Haven put to the test: where love flies

The Montpellier-based development studio The Game Bakers is by no means a complete stranger to the gaming world. However, unlike with successful indie developers such as Supergiant Games (Hades, Bastion) or ThatGameCompany (Journey, Flower), the big breakthrough has not yet materialized. Two ex-Ubisoft employees, Audrey Leprince and Emeric Thoa, founded the studio in 2010 with the self-declared goal of developing games in the way that culinary delicacies are prepared in the kitchen at home: with lots of love.

In 2016, the studio succeeded in setting a small exclamation point in the indie scene with the action title Furi, which consists entirely of bossfights. Now, in 2020, the romantic sci-fi trip Haven would like to make hearts beat faster and step onto the big stage of game development. In the test, we clarify whether this works and what Haven has to offer apart from a focus on romance.

Together against the rest of the world

In the space role-playing game we do not slip into the role of a single character – as in so many other video games – we experience an interesting, emotional story from the perspective of two characters: the lovers Yu and Kai. The two lovebirds have left their home, the so-called basket, for reasons that we don't want to elucidate for spoiler reasons, in order to build a new and happier life for themselves on the forgotten and inanimate planet Source.





<img src = "https://www.pcgames.de/screenshots/960x/2020/12/Haven_SonyIndieDay9-pc-games.png" alt = "Opposites attract: The gentle biologist Kai and the humorous technician Yu are sympathetic and complex characters who provide a lot of joy.”/>



Opposites attract: The gentle biologist Kai and the humorous technician Yu are sympathetic and complex characters who provide a lot of joy.

Source: The Game Bakers




The escape from the basket was only possible for the two of them thanks to so-called flood bridges that connect different places in space – regardless of whether they are near or far. Another essential part of the plan was and is the spaceship of the two protagonists, which, along with Kai, represents the great love in the life of the tech-savvy Yu. Unfortunately, however, the spaceship was damaged upon arrival on the floating island planet.






<img src = "https://www.pcgames.de/screenshots/430x/2020/12/6_Haven_Nest-pc-games.png" alt = "Our home: In addition to the spaceship, the nest is also the couple's retreat and home. So it's no wonder that the main task is to repair the old box and upgrade it for a happy life.”/>



Our home: In addition to the spaceship, the nest is also the couple's retreat and home. So it's no wonder that the main task is to repair the old box and upgrade it for a happy life.

Source: The Game Bakers




The first task in the new everyday life of the two is to explore the many small islands, which are connected by small flood bridges, and thus to salvage the lost parts. In addition, their new home, the nest, is to be expanded and upgraded with a vegetable garden, among other things. Yu is fed up with eating roasted rock candy, which Kai, who is gifted at cooking, conjures up daily on the table due to the lack of alternatives. Furthermore, Yu and Kai encounter signs of a vanished civilization, which raise many question marks. Isn't the planet Source as uninhabited as you thought at the beginning? And are the duo really safe from their past and the many problems they left behind by escaping the basket? Although the two have an intense, trusting relationship, how many problems and dangers can she endure? The team behind Haven skillfully manages to create depth in storytelling with charming conversations and great written situations and to tell an exciting story that helps over the somewhat monotonous course of the game.

First cuddle, then fight

Haven relies heavily on the emotional dynamics of the two characters, so it's no wonder that a large part of the gaming experience consists of the many conversations between Yu and Kai. Our influence on the course is limited, but the adventure is particularly convincing due to the well-placed humor and the credible chemistry between the two that resonates in every conversation.






The emotional and interesting gaming experience that The Game Bakers present with Haven is particularly impressive due to the many intimate and charming moments of togetherness.



The emotional and interesting gaming experience that The Game Bakers present with Haven is particularly impressive due to the many intimate and charming moments of togetherness.

Source: PC Games




When the couple falls back into the nest after an exhausting and successful day of exploration, we enjoy intimate moments of cuddling and loving. Unlike so many other role-playing games, Haven does not adorn itself with rewards in the form of equipment and items. Instead, the adventure grants our progress new knowledge and insights into the interesting relationship between two completely different characters who, despite all adversities, put the well-being of their partner above their own and constantly work to keep the complex relationship intact.






<img src = "https://www.pcgames.de/screenshots/430x/2020/12/vlcsnap-2020-12-03-14h30m43s183-pc-games.png" alt = "Candyberries again ?! Various fruits, seeds and other foods can be found on Source. The more we collect, the more varied the couple's meal plan becomes.”/>



Candyberries again ?! Various fruits, seeds and other foods can be found on Source. The more we collect, the more varied the couple's meal plan becomes.

Source: PC Games




If we are in the nest, it is possible for us to produce delicacies or healing objects with the help of collected food or to enhance the skills of our characters with so-called candy brew. During the entire course of the game, the level of our relationship increases through various activities. When we reach a new level, it is possible to "celebrate" this and improve actions such as gliding through the game world, maximum health or special attacks such as bumping.

