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January 2021


Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: RPG/Action
Developer: The Game Bakers
Release Date: Q1 2021


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Switch/PS4/XOne/PC Preview - 'Haven'

by Cody Medellin on Oct. 16, 2020 @ 12:30 a.m. PDT

Haven is an Adventure RPG about everyday love, rebelling against the rules and also, food.

When the trailer for Haven released last year, it was very different from what players had expected from the developer behind Furi. The more visceral combat of their previous game was left behind in favor of a semi-traditional RPG battle system. The more confined boss-to-boss flow now changes to something that's more open. Instead of being a solo venture, you now have something that can be played with a friend or significant other. Thanks to the Autumn version of the Steam Game Festival, we were able to give Haven a spin, and what we found was fascinating.

To be clear, since this demo was meant for gaming conventions that, under normal circumstances, would have occurred over the past few months, it is more limited than one would expect from a demo meant for home use. For starters, even though the full game emphasizes co-op, the demo is only good for solo play. The demo also only lasts for roughly 30 minutes with a scant few areas open for exploration. There's still enough here to form an opinion about the title, but there's also a lot that the game seems to have hidden away for the full release.

The demo does a good job of demonstrating the three main gameplay elements. The first deals with the relationship between the two protagonists, Yu and Kay. The first part is more lighthearted, as the couple is talking while preparing a meal, and you can make a few choices to steer the conversation toward something benign or humorous. The next section has the duo eating, and the choices here can make the situation mundane or take a serious turn; it culminates when the couple is in bed. The conversation mechanics, along with the voice acting and choices, are going to be familiar with those who have dabbled in visual novels before, but the highlight is that these are all taking place in somewhat mundane situations. Most RPGs emphasize the grand moments of the adventure to look at the little things and show off the relationship between a couple rather than a group, so this title feels refreshing.

The second gameplay element the demo has featured is the same one that's been heavily shown off in past trailers: overworld movement. You can walk around normally, but when you see how expansive the environments are, even if they're split up into small floating islands. You'd only want to do that if you want to fine-tune how you'd get to certain elements, like food for cooking later or for petting some of the wildlife. For general movement, you'll use the boosters on your boots, and instead of going for a dual-stick control scheme like most first-person shooters have adopted, Haven goes for a single stick setup instead; it's similar to a racing game but has more abilities in tow. For example, pulling back on the left analog stick immediately lets you perform a 180-degree turn, and holding down the left trigger while moving left or right initiates a drift in that direction to help you make precision turns as opposed to going wide without the drift ability. It takes some getting used to, and the endeavor can seem impossible if you miss the energy line and need to correct things to gracefully recover and finish the rest of the line instead of skipping it and moving somewhere else. That said, the system becomes more enjoyable when you're boosting in the game's wide-open spaces.

The third gameplay element has to do with the combat, and while the game takes the Lunar approach, where you can only get into fights if you bump into a creature, everything else feels like they've taken elements from other RPGs and tweaked them to feel very different. For example, the fighting system emulates the active battle timer from the original Final Fantasy VII but with no actual bars to govern who goes next. In fact, there's no HUD whatsoever except for energy meters that appear over enemies whenever they get hit. Your commands are mapped to different face buttons, and to initiate any of them, you have to hold down the corresponding button until it fills, so that character can perform it. Since you're controlling two people at the same time, those face button commands only affect the character on the right side of the screen, while the left side's commands are done with the d-pad. It's much simpler than what'd you'd find in other RPGs, but it's also faster since you don't have to go through too many menus to do anything. It also feels a little different in that you aren't killing enemies so far but curing them instead, so mashing on the "attack" command might be fine for the most part, but you'll have to be conscious about using the cure command as well, unless you waste time using commands that are no longer relevant to the fight.

As it stands now, Haven is intriguing even though the demo is a bit limiting. The relationship sections have the potential to have some memorable moments thanks to the banter on display. The world remains interesting even if it takes a bit of time to get used to the gliding controls and the combat system is rather excellent for something rather simplified compared to many other RPGs out there. We'd really need to check out more of the game to get a better idea on whether or not everything meshes well together but at the moment, this is a title well worth keeping an eye on.

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