Developer: Stormind Games
Platform: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, Windows (Reviewed)
Release Date: 20 October 2022
Price: $23.99USD / $33.95 AUD – Available Here
Batora: Lost Haven is an action RPG combining classic hack’n slash action with elements of a twin stick shooter. Players will take on the role of Avril, a girl blessed with the power of the sun and moon. She will use her newfound powers to explore four planets all on a quest to save Earth itself.
The game is based on an Italian fantasy book published in 2018. Batora: Lost Haven appears to be the first time the story is being told in English, as I could not track down an English translation for the book.
The writing is good. The story is interesting enough to keep the player’s attention, although the twists tend to be telegraphed to the players long in advance. The lore feels like it’s drawing from a book as there are hints of deeper world building behind the scenes that the players is missing due to the shorter nature of the game. The dialogue has a nice pacing as it hits the right emotional notes without dragging on unnecessarily.
The morality system is well done as the developers skip the idea of good or evil actions in favour of rash and aggressive or calm and defensive action. There are several no-win choices in the game that have a little bit of teeth. Decisions do matter as the game offers two endings, and it’s nice to see there’s a new game plus mode so players can experience both endings.
Batora: Lost Haven is combat heavy and light on the RPG mechanics. Avril has two modes. In orange sun mode, Avril is a highly mobile melee fighter. In purple moon mode, she is a ranged mage. Basic enemies in the game are marked either orange or purple and must be fought with in the corresponding mode so Avril can inflict maximum damage. Special enemies and bosses have orange and purple health bars, adding a little interesting wrinkle into the fight. At its core, combat is formulaic almost to a fault. Nuke orange enemies with cooldowns right away so Avril has a clear line of sight against purple enemies, then whittle down the purple enemies. This rhythm does not change much until Avril has to haul around an ally who is ranges from a complete boat anchor to a marginally helpful source of damage. The ally has a health bar and must be defended, otherwise its game over. The allies are probably the most frustrating part of combat as their health pools are quite small. Increasing the health by 50% or so would probably cut down on the irritation by giving players a little more breathing room.
The boss fights offer some of the best moments in Batora: Lost Haven. Bosses are multi-stage affairs. They change modes just like Avril and have a separate health bar for each mode. Once a health segment is cleared in one mode, Avril has only a small window to clear the same segment in the other mode or the entire segment is refilled. The game combines the mechanics with some snappy boss attacks to create a skill heavy system that rewards patient players who can manage their cooldowns and dodge effectively.
Controls are tight and responsive. Dodging is a huge part of the game, and the slight cooldown requires players to time their dodges instead of spamming it relentlessly. The only improvement I could suggest is making the aim assist a little more generous at longer ranges, especially against stationary puzzle objects.
The RPG mechanics are very light. The entire system revolves around the runes Avril can equip. The runes can either boost stats and skills or grant new abilities. Each rune has a type and a point value, and there is a cap on how many points worth of runes can be equipped at one time. As Avril levels up, the cap is increased, allowing Avril to become more powerful. There is a little bit of stat and ability tweaking with the runes, but it is not very deep. It is just enough to tweak Avril to suit a certain playstyle, but the system isn’t complex enough where players can create game breaking builds. The light mechanics suits the game well as the mechanics put more emphasis on player skill than grinding out levels.
Batora: Lost Haven offers a solid style reminiscent of the major North American animation studios. Since Avril visits four planets, the game’s plot gives the artists a ripe opportunity to flex their creative muscles, and they did not disappoint. Each planet is a unique world with inhabitants that match the world nicely.
My only complaint with the game’s visuals is how far out the camera is by default. It’s so far out that players miss some of the enemy model details, yet it doesn’t add anything to the game combat-wise since aiming that far out is so fussy. Except for the odd boss fight, the slightly zoomed in camera angle provides a more intimate and pleasant experience.
Batora: Lost Haven offers an enjoyable soundtrack that compliments the gameplay well. It’s a subtle accompaniment for the most part, but the composer chooses the right time to push the music to the forefront so the right tone is set. The sound effects are solid. The voice acting is good for the most part, but it isn’t the most consistent thing in the world. Avril and the main characters are done really well, but performances for the smaller roles and weirder voices are just a half a step behind.
Batora: Lost Haven offers a mechanically solid action RPG. The story is enjoyable. The audio-visual experience is well done. The RPG mechanics are just deep enough to be entertaining without taking away from the skill heavy nature of the game. Combat can get a little repetitive at times, but the tight controls and excellent boss fights more than make up for the formulaic combat.
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