The romantic genre is one of the most famous and the most beloved genres in a lot of traditional media such as film, TV shows, novels etc.
But when it comes to video games, it is very uncommon to see romance being the main theme or genre of a game. Romance is still used in stories but is rarely the main focus.
That beings us to this indie gem I ran across called “Haven”. The first thing that caught my eye was this line from the description of the game:
“Two lovers gave up everything and escaped to a lost planet to be together.”
This line piqued my interest and after light research into the game, I decided to try it out.
Here’s my review of Haven by the Game Bakers, after playing it for 7 hours.
The Runaway Couple
The game starts with you playing as a new couple, Yu and Kay, as they began their new life on together on a ship.
Soon, their ship ends up getting damaged and they find themselves on a strange new world.
Thus begins a journey to navigate this strange world in search of resources to repair the ship while fighting off hostile inhabitants along the way.
The more you play the game, the more the overarching story reveals itself to you.
You learn about where they came from and the authoritarian conditions they lived under. You learn about how they ran away together. And of course, you learn about how they met and fell in love.
The game has a good and a bad ending. I got the bad ending on my first play through of the game and for a time, I thought that was how it ended.
Eventually, I learned that there was a whole other ending and went back to earn it. In fact, this second play through is what inspired me to write this review.
I was really satisfied on how the game ended. Without spoiling anything, while the good ending is a better outcome than the bad ending, it still left me with questions about the future for these characters.
I see that as a positive. It meant that I was invested in them enough to care.
Team work is the best
The game has only one main task: Search throughout the many islets of the planet to find parts to repair their ship.
The planet has a powerful energy source called “Flow” which is used for many things such as to power up their ship and their boots, which they use to glide through islets.
The game is a semi-open world game where you get to explore floating islets that are connected by a Flow Bridge. The best part of all of this is how you get to explore these islands while gliding around in your boots.
These islets are inhibited by the creatures that are native to this planet and they are the only living things that you will meet in the game. These creatures are really cute and adorable until they get infected and you have to fight them. More on this later.
While you go exploring in this game, you may come across a material known as “Rust”. It is a corruptive component which can be dissolved or be absorbed by the flow.
Almost all of the islets are filled with Rust and it’s your job to clean it up while you explore and search for resources.
Aside from resource gathering to fix the ship, clearing the islands of Rust is another task the pair take on.
The islands still feel desolate as there are nothing more to do other than cleaning it up and collecting materials. Most of the islets have just hills and small mountains while some other small hints of life like rundown buildings.
I felt that these environments, while nice to look at, needed some more things for the player to engage with.
Speaking of player engagement, Rust causes the cute and cuddly creatures of the planet to become hostile. Thus begins a fight to clear away this Rust and revert the creatures back to their normal forms.
My biggest criticism of the game is in this area.
When the first battle started, it felt the game would be using the “turn-based battle system”. That was mainly due to how both Yu and Kay, and the enemies were positioned.
So, I tried to attack them but before I get to even attack it, the enemies attacked me! This happened a couple of times because in my mind, I was still waiting for my turn. It took me a couple of more battles to understand what was going.
I’m going to call this system a hybrid of “real-time” and “turn based”. When I first started, there didn’t seem to be any rhythm to the combat. Even though you visually get clues on whose turn it is, I found it hard to follow at first.
Eventually, I came to understand what my issue was. The main problem was that I found myself unable to take my time and strategize during the battle.
In due time, I adjusted to this system and gained a decent level of mastery over it. But I still can’t bring myself to enjoy it fully.
Perhaps the developers might have taken this approach due to the fact that the game can be played in coop with a second player.
In some ways, it feels like a game designed for coop first and then adjusted for the single player experience, rather than being designed with both in mind. The battle system I was clashing with in the beginning is definitely more manageable when two players are taking it on.
The game also has cooking and item crafting mini games that requires you to press both directional buttons (or d-pad) and the icon buttons (or face buttons). This is also easier when it’s coop.
