Published by: Team17
Developed by: Stormind Games
The Earth as we know it is doomed. There is an unknown event coming towards us that will devastate the entire planet. I don’t mean to alarm you, but there is a chance you won’t survive the apocalypse.
Unless, of course, you happen to be a 16-year-old girl named Avril existing in the game Batora: Lost Haven.
Avril alone has the power to help stop the event, but she’ll have to work her way through several other planets, all on the brink of their own extinction.
It’s a heavy position to find oneself in, I’m sure you’ll agree. But does it make for a good game? Well, let’s have a look as we review Batora: Lost Haven.
Quick side note; our Batora: Lost Haven copy came courtesy of the publishers. It was performed on our dearly beloved Sammy. You know, James’ pet name for his Xbox Series X.
On a lighter note…
Okay, so we’ve already kind of alluded to the premise of Batora, but I want to start things off with a quick overview of the story and how that plays into the gameplay.
Avril, the aforementioned protagonist, starts the game off on Earth. But, it’s not the Earth we know. This Earth has been devastated by a mysterious event. Cities were levelled, countries wiped out, and most of civilisation is gone. Avril, one of the few remaining humans left alive along with her best friend Mila, finds two mysterious amulets.
These amulets pulsate with the power of the Sun and the Moon, and I don’t just mean the celestial bodies we see in the sky. The Sun and Moon in Batora are also manifestations of the physical and mental/spiritual aspects of life. Think of them as gods, having powers over those two realms of being.
Sun and Moon bestow unto Avril their respective powers. The end result is that Avril has become a warrior of both entities, with powers of both. What this equates to in-game is that Sun’s physical abilities give Avril, well, physical powers and a kick-ass sword. Meanwhile, Moon’s mental abilities are more akin to psychic powers. And guns. Avril also gets “psychic guns” thanks to Moon.
Everyone Loves a Good Psychic Gun. Pew Pew.
Using these new powers, Avril is tasked with travelling to four different planets and solving their problems in a bid to save them, and, hopefully, Earth too.
Now, how this all translates to the gameplay mechanics takes the shape of a polarity-switching combat system. Your enemies will either be of a physical or mental nature (though some of the tougher ones can boast both). You’ll then have to combat these enemies with the opposing nature to deal the most damage and defeat them easier.
And this mechanic, whilst seemingly fairly easy to grasp, can actually take a bit of getting used to at first. You’ll know who is in a physical state or a mental state as they’ll either be represented by a yellow or purple colour palette (respectively). However, when you’re trying to get to grips with things, this fast-paced action and the necessity to switch back and forth multiple times during the busier fights can feel daunting, especially at the earlier stages.
The problem is, that despite the idea being intuitive, the application of it is left to be desired. I often found the combat scenarios – especially against some of the harder enemies, and, in particular, the bosses – to be downright difficult. And I won’t say that cliché, but some of the combat encounters were genuinely tough.
I Want to Get Physical (Physical)
And combat is only one issue that Batora faces. Whilst we’re still talking about the story, perhaps the biggest issue the game has is its own narrative. Whilst the idea behind it is…okay, the general pacing seems off almost from the get-go.
You’re whisked from one place to another on each planet doing this task or that. However, at the same time, you’re met with different NPCs. Some of them can help you, whilst others are there to serve as a means to an end. And I feel that that is directly connected to the pacing. The story bombards you with so many choices to make that you have to choose between them instinctively. And whilst that can make the experience better, you’re told that your choices don’t actually matter more or less from the start of the game.
So, we can choose to be a right bastard, or act as a bastion of purity and righteousness. But either way doesn’t really impact the story as it will still progress regardless.
And then there’s the delivery. The first half or so seems to be about fulfilling a destiny and offers up hopeful optimism. And then it does a complete tonal flip and the true weight of your previous decisions really comes to play. So, your actions do in fact matter. You better hope you weren’t playing as an absolute bastard.
I think Batora tries to make a commentary about choices and how doing the “right thing” is only right in a specific set of circumstances – the “one man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist” argument comes to mind. But then, thanks to the rather quick pacing of the game itself, you’re not really left with room to think about consequences. Which, in honesty, is a shame.
