REVIEW: Haven

Jan
04

REVIEW: Haven

A romantic stroll through a bizarre sci-fi future, Haven offers a casual co-op experience that’s decent enough, though it may be too corny for some and too light on feature for others.

Released: Steam
Type: Single-player, Local Co-op
Genre: Adventure, RPG
Developer: The Game Bakers
Publisher: The Game Bakers
Release date: 03 Dec, 2020

Overview

I’m always on the lookout for new games that I can play with friends. Whether it’s a long-term multiplayer strategy, RPG, or shooter, or just a fun hop-in and hop-out round-based title, I’ve always found that most things are better when you’re breaking them out with people that you enjoy being around. Friends can turn a good game into a great one, or a subpar one into a decent enough one.

I picked out Haven as one to give a shot with the special someone in my life. The choice was more for her than for me; she’s something of a romance fanatic while I’m of the variety that tends to think that something more exciting could be happening when the scenes turn soft and cuddly. That said, I was mildly curious thanks to its promises of being an RPG with some choice involved between the players, so I buckled down and got myself ready for the ride.

Let’s Run Away Together

Haven is a science fiction story about a boy and a girl that ran away to be together. They arrive on an abandoned world that’s broken into many fragments, though it conveniently has paths known as flow bridges that our heroes can use to fly through the air with their Ironman boots. A few particularly powerful tremors later and we find them officially stranded after their ship takes a tumble off of a cliff and suffers serious damage. This is where the game really begins and you’ll find yourself zone hopping as these two inseparable lovers explore the world in the hopes of repairing their spaceship and dealing with the complications that arise along the way. Yes, this is the plot of Toe Jam & Earl if Earl had been open and honest about his romantic feelings for TJ.

Idealism and optimism is the name of the game for these lovers cut off from the rest of civilization.

As you might expect, the dialogue throughout is packed full of romantic interactions. It’s mostly scripted, though you have a choice between two options of what to say at some points. I found some of this dialogue rather dull and this was while playing the game in co-op; I can only imagine that it would’ve put me to sleep if I were playing solo. It’s mostly overly sappy, clingy romance that frequently made me wonder if the two of them running away together had been the right choice; they give off the vibe of a couple of teens having their first romance without factoring in the repercussions of their actions. It often felt like they had little chemistry so it was odd that they were constantly with each other at every moment. That said, the overall story was interesting, even if we spent a lot of time laughing at our second-hand embarrassment of the character’s actions and the occasional dive into risque conversations, including one where they were ERPing and made a direct reference to our gentleman hero’s erection. It does avoid anything visuals-related that would require a serious boost to its rating though, so you’re safe there.

Uh, guys? We’re still here.

Flow, Rust, and Boba Nuts

Without question, Haven’s gameplay falls into the casual category. You spend most of your time exploring and I’d say that this is arguably the best part of the experience. The music was designed skillfully and adds a relaxing atmosphere to the excellent and unique art that makes up the scenery around you. You spend plenty of time flying around on those Ironman boots that I’d mentioned earlier and it’s really not that bad. It’s not something that I’ll find myself dying to do again a few years from now, but it kept me entertained and that particular aspect never felt repetitive. The gradual introduction of new abilities keeps your adventure from growing stale as you play and I think that the straight-forward progression is a boon to a title like this one as you don’t spend much time scratching your head and trying to figure out what to do next. Before the experience dulls to the point that you need to put down the controller, something new happens that will likely keep your interest.

There’s an assortment of creatures for you to rescue and befriend. They don’t tend to do much, but hey, they’re pleasant enough once they’re not possessed by rust.

If you’re looking for the next Dark Souls, the combat of Haven isn’t going to blow your mind. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to as it’s more of a tacked-on system than the primary focus here. Commands are broken up into a pair of attacks, shielding, and pacifying. Attacks offer you a couple of angles of approach when it comes to dealing damage to enemies, as some of them are nearly immune to one or the other. Shielding allows you to dive in the way of any incoming damage, both shielding your ally and reducing it against yourself. Pacifying is the coup de grace here, the action that you take when a foe has had its health drained and you’re finishing it off. This isn’t a murder though, you’re dissolving the rust that’s causing the normally docile creatures to become violent and returning them to their natural state.

Syncing up in combat is absolutely required for our heroes to overcome their most challenging foes.

Outside of the exploration and cleansing of the many fragments of the world, you’ll find yourself frequently engaged in mundane tasks. Cooking plays a large role and you’ll find yourself gathering up ingredients to mix together new dishes. These recipes are discovered through the experimentation of mixing two of your collected edible resources together and I can honestly say that I found this more satisfying than I would’ve expected. I felt a spike of excitement whenever we found something new that could be used, even though the dishes themselves were for experience and health recovery. It’s not quite to the level of Stardew Valley’s thrill of finding a new packet of seeds, but it did bring a sense of accomplishment.

Pardon?

Verdict

Haven is a nice enough diversion from the heavy hitters of your library, though I see it as something of a one-and-done. The atmosphere is not only skillfully designed but also unique, and the overall feel of the gameplay is casual, for sure, but enjoyable and fulfilling in small doses. If you get a thrill out of achievement hunting, there’s something here for you as there a decent number of them, many of them that require some investment on your part outside of the story. The price tag is a little much for what I’d be willing to pay, but if you catch it on a sale, I’d say that it’s worth your time as it doesn’t ask for too much of it. Just make sure that you bring a friend.

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