Stories about what would happen after the apocalypse continue to thrive in the gaming community. Many of them focus on bands of survivors attempting to make a living in the harsh wastelands of the old world. However, some of them follow the idea of humanity being able to recover and build up new cities from whatever they can. In Code 351’s Project Haven, you lead a band of mercenaries as they struggle to survive in a city called Haven, the last one on Earth. To better understand the foundation of this project, we spoke to developers Sérgio Gil and Joana Dimas. While Gil explained their journey, we had Dimas’s art to complement it.
Project Haven is still in development with plans to release in 2022. Gil gave his pitch for the game: “If you’d like to play a game that gives you as many tactical options as you want, this would be it.”
What Inspired Project Haven?
Tactical games are quite popular in competitive online play with players trying to strategically outsmart each other. However, due to their designs, these games aren't usually made with cooperative play in mind. It was this thought that lead towards Project Haven.
When creating something new, we often look to other sources for guidance or to give us the creative spark we need. “We were trying to play Jagged Alliance II in co-op using a mod, but it didn’t work very well. Then we thought, maybe we can do something like this but with co-op. So we started developing something, and Project Haven was born out of that,” said Gil.
As such, one of the defining characteristics of this title is that it’s a turn-based strategy game with co-op elements. This is uncommon in the genre, and many would wonder how something like that could work. “The host of the game owns the game," Gil said. "You’re dropping into the game of the host and you control some of the mercenaries that way. Currently, each player has their own turn, but we’re going to make it so each player can play simultaneously.”
Who Are The Teammates In Project Haven?
When it comes to turn-based games, you expect to have a large roster of characters to learn about and control. Games like XCOM and Mutant Year Zero give us lots of space to explore and units with different playstyle to master. While only four mercenaries have been revealed in Project Haven thus far, there are more on the way.
“It’s a bit hidden, but you can play as a fifth character,” Gil teased. “In the final game, you’re gonna have eight mercenaries to choose from, but your squad is always four. You’ll recruit more during the game who’ll all have different personalities, relationships, stats, and equipment that you can pick from.”
Despite all the mercenaries being pre-made, distinct characters, you can customize their loadout and skills to a specific degree. “Everyone should have something for their own playstyle,” said Gil.
During missions, your selected squad will drop in at a designated starting point. When the enemy is not alerted, you’ll be on free roam which allows you to move your characters around the area without sacrificing stamina. This means that until enemies detect you, you can sneak around the level.
“Our intention with the stealth is so you can get the lay of the land, understand what the situation is, trying to find out the patrols,” Gil explained. “It’s not a stealth game, but we wanted to make it so that you can stealth and it gives you an advantage. But if you wanna go guns blazing, that’s absolutely doable, just bring armor and med kits.”
What’s the Story of Project Haven?
Project Haven is set in a dystopian cyberpunk universe. It follows a band of mercenaries doing underground work for various sources in Haven, the last city on Earth.
“We inspired ourselves from the old cyberpunk style… like a Johnny Mnemonic, Blade Runner type of setting, more dark and grimy in contrast to the bright and pink colors. We went for a dystopian society,” said Gil.
One of the main themes in this world is class inequality with the wealthy living in the higher levels of the city and the poor living on the ground. However, even though the mercenaries operate in the slum-like zones, a fair number of them have obtained cybernetics.
“The reason why those characters have cybernetics is story-related. Cybernetics aren’t common, mostly reserved for rich people. You’ll see more of them in the game for sure,” said Gil.
Considering this setup, you may be wondering why Haven is the last city on Earth. What happened to the world to bring us to this point. Although these are huge curiosities, they aren’t the main narrative focus.
“The story is more about what happens now that this is the last city on Earth more than how we got here,” Gil said. “It’s more like, we’re living here, let's do what we have to do and explore our situation. They can’t do anything about what happened but can do something about their future, which is what we’re going for.”
What Sort Of Challenge Is There?
Strategy and RTS games have a reputation for being difficult and complex. Project Haven has multiple elements to add to its challenging gameplay, which is evident in the demo. “The demo is definitely on the harder side and we want the harder difficulties to feel like that. We definitely want to make it accessible for everyone since the game has a strong story component and narrative,” said Gil.
An important mechanic that increases the challenge is the AP system. While it may be set in a cyberpunk dystopian future, this game includes a lot of realistic aspects. Each character has AP which is used to perform different actions, but this is directly affected by their stamina. Gil discussed how characters will get tired as the move around, attack, or get attacked, which directly affects how much AP they regenerate. One of your characters can spend their turn behind cover but if they get suppressed, they'll have little energy to actually act.
On top of getting used to how real the characters are, you’ll have to face large numbers of dangerous enemies. “All of our enemies will be humanoids. There will be some surprises,” Gil hinted. “One thing we did reveal is that there will be special enemies AKA bosses that you’ll have to fight and have their own strategies to be defeated. You’ll fight quite a few bosses throughout the game.”
As with many great projects, the Code 351 team did not get here alone. “We started out with a pretty small community in our Discord, and it’s been growing and growing ever since,” Gil said. “There was so much feedback and discussion about the things behind the game and how we could improve it. Obviously, I’m grateful for the community we have now, and hopefully, more will join the discussion.”
“We’re making sure that this is the game that people want.”
If you're interested in tactical RPGs in a cyberpunk world, keep an eye out for Project Haven, which is slated for launch in 2022. You can wishlist it on Steam to stay in the loop.
Update July 6, 2021: The release window in this article has been updated.