Batora: Lost Haven has been available on consoles and PC for a while and is out now on the Nintendo Switch. It is inspired by the Italian book Batora Il Risveglio, but is it better, or should you stick to the book?
The game starts in a destroyed London in a post-apocalyptic world where most of the Earth has been destroyed by a catastrophe. You play Avril, who is suffering from the death of her older sister Rose.
You are joined by your friend Mila, and with her, you have discovered two amulets connected to the Sun and Moon. Not long after walking around London, you find a portal and are transported to the planet of Gryja, representing the earth element.
On each planet, you explore and help the inhabitants you meet. Each world represents a different element and usually requires defeating a boss to obtain. Once acquired, you are transported to another planet in the galaxy. Why do you do this? The reason is that Earth can only be saved with all the various elements from these planets.
In between, you meet a strange witch-like lady called Batora, who represents the universe. She guides you through the game and lets you purchase special runes from her.
What makes the game different from the usual action-adventure games is that there are choices you can make. Each one represents two types of decisions, either Defender or Conqueror. These will give a slightly different story and decide which of the four endings you will get.
Defender or Conqueror points received from decisions are also used to equip runes. All runes have a point requirement, so you are restricted in what you can use.
I noticed that the story starts simple and becomes a little more complicated later. However, it never becomes engaging enough and becomes predictable by the end. While I liked the main characters, they did feel aggravating. You aren’t ever given enough time to care about anyone you meet or the main characters themselves.
In Batora: Lost Haven, you only control Avril. I thought you might be able to control Mila as she is a more interesting character, but you don’t. As Avril, you explore each planet and help the locals to recover an element of that planet.
As you explore the 3D isometric world, you can smash crystals to receive healing and find ores. You can open chests to receive dust, a currency used to purchase more runes.
By the end of the game, I had tons of dust and ores and never discovered what the ores were for except selling them. They give the impression they might be used in a crafting mechanism. Yet there is no crafting mechanic, and when you level up, you receive mostly Neutral points and more health and stats. There is no skill tree, crafting or items to find and equip.
The only way to customise your play style and become stronger is by equipping runes that are sometimes given to you but are mostly bought with dust. A rune can be as simple as providing more health to changing how an ability works.
Speaking of abilities, you earn up to four per “nature” type, as they are called. In the orange physical nature, you use a sword to attack, acquire a paladin bubble to defend you, a barbarian tornado spin, and a leaping attack. In the purple mental nature, you use projectiles to attack, acquire a stationary shield to defend, a push-back attack, and a tornado area effect spell. Both attack natures have a roll move which you will use to avoid attacks and to get around the large and empty worlds.
Each attack nature also has a life bar. If any reaches zero will result in a game over. To help you survive, you can press the ‘B’ button to use a combo point that boosts your attacks and recover a little health. You can use both combo points with the ‘X’ button, but I never found it helpful.
Your primary consideration in combat is the nature of the enemy you are up against. Each enemy represents one or both natures. If an enemy is physical, you use orange attacks and vice versa. Bosses and some enemies will have two, requiring you to manage how you attack them, as only focusing on one isn’t recommended.
Even in normal mode, I died countless times throughout the game. This is because the difficulty affects how much damage you do. The easiest allows you to use any nature to defeat enemies, and normal only a little. Thankfully the game constantly auto-saves, so you never have to go far to try again, and for the most part, the load times were fast.
This is important as I was playing the game on the Nintendo Switch, and it loaded fast most of the time. Yet, I did notice that it took longer to load after dying.
I felt like I was playing World of Warcraft. One of the main antagonists looks like Illidan Stormrage (an elf), and bird-like humanoids, naga, and walrus NPCs appear with other odd creatures.
While you can create some interesting builds with the rune system, there aren’t enough runes to fully feel like you can customise anything too crazy. There is also a lack of moves and a variety of combat. Each combat encounter is won the same way, and even boss battles feel the same as you are only using the same six different abilities. There is a way to combo attacks with the right stick, which was never worthwhile and felt limper than pressing buttons.
The controls worked fine enough with the Nintendo Switch controller, but it did feel sluggish occasionally and aiming projectiles was hard to aim accurately. I played the game in docked mode and had no problems.
Strangely there is no use of tilt controls which I found disappointing as there are a lot of puzzle rooms where you need to roll a ball around, like in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Yet you have to use the stick.
These puzzle rooms were not practically hard, but difficult because of the loose aiming with your mind projectiles. They also felt out of place.
As the game is on the Nintendo Switch, you have to make some sacrifices, and this game suffers because of it. I looked at the images of the game on other platforms, and this version is more muted and dull looking.
The environments in the game are diverse. You have deserts, fire plains, underwater, and snow biomes. Yet they have a short draw distance and feel like they are surrounded by smog, meaning you miss a lot of the detail the game clearly has in the backgrounds.
I tried the game in handheld mode, and the problems are even worse. The text is small, and the graphics look even more blurry. I felt like I was going slowly blind looking at it.
Thankfully the character designs are more colourful and vibrant. Each planet has different fauna and flora. Even if sometimes, I felt like I was playing World of Warcraft. One of the main antagonists looks like Illidan Stormrage (an elf), and bird-like humanoids, naga, and walrus NPCs appear with other odd creatures. This made it feel like I was playing a different game. Maybe these are common elements in Asian legends and other myths that the game gets inspiration from, but I wouldn’t know.
As I said before, you have to expect some worse visuals on the Nintendo Switch, but I feel that for a game with the visual design that it is, it should pop more. I was also disappointed with the environments you see. They are all the traditional biomes you might see in other games. I would have preferred if the game was all set in London and the destroyed Earth, as this would at least be more interesting. Some people may feel the opposite.
The game is fully voice acted and has pretty good dialogue. I appreciated that the game didn’t drag to a standstill with every new character you meet. This does have an effect on you not really caring about anyone.
The music is diverse enough to never feel boring or annoying. There are a couple of good tracks with vocals which were emotionally moving at times.
The audio is good and lifts the game into a more pleasurable experience. It is a shame the rest doesn’t match the same quality.
Batora: Lost Haven has four different endings and basically boils down to two for the Defender path and two for the Conquer path. I got ending B and wasn’t sure if it matched my choices. As the game saves often, you could go back and change your decisions to see a different outcome, or you could start the game again.
Thankfully the game has a New Game Plus mode and allows you to continue the game with the same character level and special runes you had before and marks previous choices. This means you can do the opposite the second time playing. The only problem is that you have to do all the tutorials again.
The game could be completed in one sitting, as it isn’t that long. However, I am not sure how many people will want to play through the game three more times to see all the endings. On the Nintendo Switch, this is less likely when the system has no achievements or trophies to unlock.
Overall, Batora: Lost Haven had the potential to be a more narrative-focused action-adventure game with decision-making. Yet the main gameplay isn’t expansive or customisable enough to feel satisfying. The story comes down to making two decisions only occasionally, and you don’t know how different it will make the game. Made worse by a mostly uninteresting story.
The game made me want to read Batora Il Risveglio instead to see if it is better. If you can get the game on sale and on another platform, you may find some enjoyment. However, it needed more overall to lift the experience beyond the feeling of mediocrity.
Developer: Stormind Games.
Platform: Nintendo Switch.
System: PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S and X.
Release: 6th April 2023.
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