Unfortunately, it is not possible to determine for yourself in which direction we would like to develop. Anyone who hopes for a well thought-out skill system that enables a variety of game types will be disappointed. Another positive side effect of the celebration are special scenes between Yu and Kai, which shed a little more light on their common past and reveal interesting details about the two personalities. Even irrelevant activities such as showering result in further small dialogues between the protagonists and thus a deeper insight into the couple's emotional world. Another great game principle is that the alternation of day and night forces us to return to the nest again and again, to heal our wounds and to sleep. This creates a unique feeling of playing where we can really empathize with Kay and Yu's everyday life.

Teamwork makes the dream work!

But enough of the lovemaking, what else do you do on the planet Source? Haven is a role-playing game, but in contrast to its genre neighbors, it offers a rather shallow gameplay framework. In addition to the intimacies in the nest, the expansion of our home and the many secrets of the floating islands, Yu and Kai can expect a multitude of bizarre creatures.





<img src = "https://www.pcgames.de/screenshots/960x/2020/12/vlcsnap-2020-12-03-14h34m40s309-pc-games.png" alt = "Isn't that the mother ?! Now and then Yu has to help the naive Kai on the jumps. The dynamic of the two protagonists was captured excellently and is clearly the heart of Haven.”/>



Isn't that the mother ?! Now and then Yu has to help the naive Kai on the jumps. The dynamic of the two protagonists was captured excellently and is clearly the heart of Haven.

Source: PC Games




Some of them – like Yu and Kai themselves – are only looking for a few cuddles, while others display far more aggressive behavior and attack the couple. Early in the adventure, our protagonists discover so-called rust everywhere in the game world, which turns the otherwise tame animals into dangerous enemies.







Only together! If you want to hold your own against bigger and more dangerous opponents, you always have to plan both characters in the fight. The system works well, but more strategic options would have been desirable.



Only together! If you want to hold your own against bigger and more dangerous opponents, you always have to plan both characters in the fight. The system works well, but more strategic options would have been desirable.

Source: PC Games




The combat system is quite simple, but convinces with an interesting trick! When exploring, we switch between Yu and Kai at the push of a button, while both characters have to be controlled at the same time during tactical real-time battles. The strategic possibilities and available actions are quite limited. We can choose from the two attacks, jostling and shooting, which can also be carried out as team attacks, regardless of whether with Kai or Yu. There is also a shield spell that protects both characters from an upcoming attack. In addition, we can calm enemies as soon as they have been defeated and thus prevent them from falling into the mysterious "rust aggression" again.

The highlight of the system is the fact that you always have to keep an eye on timing and rhythm. Only those who control both characters in good symbiosis can master stronger opponents and dangers. In addition, there are items that can be produced that allow additional attacks or healing in combat.





<img src = "https://www.pcgames.de/screenshots/960x/2020/12/vlcsnap-2020-12-03-14h34m46s003-pc-games.png" alt = "Timing is required: Yu and Kai are able to carry out joint attacks in addition to various individual actions. Of course, they cause significantly more damage.”/>



Timing is required: Yu and Kai are able to carry out joint attacks in addition to various individual actions. Of course, they cause significantly more damage.

Source: PC Games




And how do you control the lovely duo? While the left half of the controller, mainly the stick, is assigned to actions Kais, the right half of the controller is dedicated to Yu. Incidentally, this also applies in quieter moments in the nest. Even simple actions like cooking require both analog sticks, since Kai and Yu interact together. This is far from being complex, but it supports the atmosphere well and results in a rounded, fun feel – if you can get used to the general game idea. Apart from the dialogues and battles, Haven has very little to offer. But that's not a problem per se. In contrast to big blockbuster open world games, we never have the feeling of having to work through something or we are bored by unnecessarily drawn out moments.

New beginning: a pecking-full everyday life?







What's up with the mysterious rust? There are more secrets on the Source planet than Yu and Kai would like.



What's up with the mysterious rust? There are more secrets on the Source planet than Yu and Kai would like.

Source: PC Games




There are still some additional activities on Source that call for Yu and Kai. An important task that the lovers have put on their to-do list is to free the game world from the mysterious rust. Fortunately, baking powder and baking soda do not have to be stolen from the kitchen: The rust can be easily removed using our anti-gravity boots, which, like the flood bridges, are powered by a resource called "flow". In order to free infected areas from the red layer and collect the rust, stylish sliding action with one or the other drift is sufficient. However, the flood we carry with us is limited. Should we run out of helpful energy, there are so-called flood lines everywhere in the game world. They simply have to be touched and offer no challenge – a shame.

Another flaw is the relatively lifeless game world. Sure, there is a reason that there isn't much going on on Source: Kai and Yu have made a conscious decision to go to a deserted planet in the hope that their past will not allow their past to catch up with them. Nevertheless, this fact is a shame. There are no traders or other NPCs, but you are not completely on your own either. There is, for example, the tamed creature Birble, which can be lured to special places by Kai's cooking skills and thus enables fast travel to islands that have already been cleared. Haven makes little use of the Metroidvania principle, as some islands can only be fully explored with better gliding skills. Little by little, newly discovered islands are added to the game world like small puzzle pieces.






