There’s been no shortage of Isometric hack and slash RPG’s on the market the past couple of years. Transistor, Hades and recently The Mageseeker. All contributed to the genre and I personally played and enjoyed them all. Batora: Lost Haven is developed by Stormmind games and published by Team17. You might know Stormmind from Remothered, a survival horror series. They did very well in adding additional features into their hack and slash adventure. Good story, choices and above all puzzles and exploration. All we could ever ask for from an Isometric RPG. But will it be different enough to stand up against some of the already well established titles? Let’s find out in our Batora: Lost Haven review.
The Sun and the Moon
In Batora: Lost Haven, a mysterious calamity decimated the world’s population and reduced London to ruins. Sun and Moon, two mysterious incorporeal deities, contact Avril. She is a young woman who recently lost her older sister Rose. They offer Avril the chance to save the world and stop the catastrophe. Sun and Moon transfer Avril and Mila, her best friend, to four separate planets in order to do this. The Sun and Moon will be able to summon the strength needed to save Earth by consuming their Cores. In the midst of it all, Avril frequently runs with Batora, a crazy elderly woman who believes she created the cosmos and is keeping track of your travels.
Avril interacts with the indigenous communities on each planet she travels, forges connections with them and aids in resolving their issues. Each planet has its own supporting character, backstories, and fighting factions. An ambitious feat in terms of writing. Unfortunately, the story moves too quickly for the reader to care about the characters that Avril meets along the way. You only visit each planet for an hour or two before you go on to the next one. Individuals you met on earlier planets are rarely seen again or make a comeback to influence the story. The tone is inconsistent, shifting from scenes of Batora’s odd babbling to dramatic sequences of persons experiencing mental breakdowns brought on by guilt. Additionally, there are no optional side missions or additional dialogue that can be found to learn more about Avril the planets or their inhabitants.
Duality in everything
The theme of the game is duality. This is clearly visible in its moral choice system. At pivotal points in the story, the player has to choose between the defender or conqueror decision at crucial times in the narrative. Only minor aspects are different due to these choices. During the story Sun and Moon try to persuade you towards a quick decision without delay, while the planet’s native race is often trying to find a more rational solution. Outside of any benefit given to a choice, this really made me consider the consequences of my choices and provided me with a firm resolve.
Unfortunately the choices that you make do not impact the game enough. Most of the consequences are instantly shown and longer lasting effects aren’t apparent. Even by the end without getting into too many details you are left feeling empty as the choices do not shine through enough. It only influences the ending you unlock. With that said there are four endings to enjoy so doing it another way will provide you with an alternate ending.
Color me surprised
The duality is also heavily included in the combat of Batora: Lost Haven. This is where it is most prominent. Avril’s blessing from the Sun and the Moon includes the ability to instantly switch between her short-ranged Physical Nature and long-range Mental Nature. All opponents are either physical and/or mental in nature and may be identified by their respective nature’s colour (orange and purple). A few more potent hybrid opponents are included for good measure and to add some variety. Unfortunately this was not nearly enough to keep combat encounters fresh as only a limited number of enemy types are included. Each of Avril’s natures has its own health bar and each one takes damage when it is struck by an attack of either a physical or mental nature.
The developers included a clever way to choose how you want to play. After gaining your powers and exploring the first planet, you can choose a “Nature Match Rule”. Loose: do full damage regardless of using mental or physical attacks. Standard: do reduced damage to the opposite nature. Strict: do no damage to the opposite nature. The bosses however do not follow this rule. We commend the developers for incorporating it into the game.
A trusty companion
When you encounter enemies you will be confined to a limited area to fight in. This arena often feels too small for the encounter, restricting your movements too much. Many enemies in the game have either a ranged attack or a charge. When multiple spawn on top of you with hardly any room to move it can become frustrating. From time to time an ally will be included in your party. They will fight alongside you in combat. They often have very limited health and will not evade attacks. When your ally has been defeated you will be presented with a game over. This caused us many resets that could easily have been avoided with a revive option. When an ally is attacked, the attacking enemy will have a sword icon displayed over their head. Prioritizing your targets becomes very important in these fights.
Through natural progression and the choices that you make you will be awarded “Rune Slots”. Blue being Neutral runes. Green being defender runes. Red being conqueror runes. The runes provide a variety of stat increases sometimes at the cost of stat decreases. Additionally, there are runes that can modify your abilities allowing you to amplify your skills.
The feature itself felt like its potential remained unused. The idea of increasing a single aspect does not appeal in a game where balance is so very important. However there are some runes that will increase both mental and physical. You will be scouring the planets, browsing the various shops to purchase them with one of three available currencies.
Batora: Lost Haven has some stunning sci-fi visuals to shape your experience. It will leave you looking around, glancing over all the fine details of the worlds you visit. As stated by the developers, they have been heavily inspired by the sci-fi environments created by Paul Lehr, combined with the art style of Alphonse Mucha. The sound team responsible for making worlds atmospherically come alive, need to be commended. The sounds were always on point and immersive. It’s always good to see a game investing in its voice acting, Batora: Lost Haven being no exception. Its voice acting scores a very high grade for me and never broke my immersion, it only amplified it.
The game has its flaws but does a lot of things right at the same time. I enjoyed going from planet to planet, admiring its design and beauty wondering what I would encounter next. They really did deliver on the planet’s overall atmosphere. The combat feels very responsive and fluent, a bit repetitive at times since you are limited to auto attack most of the time. The boss battles are very well done, defeating them feels like an accomplishment. Unfortunately the story felt rushed with its pacing all over the place, it needed more time for me to care about the world and its inhabitants.
The puzzles you encounter in your travels don’t really accomplish anything new. They are not very challenging but are a nice addition either way. In the end you are granted one of four endings depending on your choices. This adds to replay value and leaves me wondering what other endings there are available. I will certainly go back for more.
- Rich environment, beautiful stylized worlds.
- Fluent combat.
- Nature Match rule to change the way you want to play.
- Multiple endings.
- The story tries to tell too much in too little time.
- Superficial choices that don’t impact enough.
- Underdeveloped and forgettable characters.