Haven is a jumble of various games: Journey, Toejam and Earl, Zelda and Jet Set Radio are all in there to varying degrees. As a result, it can feel overwhelming, as there are a variety of different systems and influences at work.
Get over the initial hump, which only lasts for the first few hours or so, and everything becomes natural. But you have to get there, which is where we come in. We’ve played Haven to 100% completion, and the hump is far in our rear-view mirror. There are some simple approaches that can make the Source a veritable breeze to play through, and they’re on offer here if you want to avoid frustrations. And don’t worry – we’ve jettisoned all spoilers.
Follow Flow Whenever you get the Chance
As you zoom about the Source, you’ll trigger light blue strands of flow. Haven is quick to tell you to follow them, effectively grind-railing them about the environment. It’s not so great at telling you why doing so is essential, however.
In the top-left of the screen, you’ll see a circle that signifies the state of your Flow. The more you have, the more it will reflect the flow strands: light blue and pulsating. If you don’t have enough, it’ll be a dull purple. Don’t let it go purple, as you need to have a bank of Flow to do a lot of things in Haven. Primarily, you won’t be able to rid the world of Rust, and ridding the world of Rust gives you resources and makes islands safe. So, make sure you follow flow strands to keep this bank up.
Even more importantly, the designers of Haven use the flow strands to prod you into the direction of important game elements. The strands will often drop you off at otherwise unreachable mountains or islands, or they’ll lead you to plot developments and secrets. If you want to 100% Haven, you should follow every new strand that you come across, as the designers are giving you a nudge and a wink that it’s the direction to go.
Handbraking with LT is Essential when Following the Flow Strands
The tutorials in Haven repeatedly tell you to use the LT button when scooting over flow strands. But those first strands are easy and you won’t feel like the handbrake turn is necessarily needed. They tell you for good reason, however: it’s impossible to complete Haven unless you master it.
Many of the flow strands are critical to progression, and fly you over chasms and up mountains. You will need to be able to follow them exactly or risk being dumped off. The problem is that the strands often veer in right-angles, and using solely the analogue stick will not be enough. Press LT when turning and it will act as a handbrake-like turn, and these right-angles will be achievable.
The LT button is not only useful on flow strands. Since you move at a decent speed around the islands, you’ll often pass something that you wish you’d explored. Handbrake turn with LT and you’ll be able to get to it without doing a huge loop-the-loop.
Tonics are a Get-out-of-jail-free Card
When you get the ability to craft at the central table within the Nest, you should beeline immediately to the speed-improving Tonics. They may not seem the most attractive, since there are health-replenishing balms and boosts to your damage output available, but Tonics are ridiculously imbalanced and you should carry a few with you at all times.
When you trigger them in combat, Tonics double your speed and let you do twice the number of actions for a large period of time. That’s already more cumulative damage-dealing than the Blast and Impact boosts, just stretched over a longer period. Sure, some battles won’t last long enough to get this benefit, but why are you using boosts in those flimsy encounters anyway?
What makes Tonics a winner, though, is the way they allow you to react rather than anticipate. Lots of creatures have a short window where they are vulnerable; if you don’t anticipate this window, you will traditionally fail to attack within it. Using a Tonic, though, you can wait for the window and attack once it’s triggered, and that makes the Tonic invaluable.
We call them a get-out-of-jail-free card because Haven has a habit of dropping you into harder fights when you least expect it. You might encounter Haven’s version of a Final Fantasy ‘Weapon’ without really planning for it. But, if you have some Tonics in stock, you may find that these longer fights are viable.
Don’t be Afraid of Death
Dying in Haven is no big thing, as long as you die to the right enemy. It seems counter-intuitive: Haven makes a big noise that death is a terrible thing that should be avoided but, actually, it’s perfectly fine, and often it’s more beneficial to let yourself die.
Take fatal damage in combat and you can still be ‘helped’ by the other character. This brings you back up to around 20% health. Since health-replenishing items are hard to come by, this completely free health dose is actually worth considering. It requires you to time a button press to get it working, and that button press becomes increasingly difficult the more you die, so we’d recommend only doing it twice per battle.
Completely die, and you will be teleported back to your base with 1 life point left each. In a game that makes returning to base quite difficult (there are no escape ropes to take you back home), this can be a boon: you are now home and can start planning your next excursion. As far as we can tell, there is no punishment for dying and teleporting in this way. You get to keep everything that you earned, including your progress.
A word of warning, however: some enemies capture you rather than kill you, and it can be game over with a load of the nearest save. You’ll know which enemies will capture rather than kill, but we won’t go into detail as they’re a major plot point.
Avoiding Combat is Fine
Once you’ve read our review, you will know that combat isn’t the most thrilling, particularly when you reach the second half of the game. There’s no massive variation in encounters, and they can take a chunk of time, as well as hoover up your finite pool of health and health-giving items.
But upon realising that combat isn’t always mandatory, Haven can become a whole lot more pleasant. You can skip out on combat and often still progress to the next location, find game-progressing landmarks, or experience any number of benefits.
Avoiding combat does stop you from clearing the Rust from an island. There is value to clearing an island of Rust – you can fast-travel there when you get a Blurple, and it uncovers things like flow strands – but there is no shame in tactically clearing every other Rust-covered island, so that you have some fast-travel options.
So, if combat is getting you down, or your life points are worryingly low, just avoid combat. A long-press on the X button will flow-stun any approaching attackers, so you can get on with the business at hand. You can always return to clear out that enemy when you have more health.
With these five tips, making a home for yourself on the Source should be a cinch. Haven was designed to be a relaxing, joyful encounter, so you can instead focus on the important things: like zooming around a beautiful alien world and collecting fantastical fruit. It’s how nature intended it to be.
If you feel like Haven is now somewhere you need to visit, pop on over to the Xbox Store from the 3rd December and pick up a copy. It’s available on Xbox One AND is optimised for Xbox Series X|S.