Earlier this week, indie developer inkle released an announcement trailer for their new science-fiction adventure game Heaven’s Vault. The game focuses on archaeology and translation of a lost alien language, and to be entirely honest, that’s enough to grab my attention and to getme very excited: I studied archaeology and dead languages in University…finally, I’ll be able to put my degree to good use!
Join archaeologist Aliya Elasra and her robot sidekick Six to investigate the Nebula, an ancient network of scattered moons. Discover lost sites, freely explore ancient ruins, and translate the inscriptions you find to unlock the secrets of the Nebula’s forgotten past.
In this open world adventure you will decipher an entire hieroglyphic language to solve a massive interlocking puzzle with a unique narrative twist: the translations you choose feed back into story, changing Aliya’s ideas about what she’s uncovered. But be warned — you’ll never know for sure if your guesses are correct.
I think that this concept has a TON of gameplay potential. translation is intrinsically a great foundation for puzzles, and lend itself wonderfully to the non-linear and branching gameplay that inkle is promising. Tackling different archaeological sites and mysteries in a different order is going to (hopefully) give you different bits of information to use in translation. Add to this the narrative of the game, and the different choices and paths you’ll have to navigate, and there’s the makings of a strong game here.
Oh, and I REALLY hope that there’s a mechanic for things to be mistranslated so I can relive all the times I drastically changed the subject of Cicero and Livy’s writings…
Unfortunately, Heaven’s Vault has been getting some undeserved negative feedback.
I’m in complete agreement with a number of people that the game’s walking animation, or lack of a walking animation, is a little off-putting and strange, but I kind of want to wait and see how it feels while playing before judging. However, there’s been a huge amount of people claiming the game is “Tumblr Propaganda“, “just another SJW video game“, or “Anita Sarkesian’s dream game“. At the time of writing, the game’s trailer sits at 464 likes to 214 dislikes, but the ratio was much more lopsided earlier.
If this seems like deja-vu, that might be because it is: the same criticism got leveled at Campo Santo’s new game In the Valley of the Gods which also features a main character who is a woman of color engaged in archaeological pursuits, at the end of last year when it was announced (though In The Valley of the Gods is historical, not futuristic, and doesn’t have the same focus on language that I am particularly excited about).
It’s just sad that this fact is forming the basis of so much criticism, when we have nothing to go on in terms of characterization, character arc, or anything else to legitimately critique these characters. I’m all for playing as a female archaeologist, exploring long lost cultures, be they of Earth or some distant alien planet, and I’m all for criticizing a indie game for employing a movement system that doesn’t feel good, or passive game play and a lack of player choice.
I know I shouldn’t be surprised, but what can I say: I’m hopelessly optimistic when it comes to random internet interactions…
If you’re interested in the development process of Heaven’s Vault, then follow the dev blog for ongoing updates as the 2018 release approaches.