RPGs have a tendency to add romantic subplots for the sake of it, but Haven isn’t a girl-meets-boy story.
The two leads are already in a relationship when we first meet them, stranded on a seemingly empty and fragmented planet after their spaceship breaks down.
Yu and Kay make for an attractive (and typical) couple: they bicker, they goof about, they’re physically attracted to each other, but they’re just as comfortable snuggling up without saying a word. You aren’t limited to one perspective, either, since you’re playing as both of them, with dialogue choices sometimes coming up for one or the other.
You can switch between the two at the tap of a button when out exploring the mysterious world in search of resources, the pair holding hands as they glide around. Gliding is your best means of traversal, too, with the couple able to drift and do 180-turns with ease, while you collect flow energy that’s used for cleansing the planet of a corrupt substance known as rust.
It adds to the already chilled and breezy vibe, similarly conveyed by the game’s excellent music from French producer Danger, which marries vaporwave synths with Daft Punk’s more laid-back material.
It’s a shame, then, that this doesn’t extend to everything else. Haven is meant to be a relaxing game, which works well when the couple is chilling back at their ship, but if it wasn’t for the music, exploring Source often feels aimless and boring.
The world’s made of many tiny connected islands, but these seldom differ from its rocky, grassy terrain. That sameyness makes it trickier to make sense of where you’re going, not helped by a map that only displays the islets as nodes, neither pinpointing your location nor showing where you haven’t already explored.
Its take on party-based, turn-based battles, where you control both Yu and Kay with face buttons and D-pad respectively, does have interesting ideas, such as combining each other’s turns for duo attacks, or how you can shield yourself and your partner.
However, controlling both characters’ actions, which also take time to charge up, is as awkward as patting your head while rubbing your belly. When battles occasionally spike, it only gets more irksome, as you’re barely able to keep up with enemies changing stance or quickly recovering from stunned or downed statuses, or the blighters who keep respawning.
Yu and Kay have a rock-solid relationship, and their reasons for escaping their dystopian fate in their former home is a story I would’ve been content discovering through a visual novel – the dialogue and character portraits would’ve been a perfect fit for this.
But through Haven’s muddled execution of RPG exploration and combat, it’s disappointing how often I felt out of sync with such a likeable duo.
Haven very much hangs on your belief in the relationship between Yu and Kay. Fortunately, their respective voice actors Janine Harouni and Chris Lew Kum Hoi nail the chemistry that’s essential to the couple’s banter and more intimate moments. You can also hear them narrating the credits, providing some wonderful insight into the people who made the game.
Good vibes and a duo you can fall in love with, if not with the game itself.