The Sun and the Moon
Batora‘s story isn’t its best aspect. Nor, arguably, is its combat mechanics. However, something it does do well is the visuals.
Forgoing a realistic presentation, Batora, instead, is shown in a beautiful neon-rich cartoon aesthetic. The characters look crisp in design – even the lowly NPCs that are only present for about an hour at most. But the detailing on Sun and Moon, in particular, is gorgeous. Looking like a hybrid of robot, alien, and abstract pieces of art, the pair of them are wonderfully presented to players.
Avril, for her at-times annoying moxie, looks lush, too. Her hair, which goes from “normal” brown, to boasting highlights representing her dual states (physical and mental), is a nice touch. Her clothing makes her look like a Like, the developers nailed the aesthetics of every character.
And then there are the worlds. Each of the four worlds you explore boasts a unique biome unto itself. The first planet, Gryja, is the “earth” planet – as in the four elements of the world, earth, not the planet Earth. Gryja is a rocky domain with deep chasms and mountainous peaks. And the isometric field of vision Batora is presented with lends itself perfectly to the planet’s geology. Whilst Batora isn’t an open-world (or, I guess, open-planet) game, you are able to explore a sizeable chunk of the biome at a time.
And, whilst you explore, you’ll find collectables and upgrade material that will help Avril along in her journey. You know, typical “video game” stuff.
Dig That Duality Beat
Moving onto the audio, Batora‘s soundtrack is…decent. Like, I wouldn’t list it as one of the game’s selling points, but, in terms of presentation, it works. The planets feature unique soundtracks – mostly comprising diegetic and present noises that you would expect, plus a nice melody to boot.
The voice acting, as well, is on-point. Whilst in a similar game, the VO work could sound phoned in, Batora‘s actors feel connected and present in their deliveries. Sure, it ain’t exactly Hollywood A-lister levels on offer, but it also doesn’t fall flat. That being said, the script, especially for Avril at times, does come across as corny. I can chalk that one up to the overall cartoony vibe present elsewhere in the game, however, so it isn’t too distracting when taken at face value.
Choices, Choices, Choices
In regards to any sense of replayability, I mean, you could argue that there is almost limitless replay value present. One of Batora‘s biggest selling points is its whole “your choices matter” spiel. And I know it’s been done to death by now in the industry and more often than not, the statement doesn’t hold any water.
But with Batora, you get different responses from NPCs and the world responds to you differently. No, it won’t dramatically change the game for you, but there are a couple of different things you can experience. Obviously, no spoilers here.
What a State
All that being said, Batora is an okay time. The combat is a little clunky in places, and the narrative, whilst offering multiple outcomes, does take a bit of a nosedive towards the latter half. But, for a twin-stick, hack-and-slash, isometric action RPG, you couldn’t do worse…mainly because I don’t know of many other games in this particular genre.
I jest. For cereals though, Batora has a few tricks up its sleeve that might just make you want to see your journey to the end. Even if that reason is just the beautiful aesthetics. Typically speaking, you’ll spend about eight-10 hours in the game on a single playthrough, depending on your playstyle, of course.
Ultimately, I think Batora: Lost Haven is a noble attempt at a genre the devs previously had no experience in. (For context, Stormind Games’ previous outings were the Remothered horror games). Sadly though, it isn’t quite enough to save the game from being a mixed bag. As such, I give Batora a 6/10. There are plenty of games out there that might offer you similar experiences, but none that offer you this experience.
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Batora: Lost Haven Review
- Overall - 6/106/10
Batora: Lost Haven boasts stunning visuals throughout its relatively higgledy-piggledy narrative and at-time convoluted combat system. If you can look past the pacing and tone, there’s a good little indie title here that combines several different genres in one. +
- Absolutely gorgeous visuals
- Unique combat mechanic
- Choice-driven narrative
- Combat features a steep learning curve to truly master
- Difficulty spikes come thick and fast
- Narrative, whilst choice-driven, takes itself far too seriously
- Voice acting can be a bit corny
- Pacing doesn’t match narrative structure
ABG’s Senior Editor (News), YouTube content creator/streamer.