When playing the game coop, each player is given the choice of ingredients that you want to use to make the dish or item. The game makes you both communicate about which ingredients to choose.
The game takes the couple thing very seriously too. At some point when you both ended up getting separated, the game doesn’t even allow you to make food or items because whoever you are controlling will be attempting it alone. How’s that for a metaphor?
Also, I want to add that this is not a negative. I really liked it because it was a mechanical way of making the player feel the connection that exists between these two characters.
By selectively gating some mechanics in certain situations, the game makes you feel what it’s like to be without someone important to you.
Visuals and Music
As for the visual look of the game, I really liked it. The game uses a cartoony 3D style which is very smooth even in motion. Whether it is gameplay or cutscenes, the game looks great and moves smoothly.
There is a day and night cycle in the game. You will mostly play during the noon time. You only get to see morning and sunset time where if you go outside the moment the day starts or if you stay out exploring for a long time. Conversely, night is only seen in cutscenes or from the cockpit on your ship.
These different times of the day makes everything look a little different. For instance, at night you can see the stars, moon, and other planets. However, at dusk, you can see a beautiful sunset along with a purple and red sky.
The thing that actually made me stick with the game until the end is the music. The soundtrack draws inspiration from pop and electro music. I ended up really enjoying it.
In this game, you spend most of the time exploring and the music that accompanies you on your journeys is super relaxing and I really liked it. It was almost good enough to make me forgive some of the issues I might have had with the open world.
After reaching a certain point, it became clear that I was going to hear the same music on repeat but since the music was great, I didn’t really mind. This is an indie game after all, so having an enjoyable if brief OST was more than good enough.
Out of all the tracks on the soundtrack, the one that I like the most is called “Move It Muffin!”
One of the things that I love about the game is how they made use of loading screens. Yes, loading screens!
When it comes to loading screens, it’s quite common to see game tips, the game’s logo, or some art. The picture above is meant to represent such a loading screen.
Loading screen are both necessary for gaming and not loved by gamers. Personally, I see a loading screen as the perfect time to read a few more pages of whatever manga I was reading at the time. That’s how little interest I had in them. I’m sure many of you can relate.
But the developers of this game did something completely different. They used the loading screens to show glimpses and snippets into the main characters’ personal lives. These are the moments we usually don’t get to see because often, action-packed stories don’t have time to sit around and enjoy the little things.
The developers use these loading screens to show that they are not a perfect couple by ant means. These loading screens are almost like little vignettes of their relationship and help make the relationship between Yu and Kay more realistic and believable.
One of the loading screen shows them repairing the engine together, other shows us Yu giving Kay a haircut. They get dressed to go out, they cook for each other, play video games together, they fight and make up, and so on and so on. It’s really cute stuff!
I liked seeming these loading screens so much that I would sometimes trigger then on purpose to see more pictures and gain more insight into the characters’ relationship. Imagine that! Wanting loading screens.
This game has left me with a strong desire to see more games do more things with loading screens. Game tips are nice and all but it’s basically an industry standard now.
How about creating good tutorials instead and leaving the loading screen for something else? Something fun.
Haven is a beautiful game about couple who are in deeply in love and are doing everything that they can to stop anyone or anything from destroying their relationship.
The game portrays the couple and their struggles well. It is done well enough where I consider their relationship to be pretty realistic.
Due to this, I highly recommend this game to couples to play in coop. But beyond that, the game is also a great fit for fans of romance and for people who like seeing well-developed relationships in fiction.
Despite my initial hangups regarding Haven’s gameplay, the visuals, the accompanying soundtrack, and those gosh darn loading screens more than made up for it.
The game is an indie game and thus, is sized according to what the developers could do. And what they could do was make a game that was very beautiful, interesting, and enjoyable.
I’m going to remember those loading screens and all the extra depth they added to the main characters’ relationship for a long time to come. More games should do this. Seriously.
As for the game itself… I’d say it’s a Must Play.