One demo that caught my eye was Haven, by French developers The Game Bakers. Described by the developers as an “RPG adventure about love and freedom,” Haven puts you in control of two young lovers named Yu and Kay who have escaped an oppressive régime called the Apiary to live a quiet, solitary life on a distant planet.
Mechanics-wise, Haven feels like a mix between a dating sim (complete with playful and romantic dialogue between the couple), an exploration game, and a turn-based action RPG during combat sequences. In the short demo, you wander around your cozy spaceship/home (aka, the Nest), explore the world for food and supplies, and even square off against some of the planet’s fauna who’ve become corrupted by some sort of environmental decay. The demo ends with the Nest getting damaged in a sudden earthquake and the revelation of some bigger mysteries (e.g., that the planet may not be as abandoned as Yu and Kay thought).
What first drew me to Haven was its bright, colorful aesthetic, from the manga-esque character designs to the fanciful environment, replete with floating islands and vast surroundings. While you can walk, most of the time you’ll use anti-grav boots to drift and glide across the colorful grasslands and capture new supplies of “flow” energy, which powers the Nest. These exploration sequences are pretty relaxing once you get the hang of your anti-grav boots — in the demo, anyway. And it doesn’t hurt that the game’s soundtrack boasts some dreamy, Daft Punk-y electronica.
Given that the game’s main characters are a couple, there’s some emotional territory to navigate as well, as Yu and Kay flirt, argue, and comfort each other. In the demo, much of the dialog is pretty linear, though occasionally you’re offered a choice of responses. But given that most of the demo is spent exploring your surroundings, I don’t feel like I got a true sense of this aspect of the game.
That’s unfortunate because maintaining a relationship in the midst of various dangers and fraught situations — or even just mundane, everyday activities like preparing dinner and fixing the Nest — contains just as much promise for engaging gameplay as, say, turn-based combat, and perhaps even moreso.
Haven probably won’t come close to taxing the Xbox One’s technical capabilities. But if it can deliver on its sleek, stylish aesthetic and potential for engaging human drama, Haven could make for some really nice, refreshing play when it finally comes out later this year. In addition to the Xbox One, Haven will be released for the PS4, Switch, and Windows (via Steam).