Heaven’s Vault doesn’t look like much to begin with. It feels simple and sparse. The graphic novel idea – illustrated 2D characters in a rendered 3D world – sounds nice, but the combination of characters being only partially animated, moving from still-pose to still-pose, and the environments being basic, feels awkward and, to be brutally honest, a bit cheap. There’s nothing – no cinematics, barely a voice over – to grab you. Yet, from the moment Heaven’s Vault began, I was gripped.
It’s the words: Heaven’s Vault wields them masterfully, knowing exactly when to use them. At the outset you’re simply told, by an odd-looking robot – a sort of hologrammed face on top of a bomb-disposal unit – you are urgently required. No exposition, no “you are here because…” – just an order. It’s very effective! You follow because you want to know more. You can tease information along the way, by questioning or remarking, but no one ever turns and explicitly spells things out. There are no forced conversations. You are only ever told what is appropriate in the moment.
Backstory is tidied away for when you want it, recorded onto a timeline. Everything from what happened five minutes ago, to what happened 30 years ago, can be seen there. Want to know about your first kiss? It’s there. Want to know about your past with a notable character? It’s there, and it keeps it neatly out of the main story’s flow.