Running away from a totalitarian regime to live in peace with the partner of your choice could never happen here could it? Let’s escape together and review Haven.
Haven is set in a place called Source which consists of numerous Islets floating above a core planet. Here we find our heroes Yu (a female of high birth from a place called Top) and Kay (a male orphan from a place called truth) living in a shuttle known as the Nest after escaping from the Apiary via a massive band of energy known as a Flow Bridge. Stick with me here people.
We learn that someone called the Matchmaker had determined their future partners following a societal norm of arranged marriage and the only way that they could be together was to leave in Yu’s personal shuttle and travel to Source using some coordinates that Kay had discovered.
After living peacefully for a short time on one of the Islets a large tremor rolls the Nest on to its roof and damages it so badly that it can no longer fly. The only course of action open to the couple is to search each Islet for parts that can be salvaged in order to repair the Nest.
Discovering Flow bridges between the different Islets allows them to map out the planet whilst learning about the history of their new home. Many of the Islets are covered in a substance called Rust which pollutes the land and causes any local wildlife that eat it to become aggressive and attack anyone that gets too close to them.
After discovering some old communications equipment Yu accidentally broadcasts a long-range signal and before long, groups of Hornets (basically bad robots with guns) controlled by the Apiary Council are searching the Islets for them.
Faced with possible capture, separation and having their memories of each other erased, our heroes come up with a crazy plan to prevent any future travel to or from Source that just might work and allow them to stay together.
To find out if the plan succeeds you will have to play the game as I am not going to spoil it for you here.
The game has two main art styles, Exploring the Islets uses smooth colourful 3D graphics while the conversational parts of the game are carried out in more of a 2D Anime Style. Haven also has an opening sequence before the menu loads that is so good I watched it all the way through every time I ran it up.
Music also plays a key part in the game and apart from the turn-based combat sections (when Rust infected animals have to be beaten in order to cure them) is generally a very chilled and relaxing electronic soundtrack.
Travelling around the Islets takes up most of the time and can be done in the form of flying using specially adapted Boots that run on energy known as Flow. Threads of flow are found everywhere and have to be followed precisely in order to charge the boots regularly. Flow threads also allow transversal to higher places that are inaccessible otherwise. Travel between Islets can only be carried out once you have discovered small Flow Bridges between them.
Flying using the flow boots also allows you to clean up the places that are covered by rust. There are advantages to doing this in that once an Islet is cleaned you can use a creature called Birble to fast travel there whereas, anywhere with rust in existence prevents this and makes travel far more long winded. Large amounts of different types of rust are required in order to fix salvaged parts for the nest and to craft items that will make you far more effective in combat.
Foraging is necessary to keep the characters fed and a vast array of different plants and seeds can be collected from Source. These can be mixed and matched to cook various dishes and create medicines to treat injuries picked up in battle.
Cooking is fun as the range on offer is great and you get to see the reactions of Yu and Kay regarding what you give them to eat. Food has healing properties as well as the medicines but a frustrating part of the system is that they can only eat or apply medical items at the Nest or specific camping sites which are few and far between.
Trying to get back to one of these places to gain extra health resulted in me being knocked out by angry animals on many occasions as my health was too low when combat started. As you can imagine this can get a bit tedious, as does travelling between the Islets if you cannot fast travel somewhere. Islets can have up to four flow bridges to other Islets and these are not particularly well marked which can result in having to go back and forth numerous times in order to travel by the correct bridge to the Islet that you were aiming for.
Starting the game with fairly low character stats it is important to build the relationship between Yu and Kay in order to level up everything from Health to the power of attacks, jumping and gliding abilities. This is attained by cooking together, crafting, successful combat, discovering secrets about the history of Source and most importantly conversation between the two of them.
Choosing correct responses increases the confidence of the characters and we learn a lot about how they think and feel. This part of the game is incredibly well designed. Emotion is conveyed very well and you soon start to like and feel for the couple. In one section you are separated and set off to find a way back to each other and I genuinely felt a sense of separation and worry while searching for my partner.
Some adult themes that are standard fare within a relationship are also covered within Haven that are very unusual to find within the context of a video game but were handled with such care that they did not feel laboured or out of place.
This is the first game that I have played to cover subjects such as sex, bodily functions (both types), and swapping sides in bed because of the wet patch. In places, the discussions can become pretty erotic and they even discover an alien version of the Karma Sutra in some ruined buildings.
Gender roles are refreshingly switched from the start anyway in that Yu is a highly skilled engineer and Kay is a botanist with no idea how to fix a damaged spacecraft.
A drug induced section also covers gender swapping with both characters inhabiting each other’s bodies. Yu is able to experience the novelty of peeing standing up while Kay is introduced to menstrual cramps. A standard game this is not.
The game finishes with a choice about how to proceed. Having played both, I can say that rather refreshingly neither of them ends as you would expect them to and that a key message of Haven is that beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder.
A very unusual Turn Based Combat game then, but one that is well worth spending some time playing.
Haven is already available on Gamepass so there is no reason to miss out.
Played on Xbox Series X
- Great characterisation means that you care for the characters
- Flying around the Islets is smooth and well designed
- An original story that covers some taboo subjects in a casual way
- Unusual Loading Screen images
- Food and Medicine can only be eaten and applied at certain locations
- Travelling between Islets can be frustrating if fast travel is not possible