Batora: Lost Haven
A little over a month ago in April, Batora: Lost Haven was released on the Nintendo Switch, bringing one of 2022's most underrated gems onto all major platforms following its original October 2022 release. I wanted to give a special thanks to the guys at Team17 for giving me an opportunity to play the game. This will be one of several pieces I plan to write about Batora as I've played through I'd say the first third of the game. It wouldn't do me this game justice if I were to call this a review, but I have played enough for it to earn my coveted "first impressions." Let's take a quick look at Batora: Lost Haven and see why Avril is such an interesting character.
Batora: Lost Haven begins with Avril and her best friend Mila traversing the ruined city of London. It's not explicitly stated that it's London, but Avril's dialogue suggests this is the setting as she brings up the city several times. An unknown event destroyed half of planet Earth as well as served as the cause of Avril's sister's death, Rose. Avril and Mila find an artifact that transports the both of them Gryja, a distant planet that has also suffered a similar fate to Earth. As it turns out, a man named Soren is to blame, having left several destroyed planets in its wake. With the help of her friend and the allies she makes, it's up to Avril to use her powers to stop Soren and restore Earth to its original form.
Of course, the player can decide to go a completely different path thanks to Batora's decision-making dialogue. Combining games like Life Is Strange with Mass Effect, there will be moments in the story where Avril will make decisions that count towards Conquerer and Defender points. While this affects the course of the story, this also opens up the kind of relics Avril has access to. By doing certain things in the story, these points are used to apply any relic of the same philosophy. Defender points are used for support and survivability while Conquerer points are used for relics that increase Avril's offense. Your decisions also have an effect on the builds players can go for, but there's always enough to go for a playstyle that best works for the player.
This is also because of Batora's unique gameplay, in which I praised Strayed Lights for its similar combat mechanics. Avril has the backing of the Sun and Moon gods, although they are severely weakened due to their previous encounters with Soren. There's enough power for Avril to fight her adversaries and there are two distinct play styles. The Sun style, identified by an orange color, is Avril's melee. She can delay her attacks to deal more damage as well as dodge roll. The Moon style, identified by a purple color and Avril's ethereal appearance, has Avril shoot stardust at her enemies, making this her projectile stance.
Sun attacks are super effective against orange monsters and Moon attacks are effective against purple ones. Depending on the difficulty, attacking a different colored monster will either deal the same as attacking one with the correct color or will completely be invulnerable. The player can also make the difficulty meet somewhere down the middle. Certain enemies will have both colors so Avril will need to lower their health with one color and switch to the other. The secondary color gets an attack buff, so I found it easier to save the purple color for last as it's easier to dodge projectiles than melee attacks.
The reason for my title is because Avril, and Batora: Lost Haven, reminded me a lot of Forspoken. This is the first time I've ever mentioned the overly ambitious Square Enix title that was released earlier in 2023 and it's for a valid reason. I'm conflicted with Forspoken as I thought I would be with Batora. Both protagonists are teenage girls who both live in the city and are suddenly transported to a different world where saving other worlds will be the key to returning to their own world, preferably saved and not in ruins. Forspoken is more of an "isekai," whisking Frey away from New York and into a high fantasy setting. Batora merely teleports Avril and Mila to another location and not necessarily a different timeline.
Both protagonists are headstrong, stubborn, and met with a certain sense of justice. The kind of justice that would have their logic questioned, as it doesn't take much for both girls to agree to help others. Their snark is paired with an omnipotent being bound to a weapon, whether it's Frey's bracelet or Avril's sword (and sparkly purple magic powers). The list goes on, with obvious differences being Batora's linear ARPG gameplay compared to Forspoken's open world. While Avril had Frey beaten by a few months, they are both outdone by Fenyx.
Immortals Fenyx Rising may be cheating here as Fenyx can be any gender, but most of the promotional material uses the female model so I'll address her as if she was canon. There are puzzles that ask the player to use every bit of skill that Avril has to solve puzzles. The entire liminal space, the physics of some of the puzzles, and some of its solutions reminded me of this game. Much like my previous examples, Fenyx also has snark but it's more in a "Disney's Hercules" kind of way and not a "Teenager forced to save the world while struggling with trauma."
I think most games should use more protagonists like this. I've always had a preference for relatable protagonists over larger-than-life characters. Whether or not Batora: Lost Haven manages to make Avril a character I enjoy from this preference determines how the pacing of the story goes. I am aware of the game's multiple endings and I am unsure of what they are, but I will say that Batora is a fun enough experience that I'll happily give my final thoughts on the story once I finish my first playthrough. Check this one out if you're a fan of Action RPGs and in need of a refreshing new entry in that genre.
Batora: Lost Haven is now available on the Nintendo Switch, PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 5.