Yu and Kay are 2 individuals stuck on a separated world together. The excellent news is they’re in love, so they currently take pleasure in each other’s business. The problem becomes part of the world are covered with an unsteady compound they call rust, that makes the surrounding locations (and the animals that occupy them) hazardous. Haven bounces in between these 2 driving ideas, stressing Yu and Kay’s relationship in your home in their spaceship, then following them as they check out the world’s strange frontiers. The result is a low-impact blend in between visual unique and RPG, however it stops working to totally harness the very best of both worlds. Even so, Haven gets the essential aspects right.
The bond in between Yu and Kay is the most fundamental part of the story, and I value how designer The Game Bakers devotes to making gamers see their interactions through the lens of ordinary activities. During their time in your home, they prepare and consume together, have discussions on the sofa, and argue about hair in the shower drain. Most relationships aren’t created in the fires of world-ending dangers and high-stakes experience, after all. They are built in casual and comfortable spaces, and Haven largely feels authentic in its portrayal of an established (but still young) love. Physically intimacy is naturally a part of that, but Haven often uses it as a crutch instead of developing the characters in other ways; by the end of the game, the number of innocuous situations that ended in implied sex had me rolling my eyes.
The story surrounding Source (the planet Yu and Kay have settled on) is less compelling than the characters’ romantic arc. You learn why they fled their homes, and uncover some sinister facts about Source, but the threads never come together in a satisfying way. The developers clearly have an elaborate vision for this fictional sci-fi universe and its history, but the portions that find their way into the Haven’s narrative are peripheral and incomplete. I didn’t feel like I was getting a tantalizing glimpse of a bigger picture; I felt like a much larger and clearer story once existed, but important parts were gradually trimmed away until these abbreviated pieces were all that remained. Yu and Kay are ultimately still the focus, but my lack of investment in the events around them made the grand finale fall flat.
When they aren’t spending time in their ship (which is broken and can’t fly), Yu and Kay strap on hover-boots and go soaring across the colorful floating islands of Source. This is another core component that Haven gets right; simply moving around the planet is exhilarating. You glide above open plains and ride energy currents around rocky terrain, cleansing the rust of the ground as you pass over it. This is satisfying whether you’re playing solo or co-op, but even with a partner, the two characters need to stick close together. With the stylish visuals and chill soundtrack, exploration can have a pleasant and meditative quality – assuming you aren’t trying to anything specific. Any precise navigation is incredibly finnicky, even with the ability to drift for sharper turns. This makes it easy to get caught on the environment and inadvertently fall from high places, but apart from occasional enemy encounters, getting where you need to go isn’t too much of a hassle.
In addition to the vast expanses to explore, the combat is the most RPG-like part of Haven. It involves charging and releasing attacks in real time, coordinating Yu and Kay’s actions to clear the field. The focus on timing and cooperation is interesting, but after a few basic upgrades, the battle system doesn’t evolve in meaningful ways. As you progress, you don’t learn many abilities that open up new tactics; the challenge comes mostly from different enemy types restricting your available strategies from an already-limited selection, so your combat options are shrinking over time rather than expanding. However, Haven also isn’t a demanding game, so the blunt repetition of these fights is a bigger disappointment than their difficulty.
Even when I was frustrated, I was impressed by the touching and thrilling moments Haven creates. I enjoyed the genuine connection between Yu and Kay, and jetting off into the unknown with a pair of hover-boots is a blast. But this otherworldly experience extends itself too far beyond its strengths. Sometimes the rough patches are worth working through, however like any relationship, in some cases you’re simply providing more than you’re getting.