DEMO REVIEW: ‘Haven’ – Exploring Love and Space (Xbox One)

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Haven

Haven is an adventure RPG developed and published by The Game Bakers. Yu and Kay are a young couple on a deserted planet. When an earthquake up-ends their quiet existence, they have to find a way to pull their life back together. When I think about why I love the indie game scene, its always about two things: unique game design, and beautiful visuals that don’t lean on photorealism. These aspects of indie games always make finding something new in the space exciting. The promise of having a game experience like nothing you’ve had before is one of a kind. And, from my demo experience with Haven, that could be precisely what we are getting here.

From the first moment I began my demo of Haven, it impressed me. Its opening movie is upbeat and eye-catching. A montage of painted looking clips of the protagonists set to an awesome piece of uptempo music instantly grabbed my attention. It’s clear from the imagery used here that The Game Bakers intends this to be an emotional experience.

As the demo properly opened up, I was introduced to Yu and Kay as they get on with their daily lives. Yu is hard at work on the engine of their ship/home, while Kay is making dinner. When Yu approaches Kay to find out what’s for dinner, he informs her they are having appledews, again.

The following dialogue contained some truly exquisite writing. As the couple discussed their limited dining options, the conversation felt extremely real. Frustration, understanding, and the occasional verbal misstep all take place within the writing. While these two clearly love each other, they aren’t perfect.

I was also given the option to make dialogue choices during this and other conversations within the demo. While certain choices will give players the prompt of “Yu/Kay feels more confident,” it is impossible to know from the demo if these choices will have any real impact on the story as a whole. I did play through the demo twice, making different choices each time, and there was no significant impact on the dialogue within the scene itself.

As the conversation about dinner turns a bit flirtatious, the power goes out on the ship. It seems the couple must venture out for more flow to restore power. This is when the demo introduced me to the moment to moment gameplay of Haven.

Haven

Yu and Kay do not run around the floating islets that make up their world. Instead, they hover. A quick tutorial gives players the gist of steering, U-turns, and drifting. I quickly put these new-found skills to use as I followed streams of energy, the previously mentioned flow, so I could gather the resources to power my ship. Once I’ve successfully gathered up all I needed, and some extra appledews as well, I headed back to my ship.

A brief player-controlled cooking moment followed my return to the ship, and while this is not overly option-filled given my one food type currently, it does promise more cooking in the future. I don’t know why, but I’m a sucker for cooking mechanics in games. Dinner is filled with another expertly crafted dialogue sequence.

The next part of the Haven demo saw the duo once more venture out for supplies. But this time, there is an earthquake that rocks the floating island they inhabit. This seismic event cracked the island in half and does what appears to be substantial damage to their ship. I say seems because the ship is now on the opposite half of the island away from the couple.

Upon searching for some means to return to their ship, they come across a sort of portal which sends them off to a different island. As the couple continues to explore their new surroundings, they discover new plants they can harvest, resources they can gather, and enemies they must fend off. This is where I finally experienced the combat of Haven.

Upon entering combat the camera fixes itself firmly behind the couple with their enemy on the far side of them. The D-pad has the commands for Kay while the face buttons control Yu. Each character is given an action command at the same time and, as one might guess, the duo is stronger when they work together. The enormous creature I was confronted with was impervious to a single character’s attack. But when the couple performed a duo blast simultaneously, I started making progress.

While the combat wasn’t immediately thrilling, it was an early game encounter. There were other options I was never called to use and with some creativity, I could see a solid game experience coming from encounters mixing the need to do multiple things vs having the duo combo up.

Shortly after this fight, I found another portal that ended my demo time with Haven. As I stepped away from the game, I must admit I was impressed. The look of Haven’s visuals and interesting exploration controls made a great first impression. Combine those with what felt like high-quality, grounded dialogue, and this game shows a lot of promise. Whether or not The Game Bakers can deliver on that promise must wait until the game’s full release.

Haven is scheduled for a 2020 release on PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, PC, and Xbox Game Pass.