REVIEW: Haven

Monday, December 14th, 2020

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By


Haven | Main Image
Title Haven
Developer The Game Bakers
Publisher The Game Bakers
Release Date December 3rd, 2020 (PC, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PS5)
Q1 2021 (PS4, Nintendo Switch)
Genre Adventure, RPG, Romance
Platform PC, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch
Age Rating PEGI – 18+, ESRB – MATURE 17+
Official Website

Before I start this review, I’d like to give a few words that exuberate my love for the developers, The Game Bakers. This studio performs and delivers a high level of quality that I don’t see often in a lot of indie titles. Bias out of the way, let’s get into this review – Is Haven fun?

Haven | Title Screen

Title Screen

Upon first launching the game, it throws you into this psychedelic cutscene that shows the two characters in a love-locked limbo with an incredibly catchy beat, thanks to the works of musical talent, Danger. Afterwards, you’re presented with a standard starting menu – New Game, Options, Credits, and Quit. The options menu has a plethora of items, including your standard audio, graphical and language options. Additionally, it offers an accessibility menu.  This menu has many items to change the visual components of the game to further increase readability, something I wish more games offered by default.  Furthermore, Haven has full controller support, as well as keyboard and mouse support. Additionally, this game supports full co-op for control of the two characters by plugging in at least two controllers.

Haven | Intro Cutscene

Gorgeous animation

After starting Haven, it informs you that it is not difficult, but supports a lower difficulty mode if players would further enjoy the game that way. Even though Haven mentions the lower difficulty, the game does so in a non-condescending way. Starting the game, we’re immediately introduced to our two characters, Yu and Kay, via a cutscene. During this scene, Yu and Kay are talking about what to have for dinner, and we eventually learn that Yu and Kay are on a spaceship.

From the get-go, Haven plays like a visual novel. There are dialogue options and sassy banter choices a-plenty. In co-op mode, each player controls one of the characters, Yu or Kay, during dialogue sequences. After a bit more banter, you’re thrown into the open world, after something goes wrong with the ship called, “The Nest.”

Haven | Dialogue

Banter

In the open world, you can move, walk, and glide. Additionally, gliding allows you to pick up flow threads, which fills up your flow meter. The flow meter doesn’t do too much other than keep track of how much flow you have for other mechanics later on in the game, and lets you know when you’re out of flow. Not only can you pick up these flow threads, you can even drift as you’re gliding around, making the open world feel like a personal playground. Later on, Haven expands this open world by having a collection / gathering system. Without spoiling too much, eventually you learn how to use the various resources you gather to craft / cook items aboard The Nest.

One thing that really stood out to me about Haven was the fact that Yu and Kay talk to each other, sass each other, etc., in the open world. Traveling with the two lovebirds is enjoyable, as each have different comments, banter, snide or shrewd reactions, as you explore the world around you. It made the game feel alive!

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Expanding on the flow system, flow is used to clear Rust from the planet’s fragmented island for crafting, etc. Rust is a substance that coats the landscape and affects local endemic life, such as plants or animals. I spent a good amount of time cleaning flow from various islets. Flow can also be used to initiate a flow burst that deters enemies from attacking.

In Haven, you will be traveling on the open world a LOT. The good news is, with the way that the world is designed, this never gets old, and biomes change frequently. Endemic life, veggies and fruits, and rock formations litter the land. There are tons of secrets to find and add to your Nest, as well as expand your survivability capabilities. Campsites can be found along the way to make travel easier, allowing you to rest before upcoming encounters. Fairly early on in the game, you’ll find a map to make traveling easier.

Opening your pause menu, you initially find Status, Settings, Nest, “Stuff,” Inventory, and Dialogue Log options. The dialogue log is a wonderful feature, and allows you to read back any dialogue you may have missed.

Haven is an RPG, so you might be wondering how experience is gained. I will say that gaining experience in the game was one of my favorite things to do.

Here are the following ways you can gain experience:

  • Combat
  • Conversations with your significant other
  • Eating
  • Discovering secrets (which, in turn, give conversations)

Experience gives you more combat options, fun aesthetic things such as flow jumps, and health. Additionally, experience is a relationship meter that’s always celebrated by drinking “Applebrew” with Yu and Kay. Yes, to level up, you need to celebrate over a good drink. These drinking cutscenes are joyful, deep, and provide a good amount of lightheartedness to the overall game.

