS4, PC and Switch.

Reviewed on Switch.

A copy of Heaven’s Vault was provided by the publisher.