The couple's logbook contains a lot of charming and funny notes, but also important information that makes exploring the game world easier.



The couple's logbook contains a lot of charming and funny notes, but also important information that makes exploring the game world easier.

Source: PC Games




The couple's logbook is very charming. Each floating island is marked with notes such as "Everything is clean!", "Our first air flow <3" or "Kai, please delete that. This is not a toy." provided – oh, cute. In addition, the notes naturally help us to keep track of where there are still open tasks and which floating islands should be examined more closely. Because, with the new food found there, fresh dishes can be cooked, and the expansion of our nest is also a well-functioning motivational factor that ties you to the console (or PC) until Yu and Kai have been helped to their happiness.






<img src = "https://www.pcgames.de/screenshots/430x/2020/12/vlcsnap-2020-12-03-14h35m14s656-pc-games.png" alt = "Missed opportunity: Haven does offer a co-op mode, but it doesn't work very well and causes more frustration than happiness. Haven would have done great as a well-functioning co-op experience.”/>



Missed opportunity: Haven does offer a co-op mode, but it doesn't work very well and causes more frustration than happiness. Haven would have done great as a well-functioning co-op experience.

Source: PC Games




Although Haven is a solo adventure, there is also the thematically appropriate option to enjoy the planet exploration with your better half or a friend. This sounds tempting in theory, but in practice it turns out to be rather annoying and doesn't really promote fun. This is particularly because when you are exploring, as soon as you slide, the camera is fixed on only one player, and the fights then offer even less strategic opportunities. Even if you are perfectly coordinated, the gaming experience is simply not satisfactory. What a missed chance for a unique co-op experience!

In terms of graphics, the team from Montpellier draws on several clear inspirations. While the imaginative game world and the design of the two characters are strongly reminiscent of the JRPG sector and its countless representatives, there are also clearly more western influences. Most likely the popular sci-fi comic saga The godfather, who obviously influenced not only the graphic style but also the framework of the adventure. The mix is ​​nice, but a little more independence and visual variety would have done the title good. The minimalist interface – especially in the fights – is annoying now and then. A screen that is not clapped unnecessarily can be positive. But if you too often have the feeling that important information has been withheld, then that is a clear disadvantage.





<img src = "https://www.pcgames.de/screenshots/960x/2020/12/vlcsnap-2020-12-03-14h31m14s727-pc-games.png" alt = "Is pretty enough Stylistically, the space adventure is pretty to look at, but it lacks a bit of independence. A shame! & Nbsp;”/>



Is pretty enough Stylistically, the space adventure is pretty to look at, but it lacks a bit of independence. Pity!

Source: PC Games




Incidentally, the many conversations are presented in the typical visual novel manner, but with audio. Haven only has English voice output, but it is of a high quality and captures the conversations great. Musically, the developers have brought a big name on board: the French electro musician Franck Rivoire, better known as his stage name Danger. Rivoire was already responsible for the background music for Furis, but this time he manages the soundtrack even better. Haven is carried by motivating and pushing synth sounds, which successfully accompany Yu and Kai's romantic journey.

Haven is a successful, passionately crafted adventure full of great ideas that will definitely not satisfy every gamer. The romantic adventure with an approx. 15-hour main story is certainly one of the more unusual representatives in the role-playing game genre. The gameplay mechanics are not only a bit thin at first glance, and this quickly gives the impression that Haven is running on the back burner due to design errors. This simple approach was deliberately chosen by the developers in order to offer the relationship between the main characters the right stage and to put them at the center. Anyone who can gain something from such an experience will have a lot of fun with the romantic trip into a strange world.

Haven has been available for PC, PS5, Xbox Series X / S and Xbox One since December 3, 2020, also via Game Pass (more games in December?). A release for Playstation 4 and Nintendo Switch is also planned and should follow in 2021. If you haven't got enough of the topic of love in video games, then take a look at our detailed special on the topic (with video).

A gripping sci-fi story with interesting ideas
Impressive dynamic between the protagonists Yu and Kai
Lots of emotional and intimate moments that were implemented realistically and beautifully
Cleverly written dialogues
Professional and personable dubbing (only in English)
Even irrelevant actions like showering and sleeping result in great new dialogues and situations
Motivating synth soundtrack by renowned artist Danger
Nice and appealing graphic style
Control with focus on timing and rhythm creates fun
The style and presentation lack uniqueness
Often a bit too thin RPG system
Fighting with too few strategic options
A lifeless game world with few surprises
The disappointing co-op is a missed opportunity
Every now and then annoying camera

Anyone who can do something with romance and well-written dialogues will be served a heartbreaking space adventure.

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