Heaven’s Vault: Separation of Knowledge

At this point, the passages I’m translating are getting longer and longer, but, due to my earlier translation efforts, have more and more words already filled in. Moreover, I have enough words with definite translations that I’m noticing patterns. Glyphs seem to be not phonetic letters but lexemes. That is, specific glyphs have meanings. There’s one that, if I see it included in a word, I know that the word indicates a place. Another glyph indicates negation. Sometimes recognizing these things is enough to positively identify the correct translation from the list that the game gives me without any other context. The frustrating thing, though, is that the game has no way of acknowledging my certainty. It only knows about Aliya’s certainty, which is formed only after seeing a word in enough different contexts. But Aliya’s certainy is only very loosely related to mine.

When you first make a guess about a word, that guess will show up in any further translations with a question mark by it. When Aliya is satisfied and the guess locks in, the question mark goes away. This is useful, but it doesn’t acknowledge the difference between words that I took a wild guess at and words that I’m very certain about but haven’t seen enough instances of for Aliya to share my certainty. What I really want is a third status. Lacking it, I’m considering taking a stab at completely eliminating the wild-guess category. Taking paper and pencil and making a comprehensive lexicon of glyphs I’ve seen in the hope of figuring out what they all mean. The game gives you enough context-specific help that I haven’t really needed to take external notes yet, but it may be time to start. Not because I need to in order to finish the game, but just for my own satisfaction.

There’s a similar separation of player knowledge and character knowledge going on at the story level. The game has a repeated pattern of Aliya coming to realizations about the true purpose of sites or buildings. A minor example: At one point, you find a building with rows of benches facing a central platform with a statue of a goddess. Clearly a temple of some kind, says Aliya. But the statue strangely turns out to be made of wood painted to look like stone, which is a bit of a mystery, until she finds a fake sword in a prop chest and realizes: It’s not a temple, it’s a theater! Oftentimes Aliya’s observations run ahead of my own, with the effect that her dialogue explains the site to me, makes it so that I don’t have to figure things out. But occasionally I’m a step or two ahead of her. When I first saw that “temple”, my immediate thought was that it looked like a theater, or possibly a lecture hall. I’ve just been through a site, which I won’t describe in this post, that combined these two things oddly: Aliyah made some deductions that I don’t think I would have thought of on my own, but at the same time didn’t piece them together with the part that I thought was obvious.

I’ve commented before about frustration in games like Phoenix Wright where it’s impossible to act on deductions that you’ve made but the player character hasn’t. Heaven’s Vault avoids this by giving the player a great deal of freedom of action. So I’m going to just call these moments “dramatic irony” and leave it at that.

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