Batora: Lost Haven is a top-down action game by Stormind Games, in which you play as Avril, a normal girl picked by the gods to save the earth.
The game claims to be an action RPG, but in practice it’s an action game with levels and the ability to equip runes to increase your stats. Each level is entirely linear except for when you’re forced to backtrack along that same linear path, with a few dead ends that contain chests. You run from objective to objective, fighting enemies along the way, make binary choices, solve simplistic puzzles, and fight more.
The combat is the bulk of the game and rests upon the polarity swap mechanic, whereby you can be in mental form to use ranged attacks and deal extra damage to purple enemies, or physical form to use melee attacks and increase your damage to orange enemies. Each form has a dodge and three ability cooldowns by the end of the game, and you begin the game with a basic attack you get by mashing the attack button, or a directional attack performed with the right stick.
The combat feels clunky, frequently eating inputs if you press a button at the wrong time, but once you get used to it and gain some more abilities, the combat has a pleasant flow to it. You mash some buttons, control enemies by swapping colors, and manage your cooldowns in a swift battle of destruction that never rises to great heights but is a moderate amount of fun.
The story, on the other hand, is frustratingly immature. There were dozens of typos and grammatical errors in the pre-release build I played, and even when the text and voice acting were correct, it was often ham-fisted, redundant, and unfunny. The emotions of the story fall flat. Characters act in nonsensical ways and fail to seem like real people. The overall story could have been interesting, but it’s ruined by the characters not talking about things like real people and forgetting to use basic logic.
On top of this, many of the moral choices aren’t very interesting since the consequences don’t make sense. For example, Avril acts surprised when a girl is angry you let her father die to save an entire species, even though she had previously indicated that’s how she would feel. Sure, some decisions make a difference in the short term, but sometimes you have no choice in situations where you obviously should, making the whole choice system feel hollow. The game wants to touch on big ideas like genocide but stumbles on the basics.
The puzzles mostly consist of an occasional few switches you have to hit to open a pathway. They’re not deep, but they do what they need to for the game and don’t repeat themselves enough to become annoying.
The upgrade system allows you to equip different runes to gain power. You can get more runes by buying them or receiving them for your binary moral choices, but to equip them, you’ll either need levels or Defender or Conqueror points gained from your moral choices. It’s a cute way to tie upgrades into the moral choice system, but for the most part it barely matters what upgrades you pick. As long as you make sure to equip as many as your levels and moral points allow, you’ll have much the same experience.
Batora is admirable for its blend of button-mashing combat and a story with moral choices that takes itself seriously. But with the story as bad as it is, I can only recommend the game if you’re really into top-down action games and are willing to look past the story’s flaws and engage with it for what it is — an 8-hour Saturday morning cartoon in video game form.
Batora: Lost Haven releases October 20 on PC, PlayStation 4 and 5, and Xbox Series X and S for $24.99, with a Nintendo Switch release coming later.
Watch the Review in 3 Minutes for Batora: Lost Haven.