Haven is one of those titles that caught my eye thanks to its exciting art direction and premise. As with most games, to get people invested in your product, you’ll need to create something that captures the eye of your customer, you’ll also need to pair that with good gameplay and deliver a product that is worth talking about. With Haven, the latest from The Game Bakers, a lot of my gaming itches were satisfied thanks to the lack of Gravity Rush available on PlayStation.
As protagonists Kay and Yu, the story of Haven unfolds on an alien planet called the Source. These two are the essential pieces of the game and help push the narrative forward in some interesting ways. As a couple, we learn more about them as they live their lives and complete mundane tasks each day. Being in a relationship is hard and a lot of the ideas behind being with another person are brought up in some clever ways. We see how Kay and Yu are when at home together while making dinner, how they talk when they’re lounging on the couch and how they bicker about small annoyances. It is these moments I feel connected to the protagonists of Haven, and some of the standout highlights of my playtime.
Flowin’ like a River
Kay and Yu land on the Source due to the rules of their former home – the inhabitants are paired in arranged marriages, so learning to love is out of the question. Together, they steal a ship and land on a mysterious planet that is covered in rust, even the enemies are coated in this substance that drives you insane.
Cleaning the rust is part of your daily routine, which covers the majority of the planet. You fly over an area and absorbing the miasma and continue to absorb the substance until the area is clean and clear of it. While the mechanic starts interesting, it quickly loses steam as dozens of areas need to be addressed and it’s not exactly a mechanic you cannot ignore while you’re exploring. The reason being food is scarce and collecting it is crucial to surviving the planet and the other being that areas affected may offer secrets to uncover.
Their story is told through a visual novel style with portraits of both Kay and Yu telling a story. I’m a huge fan of both their designs and adore the art direction Haven uses to tell us a story. Portraits are beautifully animated, the acting is good and with only these two to help us understand what’s going on, there is a ton of detail in their portraits.
It’s Yu and Me
Other than that, the majority of your time is spent exploring the surface of your new home planet. You’re able to move around with the help of anti-gravity boots that help you move around in a smooth, satisfying fashion. As you traverse the planet scouring for resources, Kay and Yu often bicker while exploring and it’s something many of us might find ourselves familiar with. And as you explore these interconnected areas, you’ll do a few things, one of them being to build your relationship with your partner.
Serving as an essential experience bar, your relationship grows depending on several factors including, battles, crafting, even cooking. You’ll also answer questions that affect your relationship with the wrong answer dwindling that core bond, and the more you build a partnership together, the game rewards you by adding health, attack and other stats – the more you make your partner happy and vice versa, the better you’re rewarded. In the Nest, you can craft different things: cures for improving your health, combat capsules that’ll prove helpful against the rusted creatures, and of course you can cook delicious meals.
Haven, You is Beautiful
Exploration is one of my favourite parts of Haven, even at times when there is some redundancy. Paired with a relaxing lo-fi soundtracks makes moving around the Source a blast and simply moving around is something worth getting lost in. The Source exudes these ethereal blue-tinged energy sources called flow that is found in everything on the planet. Essentially, these flow vines make exploration a breeze, allowing you to gain air, accessing otherwise inaccessible areas. There’s a sense of boundless freedom the game offers to you and sticks with you the entire game, my one issue is the game tends to offer exciting areas but do not offer much variety. You’ll often be left picking up resources and continuing.
As a couple, you’ll also deal with the local wildlife on the Source, who is slowly turning vicious due to the rust. Battles play out in a typical RPG fashion with offers Impact (physical) or Blast (long-range) attacks and you can Shield or Pacify which returns creatures to their normal state post-battle. A lot of the mechanics related to protecting your partner and working together to succeed, an idea that translates well to the battle system.
In the beginning, the game really makes combat easier, with enemies being weak to one or the other attack type. Later on, and further into the story, enemy weakness is left up to chance a lot more so it ends involving more guesswork on your end after being attacked and some even change their susceptibilities depending on their positioning and stance. You’ll charge attacks using the D-Pad and face buttons in unison to build up energy, but the mechanics are bare and never really flourish outside of their rudimentary principles.
Haven is an unusual game that puts the focus on the relationship between Kay and Yu to great success. A lot of the mechanics gel together to deliver an exciting adventure on an alien planet but the only deep piece of the game is the relationship between the two protagonists; everything else that the game offers is secondary to the core bond. With just a bit more attention to the battle system, Haven may have fared better. I came away caring deeply for Kay and Yu’s relationship and ultimately, that’s the most important part of this game.
[A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.]
- A distinct visual personality that reminds me of Gravity Rush
- Excellent story beats around Kay and Yu’s relationship
- A chilled, lo-fi soundtrack
- Navigation can get tricky at times
- Clunky menus