Batora: Lost Haven review

I found this latest release from Team17 difficult to get into initially. But as the story advanced, things quickly became a lot more engaging, and I knew I was going to need to see it through to the end – even though I was struggling with the combat and finding it off-putting. There is some quality writing on show here, and that pulled me through.  

Batora: Lost Haven is a story-based RPG with gameplay stylings similar to Diablo, and storylines that could have taken place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. We’re introduced to the character of Avril who has inherited the last drips of Godlike powers from the Gods so she can save Earth from dying. Climate change be damned, this is some Avengers: Endgame level stuff. As the newly chosen Keeper of Balance, the Gods task Avril with visiting other planets to absorb the cores to both save the Gods of Earth and the world itself. 

Some of it may taste like standard sci-fi fare of the last decade. Sci-fi films and books that I have consumed recently largely cover the last days on Earth and the resurrection of planets, but the writing here is much more impactful. Batora is around 10-14 hours long and it fits an awful lot of hard decisions into that short time. The writing is in some ways kind of genius, as the player almost naively slips into decision-making just as Avril herself is to some degree youthfully and characteristically naive, and you are right along with her. There is the illusion of choice to start, you might decline something but they force it on you anyway and this is fine for story progression, but it lulls you into a false sense of security. 

The characters Avril and her friend Mila are both chirpy, witty, and naive making you feel like Batora is the standard “Cool girl saves the world” grub we’ve been fed before. Like Mass Effect’s Paragon/Renegade system, Batora has a Defender/Conqueror system, and without going into too much detail about the choices you’ll have to make between them, it turns out that Batora isn’t quite without its savage side. Pretty much all of your decisions, no matter how “good” they might seem, end up being horrible in the long run. And that has a significant impact on Avril who almost certainly didn’t take on the role as Keeper of Balance to end up doing a couple of genocidal war crimes here and there. 

As Avril travels to each new world, she discovers a mass of new tribes, and all their problems she’s expected to resolve with her Godlike powers. Avril has the attitude of a fixer, she wants to help and do good for everyone, so you can’t help feeling sorry for her in her mental decline when her choices come with terrible consequences. All the while the Gods are on her back muddying the waters as to what their intentions really are. 

Each world is beautiful and unique with areas to explore in a linear fashion, each with its own monsters. The Gods imbued Avril with two “Natures” – Strength in orange and Wisdom in purple. Combat with enemies was where I felt let down by Batora. I love a good story, but the combat felt like a ‘panic rush’ which I didn’t enjoy. The enemies you encounter may be one Nature or the other, or a Hybrid of both – requiring Avril to attack accordingly. Swapping between Natures, she deals big damage to matching monsters and lesser damage to the other type. Avril has two health bars, and they will deplete accordingly to which nature she is attacked with. If either falls to zero then you restart back at the previous checkpoint. That is a little bit chaotic, and I struggled a lot with the combat mechanics.

I’m no stranger to skills and cool-downs, but when you’re throwing Nature swapping into the mix to take advantage of attacks and openings, it just becomes a little overwhelming. Some people probably enjoy that rush of button stabbing, but I can’t say I loved it. You can also use twin-stick attacks which I often forgot about because I’m more used to twin-stick bullet hells nowadays than melee combat.

Thankfully the game is broken up into sections of combat, puzzle solving and decision-making, so anything that feels like a chore is shortly replaced by something you can enjoy more.

Batora is in some way reliant on equipment to maximise your potential, where you’ll need to find runes to extend your powers – for better or worse. Runes are a rarer resource, and levelling up opens more slots to equip more of them. 

I absolutely loved the world-building itself though. The soundtrack is dreamily folky akin to Skyrim in some areas, while eerily ambient in others, and changes to fit the mood whether this is exploring or combat-oriented. The style and design of all the creatures, tribe people, and characters are fascinating and feel unique.

My only issue with the world is that many areas look like they could lead somewhere else – and as mentioned previously the exploration is quite linear. This is still a mix of compelling story and sound design. It’s just let down somewhat by too chaotic battles and gorgeous environments that feel a touch restrictive.  

Batora: Lost Haven is out now on all formats. Developed by Stormind Games. Published by Team17.


Lauren Relph

Lauren once found a Game and Watch in a charity shop. She also streams games at and is a toast connoisseur.

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