When I previewed Batora: Lost Haven a while back I came away with more doubt than excitement. While I mostly enjoyed the combat, I struggled to find context in a demo that did little to showcase what the game truly is. Having now played the full game on both PC and Steam Deck, I’m happy to say that the balance has shifted – though not fully.
Batora takes place just after the destruction of Earth by ancient cosmic forces. As Avril, you have been chosen to become the Guardian of Balance, a powerful being who will eventually wield the power to right the universe’s wrongs, ultimately saving planet Earth and all of Creation in general. The story, though, wastes little time in hurling exposition and made-up words at you. It comes so thick and fast that it’s not always easy to follow what you’re doing or why, and it’s not helped by one of the most irritating protagonists I’ve seen in a while.
Avril is cocky, wise-cracking, and almost insufferably arrogant at times. For a girl who recently lost almost everyone and everything she knows, she’s almost painfully glib in the face of pretty much everything. Her best friend Mia has also been rescued and brought to the planet Gryja, and the constant sassy banter between the two began to grind my teeth after a while. Avril constantly meets huge cosmic entities that want her dead for one reason or another, and she greets every one of them with the same level of snark. Even when the story takes unexpectedly tragic turns now and then, the two girls are back to snide remarks and in-jokes a few minutes later.
That aside, there are elements of the story that absolutely work. For example, you’re often presented with choices that push you towards either Destroyer or Saviour states. While I expected little more than different endings, I was surprised to see the story diverge based on the choices I made. I tried to play as Saviour as often as possible, and this still occasionally led to the deaths of characters or other calamities. There really is no “good” or “evil” path, and you must simply do what you think is right in a given situation.
Honestly, this elevates Batora: Lost Haven considerably. It makes the story feel unpredictable, and goes some way toward making Avril seem less infuriating. The combat is also pretty fun, if a little repetitive at times. As the Guardian of Balance, Avril can switch between two states: Physical and Mental. In the former she fights with a huge sword, and in the latter she uses energy projectiles to destroy foes. Colour-coded enemies require you to constantly switch states to survive.
As you fight in one state, the other will slowly generate energy until you can unleash an ability that boosts your damage and speed for a short duration. Switching is also instantaneous, and makes each combat encounter feel energetic and fast-paced. There’s not a huge amount of variety in the combat itself, although you will unlock new abilities for each state as you progress that allow for some interesting combos.
You’ll also collect Runes, glyphs you can apply to Avril that give her buffs or debuffs such as increased Health at the cost of critical hit chance. Some only convey positive effects, and combining the right Runes is key to being effective in combat. Now and then you’ll have to complete logic puzzles that require reaching and activating switches to open a way forward. They’re similar to the Shrine puzzles in Breath of the Wild in some ways, right down to the annoying ball-rolling puzzles that often made me want to swallow my PC whole. Unlike in Breath of the Wild, they’re not optional in Batora: Lost Haven. Or at least, most aren’t.
There is a lot to like here, especially as the whole “disliking Avril” thing is certainly preferential. The art, for example, is just gorgeous at times. Most of the environments are earthy, outdoor locations, but the use of light is mesmerising at times. The use of orange and purple to denote Avril’s state is beautiful, and some of the load screen art is simply incredible. It’s a genuinely pretty game, and it’s also much more smoother and fluid than it was at the preview stage.
While it doesn’t do anything super original, Batora: Lost Haven is an enjoyable action game with enough combat and puzzles to keep you busy for a while. The dialogue may not bother you nearly as much as it did me, but either way the gameplay more or less saves it every time. It’s good-looking, fast-paced, and satisfying to play, and at the end of the day that’s all that really matters.
Fun, frantic combat
Choices feel impactful
Dialogue isn't great
Some puzzles can frustrate
Doesn't feel very original