Romance in the Entertainment sector is nothing new. However, when these begin to transcend the superficial realms of the surface-level relationship, you begin to learn about the characters on a deeper level. The simple reason why it is rarely seen is because the relationship is not the focal point of the product, however, Haven tells a different story. A story of two star-crossed lovers who, if their homeworld had their way, would not be together. Haven is story of how our two characters love develops after their rapid getaway. The Game Bakers have created a great game in it’s own right, but does Haven really deliver?
Initial Impressions of Haven
When you boot up Haven you are greeted with an eye-catching display through the opening movie. From the very outset you are introduced to a delightful soundtrack that will accompany you throughout the game, and this cutscene tells you what the game is all about – Yu and Kay. Haven can be played solo, or as the game really wants to suggest – with that someone special. Now, my wife isn’t all that into games and we don’t actually have enough controllers to do this, so I had to take this on solo. But the thing is, you’re never alone in Haven. In the overworld you can take control of either character and in the Nest, you’re like a fly on the wall peering into the couples relationship (completely not in a weird way). Haven itself is incredibly basic and it will not be for everyone, but what it does well, it does it really well.
Is this more than a love story?
As I have already said, the relationship between Yu and Kay is everything here. Your whole journey is about unraveling this relationship and learning more about each character, who they are and how they ended up running away to Source (the planet they escape to) for their shot at love. This unravelling really takes place in the small moments where they may be cooking together, or even as they go to bed – much like a real relationship.
I have to say, there are a number of moments where I found myself slightly wincing through the cheesiness of some of it. The occasional innuendo and risque interactions where I just felt a small part of me look at my own marriage and think, am I doing marriage right? These moments did make for a slight disconnect, but in no way make the overall story less appealing.
I am a big fan of the mash-up we have here as well. Romance and Sci-Fi are a great combination – especially with this anime inspired art style. I have spent many hours watching Space-Opera/Sci-Fi Romance series like, Eureka Seven, Mobile Suit Gundam and Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet. All of these series have so much going on, but often the relationship between two people are a central plotline.
The moments in Haven where we would learn a little bit more here and there about the Apiary, where Yu and Kay have escaped from, are some of my favourites. The way they describe their need to escape the social dilemma of their predestined existence in the Apiary is so interesting as it leaves the image of it in the eyes of the player. Have you seen Blade Runner? I am immediately drawn to the lives of the replicants, copies of humans who are unable to make their own choice in life as they were – as their name suggests – replicated. When they began to develop emotions that went against the system, they were ‘retired.’ To break free from the clutches of the system, Yu and Kay flee their social oppressors.
But, how does it ‘flow?’
The main gameplay element of the game is gliding. Yu and Kay have the ability to harness the power of flow to glide through the desolate landscapes of Source. The gliding feels extremely smooth and as you progress through the game you unlock new abilities that you can take hold of. In our recent interview with Emeric Thoa – Creative Director on Haven – it really became clear to us how crucial the gliding is to the overall experience of the game. Without the gliding, Haven would have been a point and click adventure title and while that fits with the Visual Novel-esque dialogue scenes, it is nothing new.The gliding really is the unique selling point of the game. Without it the game would feel somewhat flat and probably would have worked better as an anime series/movie.
The other gameplay element in Haven is their battle-system. Using the analogue sticks on your controller you can select between different attacks and your aim is to purify the corrupt creatures you come across. To be honest, I do not understand why this game has a battle-system in the first place – it seems incredibly out of place. It is a neat little system that does add to the game, but it really doesn’t fit in with the overall direction of Haven. If anything it feels more like an attempt to bulk the game’s content late into development. However, I could see potential if playing the game cooperatively.
What I have seen from different publications reviewing this game is there is a unity around one clear point – Haven is best played together. You can clearly see from how the game is designed and how the characters interact with one another that Haven really is at it’s best in a co-op scenario. To this end, Haven deserves massive props. Couch co-op is a lost love of many gamers – with few games offering a compelling experience to enjoy together. Also, it is not often that a game is so clearly designed with relationships in mind. This is a game best enjoyed with your significant other – which is great to see as it encourages the one who loves gaming to share it with another.
A pleasure to the eyes and ears
In our interview with Emeric, we also asked about the art-style of the game and I completely agree with him on the following point: “Also, [the art style] never gets old or ugly. Haven will still look pretty in 10 years.” Haven is beautiful – there is no doubt in my mind about Emeric’s words here. I will continue to adore the cel-shaded art style for years to come when I consider great looking games. The soundtrack as well, it just fits. Still to this moment I remember the opening movie and how I adore the music used on it. This magic continues throughout the game.
Does Haven really deliver?
The biggest question I need to ask myself is this, what if Haven did not have the gliding? It would be more of an artistic expression than a video game and that is not a bad thing. With the gliding, the game is more interactive and offers much more freedom to the player. I said this at the start and I will say it again – Haven is not for everyone. If you play the game and love it, you will really love it. For many it will hold a special place for them. Sadly, although I believe the game is good – I do not love the game.
I appreciate the concept and I think it is generally a good game. But honestly, I found after a while the gliding became boring and the interactions between Yu and Kay can feel really cheesy at times. I am glad to see the game is doing so well because for an indie game, it offers a really good experience. But after an hour, it feels like you have played through much of the mechanics the game has to offer and you really are left with the story to carry the game. For many people that story will, and if it was an anime series/movie, it would for me too. As a game however, in spite of everything it does right, it can feel bare at times.
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