Haven is an upcoming title from The Game Bakers that is many things at once. It is, in part, all about the love of Yu and Kay, two lovers who have escaped to a deserted world so they can stay together. However, the press materials may worry some, especially as they emphasize the story. What is Haven gameplay like? I sat down with Emeric Thoa of The Game Bakers to find out.
Until very recently, we didn't know much about Haven gameplay other than what we saw in the teaser trailer. However, we very recently got to see the first Gameplay Trailer which gives us a better idea of what we can expect:
There's a lot of flying around, collecting of resources, and a bit of crafting. The world is populated with strange creatures that you can battle in a sort of turn-based role-playing game style, and that's about the gist of it. That gives us some idea of what to expect, but what is the game ultimately all about?
"The big objective for me is to make [Haven] relaxing," Thoa said. He went on to explain that the things you'll find in your time with this upcoming game will have a lot in common with 'ninety-nine percent' of other titles on the market, but it won't be super intense, complicated systems that will require the players to crack open a wiki and get to studying.
"I go back from work, I'm tired, I'm starting this new game," he began, "[...] and then I have 10 hours of learning all these systems again and again. It's the same thing, but it's different, but there's tons of UI, lots of elements to learn, lots of economic systems that are complex. And I feel that it's a bit exhausting. So I want to get rid of this, so the crafting, the economy, the action, the exploration in Haven is made so that it's way, way, way simpler. On purpose.
"It's on purpose that the game is trying to be—to feel simple, but in the good way of simple. [...] It's not complex."
Is Haven A Walking Simulator?
When it comes to video games, I'm definitely more of a "gameplay guy" than a "story guy." I'm all for a well-written story—I am, after all, a writer—but the gameplay is the most important part of a game. An Oscar-winning script cannot salvage a game with terrible controls or unbalanced mechanics. So when I read that Haven was going to have a heavy focus on its story, I grew a bit concerned that it might be a walking simulator.
A quick definition: A "walking simulator" is a term used to describe a game (often pejoratively) that has the bare minimum level of interactivity. One of the most prominent examples is Dear Esther, a game where the player walks around on an island hearing narration and looking at the scenery. While many feel it's a very good story, I feel that it's a very bad game.
With that definition established, let's get down to brass tacks: Is Haven a walking simulator? I asked Thoa outright.
"Well... [laughs] it's not at all a walking simulator," he began. "It's not at all Furi. It's not a deep, skill-based try-hard game, for sure."
I jokingly asked if it's unlikely that people would be posting Yu and Kay skill tree builds on GameFAQs, and Thoa replied that that was unlikely to happen — he said that there aren't any skill trees in Haven, laughing a bit afterward.
Between Thoa's own words and the images you see above, I can safely say that any concerns about Haven gameplay should be dispelled.
Snuggle Up on the Couch
Thoa continually emphasized the notion of the game being accessible and the fact that he was going for a more relaxed experience. This brought a thought to my mind: Was this perhaps done on purpose to make it easier for your non-gamer spouse to come play with you?
"It was not a reason, but it's a goal," Thoa said. "I wanted the game to be accessible because the subject, it has to be accessible. I think it can interest a lot of people that are not hardcore gamers.
"The obvious combination [that comes to mind is that] at home there is one person who is playing more than the other and he or she is buying the game and he or she is inviting the other person to join. And I want this to go well."
In a way, it seems like The Game Bakers are trying to act like a wingman for all of you gamer guys and gals out there who have been looking for a reason to share the hobby with your significant other. Thoa certainly took to the notion!
"Two people [talking with] each other, and then this guy or this girl says, 'Hey, you should come over Friday, I have this game we could play together.' And then they hook up and there is a baby from Haven. That would be so cool."
I am certain that if Haven sells enough copies, that exact scenario (or something close to it) will probably happen. So to all you lonely gamers out there, Thoa and The Game Bakers are rooting for you. (And hey, "Haven" isn't a half-bad name for a baby girl.)
How Big is the Open World?
One thing that seemed much clearer in the Haven gameplay trailer was the scale of the world. It seemed like you had a good bit of room to move around. What's exploration going to be like?
"[In Haven], exploring is not difficult at all. But, it's satisfying. Because you control your characters gliding over the grass, they have to follow flow threads. It's satisfying, it's like skiing. Skiing together with your partner on a blue track." (A "blue track" is one of the difficulty rankings for ski runs and is the second-easiest type out there.)
Haven will indeed have an open world, mostly to make it easy and comfortable for you to glide around. Our discussion resulted in the perfect analogy: Getting a Lamborghini to 100 miles per hour on the German Autobahn is pretty easy. Try to do that during rush hour in Central London and it will be a very different experience.
I also, of course, asked just how large the world is going to be. Thoa didn't have an exact number for me, but his subsequent description essentially stated that it's going to be big enough that it doesn't feel too claustrophobic.
"It's flying rocks with grass and sometimes buildings, sometimes creatures. It doesn't matter. If it was too big, it would be boring. So, it's big enough and small enough. [laughs]" — Emeric Thoa, The Game Bakers
Moving around the open world will work with a simple "follower and leader" system. One player is always in the leader and their co-op partner will trail behind them. At the push of a button, you can switch positions just like that. If you're playing by yourself, A.I. will pick up the slack for this part of the game.
The open world won't be an empty world, either. As you saw above, there are plenty of creatures for players to encounter, but there's also an awful lot of technology floating around on what's supposed to be an abandoned planet. Where exactly did that come from, I wondered?
"Well, it was definitely not [Yu and Kay]," Thoa said. "They arrived here and it was there."
I didn't get a direct answer on this bit, but it seems like an important part of the game is going to be exploring these derelict ships and buildings to some degree. Of course, the encounters won't exactly be safe as there's a fair bit of unfriendly wildlife out there to contend with.
Fight or Flight
The battle system is one of the more interesting parts of Haven gameplay. If you're playing it in co-op with someone, each player will command their respective characters, selecting from one of four abilities to deal with the immediate threat. If you're by yourself, you'll control both characters simultaneously using one controller.
The combat portion of Haven gameplay may seem simple, but it does give you a solid four choices to select from. That's just as many as we had in many classic NES and SNES role-playing games and we were just fine with it, gosh darn it.
Something that I found unclear, however, was a blurb in some of the press materials stating that Yu and Kay are "fighting for their freedom." This confused me somewhat as it was a little vague. What exactly did this mean?
"If they didn't [steal] a ship, [leave] for a deserted planet far away (that's a forbidden planet), they would be separated," Thoa replied. "So that's the first step for the fight. Then they are being hunted. That's another [step]. And then some other things happen, so... that's a pretty strong fight for freedom. 'We want to be together so much that we're gonna break the law, risk our lives, and never give up.'"
The more Haven gameplay I see, the more I'm looking forward to this upcoming title from The Game Bakers. That's it for this part of the interview, but we're not done yet! In the third and final part of our interview with Thoa, we cover Haven's release date, platforms, and the Epic Games Store. Don't forget to check out the first part of our interview!