 

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Eventually, the player will come across their first combat section – and I need to mention this now, if you’re playing Haven for the combat, I’m not sure if you will enjoy this game. The combat system is a good bit of fun, but is very simple and gets repetitive very quickly. During combat, Yu and Kay can impact, shield, blast, and pacify. This is expanded with more options, like being able to team attack. Team attacking can be done by inputting the same command on each character.

However, as easy as the combat is, the most important factor is that it never felt like a chore.

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Although you’ll spend a lot of time outside of The Nest, you’ll spend quite a good bit of time inside of it. Initially, you can cook, eat, chat, sleep, shower, and cure in The Nest. Exploring and completing the story expands the capability of The Nest. Cure heals, cooking heals and gives experience, showering gives silly dialogue, and chat talks about events that are currently happening in the game. I spent a few hours just exploring what dialogue options were available to me on The Nest alone. It was always a joy finding something new to add to The Nest, then using the item just to see what I’d do with it.

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I’d like to take some time to focus on the music and art behind Haven. The art style makes me feel like I’m coming home every time I launch the game, because everything is just so dang comfy looking! From the grass, to The Nest, to the Endemic life, the planet is a place I’d love to settle down on. Kudos to the art direction! The music is also a stellar knockout addition to the game, composed by Danger, a previous musician for the game Furi, among other artists. The music matches and fits the tone of the game extremely well, providing a whimsical vibe as you discover what happened to the planet, while following Yu and Kay’s story. I implore you to listen to at least the first 4 minutes of the soundtrack below.

Now that the mechanics, art, and music of the game are out of the way, let’s focus on the real meat of the game, the story! First, the story is impeccably written, and the lead writer behind the game deserves praise. Second, I’d like to comment on the fact of how natural the dialogue feels between the two characters, Yu and Kay. More importantly, on how the dialogue doesn’t feel forced and clichéd – this is incredibly lovely to me.  Third, despite the fact that this game is about two lovebirds, Haven tackles issues that real couples have on a daily basis – not everything is perfect. In conclusion, Haven provides a masterfully crafted story that tugs at the heartstrings, while not forcing fake issues.

Haven is a love story about two individuals who escaped from their previous home, the Apiary. After landing on a planet named Source, they make their home base the spaceship they landed on. They learn how to survive, thrive, and figure out what happened to this planet. Though things aren’t easy with earthquakes, endemic life, and mysterious rust that plagues the shattered planet, the two characters survive and thrive on Source. During their time on Source, they come across revelations as to what happened on the planet, what the Apiary did to it, and the reasons behind it.

Yu is a spunky engineer – she thrives on making machinations work, and is certified tough. Kay is a former biologist who has a talent for cooking and a sassy, yet nerdy, demeanor to boot. Without going into more details about the characters, Haven expertly leads the players down a path that winds and weaves the two characters stories together, as well as elaborate on their pasts and who they are.

Yu and Kay share hardships, triumphs, and love stories along the way. Though most games really force a narrative when it comes to romance, this story leads you by the hand and doesn’t push.

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To answer the question we started with, “Is this game fun?” I’d say yes. I can only speak for myself, but by the end of the game, I didn’t want it to be over. Craving extra dialogue, I spent numerous hours searching for secrets – the writing is that good! The Game Bakers poured their heart and soul into this creation and it oozes with creativity and love. Haven is a futuristic representation of a mature, functional relationship, while telling a story that sings to the soul.

For the player that loves a good romantic story, as well as the player that looks for a game that’s rich in story and dialogue, this game is for you. For the player that only wants action and gameplay, you might find the game to be a bit lackluster. I think, however, that this game is for everyone, from hardcore players to the casual crew, and I clocked in around 21 hours. For the price point, at $25, I think that the game is absolutely worth it. Haven, in a few words, is beautiful, relaxing, and passionate.

Haven | Logo

Review Score
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Review Copy Provided by Publisher

About Jacob Grindstaff

Avid lover of videogames, technology, and art, Jacob Grindstaff has been playing videogames since the early N64 days. After spending 4-5 years of his young life in I.T., he decided to continue his education and is currently working on his bachelors, often streaming videogames and entertaining his colleagues. He can often be found having a brew joyfully with friends.