Author Topic: Haven Impressions from PAX West  (Read 789 times)

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Offline Jonnyboy117

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Haven Impressions from PAX West
« on: September 06, 2019, 02:18:45 AM »

From the creators of Furi, this stylish adventure finds romance at an alien frontier.

Haven is a story of stranded lovers who do everything together — eat, sleep, talk, and explore their corrupted alien world for some way to escape. It’s the upcoming release by Furi developers The Game Bakers, although the two games bear little in common except for a neon-infused art style. Furi is a short and thrilling boss rush, delivering one-on-one battles connected by cryptic story transitions.

Just before playing Haven, one of its creators proclaimed it to be a “chill out game” — and sure enough, I slipped easily into the game’s unusual flow and found myself enchanted within minutes. You control two characters simultaneously, and these dual protagonists seem to be inseparable. They are the only humanoids on their planet, on the run from a mysterious group called the Apiary. The lovebird scientists, named Yu and Kay, landed their roomy habitat module after following a bridge of “Flow” to the strange planet. The Flow phenomenon sprouts from the planet itself as curving, glowing streams that you can ride above the ground, sometimes leading to new areas. Otherwise, the adventuring gameplay involved hovering just above the ground with special boots that also collect Flow energy, which is used to clear areas of reddish corruption, called Rust.

The Rust isn’t just fun to wipe off the terrain as you glide around, as it affects local wildlife. Some creatures roam around peacefully, while others are corrupted and will attack. Battles are turn-based, requiring strategic use of a few abilities and especially coordination between your two characters. Each one’s commands are mapped to directional or face buttons (mirrored), and some moves can be combined in sequence or executed simultaneously for bonus effects. The battle system is simple enough to learn, but the tandem tricks and some real-time interactions keep it active, similar to a Mario RPG system.

I was intrigued by the free-roaming and battle elements, but what really surprised me about Haven is how the two characters’ relationship is established and explored. The writing, acting, and art come together in a potent mixture that made me pay attention to the extended dialogue scenes. When choosing responses for each person, I thought about both the immediate impact of those words and also the long-term relationship implications. Some scenes are completely charming and trivial, while others consider deep questions about the couple’s survival and future beyond their current predicament. In these domestic interactions, Yu and Kay are represented both as animated 3D models and also as hand-drawn portraits overlaid in the foreground. The 3D models convey the characters’ body language and environmental interactions, while the portraits have more detailed facial expressions and more closely track dialogue. Another sweet touch is the inclusion of non-contextual character art on loading screens, which shows the couple embracing, playing, and working together. The various depictions bring Yu and Kay’s relationship to life very quickly and effectively.

I was struck at the heroes’ familiarity and intimacy (not explicit), just as much as I’m excited to hover around this world and uncover the mysteries of Flow and Rust. The combination of elements here is unusual but expressed so effectively that I walked away from the demo understanding the game’s theme, and its appeal, to a degree not often experienced at industry events. Haven may turn out to be something special when it arrives on Switch and other platforms in early 2020.