Save the earth. It’s an all too common aim in video games (and increasingly more so in real life these days) but somehow it always remains a gripping reason to get stuck into the action. Batora: Lost Haven throws you into a timeline where, unfortunately, things seem to have already taken a turn for the worst. In fact, around a third of the earth has been destroyed by an unknown malicious force and it seems our home planet took the brunt of the damage.
Enter Avril, a teenage hero who takes on the role of saviour despite having barely any time to grieve the loss of her sister who she lost during the recent destruction. Along with her best friend Mila, she sets out to restore earth (or the lost haven) thanks to a couple of mysterious amulets which grant her some rather cool powers.
Through these, Avril is guided on her journey by the mysterious entities called Sun and Moon. What follows is an interplanetary adventure across a vibrant universe all tied together by an engrossing narrative. It’s here where you can exercise choice at times, deciding between responses that have a tangible effect on how events play out. Avril’s character is shaped by these decisions, pushing her to defender, conqueror or walk a fine line in between.
I must admit, I did find Batora: Lost Haven something of a slow starter. You’re put through a step by step tutorial to kick things off, introducing you to all the basic elements. This is split into very short chunks by plenty of scene setting dialogue, but that does kill any sort of rhythm in the first hour or so. However, things start to come together as the game gradually opens up.
The storytelling is brilliant, riveting and steeped in the lore of the numerous civilisations you come to know. There are plenty of characters which are expertly fleshed out, meaning you’ll really care about them which adds even more gravitas to the decisions that you make, and consequences that follow. This eventually leads to the possibility of several different endings to the game.
In terms of gameplay, it’s all built around the polarity switching technique. In plain English, this is the ability to change between dealing mental and physical damage at any time. A purple hue signifies the first, and when in this state Avril can cast ranged attacks as well as various spells. The latter state equips Avril with an impressive orange yellow sword, which can duff up even the most fearsome foes.
You’ll need to match your state to that of the enemies you are facing, otherwise you’ll find them very difficult to take down. It’s also advised to keep an eye on the damage you take, that being mental or physical. If one bar depletes, it’s game over.
Fighting in Batora: Lost Haven starts off pretty simple, bordering on button bashing (it’s X in case you were wondering). However, new skills do come and are chiefly earned by progressing through the story, awarded at certain points with no warning. These new abilities give you options on the battlefield, but also come with recharge times so timing is crucial. A brief dodge attack is available to buy time too, until your most powerful moves are ready to be used again.
Whether it’s a whirlwind which sucks those in near it, or a frenzied spinning attack, Batora: Lost Haven gradually expands Avril’s catalogue of abilities which are a lot of fun to execute.
I must say, it would be more satisfying to feel as if you were earning these new skills rather than sporadically unlocking them, however this straightforward method matches the linear environments and progression in the game. It’s mostly A to B stuff, with few reasons to scour every nook and cranny. Apart from replenishing your health or looting chests, there’s nothing else to be gained here.
If you find yourself struggling to survive in Batora: Lost Haven then there’s a real chance you will need to reconfigure your runes. These buffs affect Avril’s stats, and as she levels up, her capacity to equip them will increase. Runes can be bought from merchants in return for rare materials, and even found in some chests. This is where light RPG elements creep in, but it never gets complicated.
Aside from running around and fighting off nasties, you’ll occasionally be whisked off somewhere otherworldly to solve intricate puzzles. Both physical and mental abilities will be needed to manipulate the environment to see you to the exit. These segments mix up the gameplay a little, even if they are brief asides that aren’t going to test your grey matter too much.
Bigger foes also await you along with their chunky health bars. These boss characters will shift states mid battle, and essentially have two health bars. As before, Avril will need to echo this to do damage, and take chunks off the big beasts before their health regenerates. This is all whilst dodging minions and various devastating attack patterns, of course.
There’s no doubt that Batora: Lost Haven looks absolutely gorgeous. Not just content with creating rich worlds filled with personality and history through storytelling, the team at Stormind Games have doubled down on this theme with how the game looks. The retro art style which boasts hand painted visuals is inspired by the 1950’s era of sci-fi.
I wasn’t sure at first, but the longer I spent with Bartora: Lost Haven the more engrossed and invested I became. It may not be the most complex (I’m looking at you RPG elements) or challenging game, but it is bursting with such character that I felt compelled to play on. And I enjoyed pretty much every second.
Batora: Lost Haven is a cracking adventure boasting a powerful character driven story. Despite simple and sometimes unvaried gameplay, there’s enough here to keep you invested until this tale’s conclusion.
Batora: Lost Haven is on the Xbox Store
- Enthralling story
- Beautiful visuals
- Intriguing switching mechanic
- Linear environments
- Repetitive gameplay at times
- Massive thanks for the free copy of the game go to - Team17
- Formats - Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PC, PS4, PS5
- Version reviewed - Xbox Series X
- Release date - 20 October 2022
- Launch price from - £19.99