Haven tells the story of Yu and Kay, two lovers who fled their home planet to escape arranged marriages. They flee to the distant planet of Source, which was broken by an unknown cataclysm and abandoned long ago. The two land their ship, The Nest, on the planet and proceed to carve out a little slice of life together. The Nest is damaged early on by an earthquake, so the two must return it to working order while they enjoy the world’s longest honeymoon.
Haven is a romantic story built around the mundane in a fantastical setting. Most of the time you spend with the characters involves seeing their everyday interactions: hair in the shower drain, zits on backs, and the occasional argument. It’s basically a window into the life of two 20-somethings who are desperately in love. Yes, there is the overarching plot of exploring Source and a minor handwave toward a greater threat, but that’s just set dressing for the central premise of spending some time with two lovers.
One potentially off-putting thing about the game is that it’s very intimate — in multiple senses of the word. After all, it stars two 20-somethings who are in love and are alone on a planet without books, movies, or television. That means they spend a good chunk of their time having sex, and the game is up-front. It never shows anything more risqué than a loading screen that features both characters unclothed (in a SFW fashion). The characters flirt, try out ideas from an erotic book, make up dirty stories about one another, and have a difficult time keeping their hands off one another. It makes sense for the setting and is mostly handled with maturity, but it is best to be prepared.
Overall, Haven provides a charming experience. Yu and Kay are adorable together, and it was a delight to see them bounce from friendly snark to nervous discussions about serious subjects. It’s a cheerful experience, and you generally get the warm fuzzies you’d get from a good romance movie. It isn’t going to blow your mind, but it lets you enjoy the simple mundane fact that even when stranded on an alien planet, two people can be very much in love.
The core gameplay in Haven involves controlling both characters at once and moving around the world by gliding. You can find flow streams that allow you to glide to places that you normally couldn’t reach; otherwise, it basically involves pointing and moving with some very light challenges in guiding your characters along those flow streams. As you explore, you’ll also find red rust to clean up; that’s accomplished by flying over it, and you can also collect various ingredients to cook recipes back at your home base.
The bulk of the gameplay is an excuse to have Yu and Kay see new sights and interact with one another. You may find abandoned buildings that house anything from a stuffed teddy bear to a complete collection of a Settlers of Catan-style board game. You can find hidden beaches, mysterious caves, and even a unicorn. Almost any special event leads to more events that add depth to the characters or allow for some cute scenes. Collecting food is more of a relaxing task than a real threat. Your characters get weaker if they go too long with enough food, but since food is plentiful and campsites (for cooking) are commonplace, it won’t take long to power up again.
There is combat in Haven, but it’s a minor part of the game. As you explore, you’ll encounter normally passive animals who have been infected by rust, so you’ll need to stun them long enough to clean off the rust. This is done via a pretty enjoyable RPG system. You control Yu and Kay at the same time and have four basic combat options: Blast, Impact, Purify and Shield. Once you select an option, each character needs time to build up their charge before using the attack. Do enough damage, and the enemy will be knocked over, at which point they’re vulnerable to being purified. That effectively defeats them, but if you wait too long, they’ll get back up again. You can even have both characters do the same attack move to perform a stronger Duo attack, but that comes with the risk of both characters being vulnerable at the same time.
Combat is almost more of a puzzle than anything else. The two characters choose their targets automatically based on who is susceptible to the chosen attacks. Some enemies are vulnerable to Impact, while others are weak to Blast. Some are only vulnerable immediately after their attack is blocked by Shield, or if you hit them with a Duo attack. Some get stronger if another enemy is Purified before they are defeated. Your goal is to figure out the optimal way to take down enemies while minimizing the damage you take. You can also use special items crafted from rust to temporarily buff yourself or heal mid-battle.
Haven is not a tough game, but it rewards skillful play. Enemies hit very hard and quickly — but the game allows you to modify the difficulty if it’s too hard. You might get knocked out if you just mash buttons, but getting knocked out only returns you to the base and forces you to heal your characters. It’s easy enough to heal and stay equipped. I was knocked out once, and that’s because I was testing to see what happened. There is even an easy mode, even though the developers note at the outset that Haven is not intended to be a difficult game. I found the combat system to be fun, with combat being rare enough and varied enough that its limitations never came up during the game’s eight-hour runtime.
Haven is also a pretty game. The world is bright, colorful, and vivid, and it contains many different sights. Character artwork and voice acting do most of the heavy lifting for anything that doesn’t involve exploration, but both are varied enough that it is never an issue. I was particularly fond of the loading screens, which contained a ridiculous amount of art of the two protagonists doing things like cutting each other’s hair and playing video games. Likewise, the voice acting is very good. There are a few stiff moments, but by and large, Yu and Kay have adorable interactions that is only emphasized by the voice acting.
Haven is a cute and enjoyable mix of light survival, light RPG, and serious romance novel. It’s exactly the kind of game to play if you want to relax for a few hours and see adorable people being adorable. The surprisingly enjoyable RPG combat and gentle survival mechanics make the game feel more like a game, while at heart it is closer to a visual novel. If you like warm and fuzzy feelings, Haven is a great choice, as long as you don’t mind the occasional risqué dialogue.