Batora: Lost Haven is an upcoming top-down action-RPG by Stormind Games and Team17. The game is participating in the current Steam Next Fest, with a playable demo available until February 28th, though the developers sent us a Batora: Lost Haven demo hands-on preview build ahead of time.
Our Batora: Lost Haven demo hands-on preview begins a few hours into the game’s story. A brief synopsis is provided when you start the demo to bring you up to speed. The short version is that Earth has been destroyed in a mysterious catastrophe, and the entire universe is in peril.
You play as Avril, a naive and reckless teenage girl that has been granted mystical abilities by a pair of cosmic beings. Avril has been chosen to be their latest champion, and has a chance to save Earth by traveling across the cosmos healing the dying cores of various planets to restore peace and order to the galaxy.
The demo throws you onto the planet Gryja. Avril and her friend Mila are currently stranded on the planet and caught up in a conflict between two warring factions. It’s definitely not the best of introductions since the story is already underway.
You don’t fully know what’s going on, and are expected to care about characters who are, presumably, introduced several hours ahead of time in the full game.
Given the structure and length of the demo, it’s hard to really tell if the story is any good or not. Personally, I found Avril and Mila a bit irritating since they act and talk like what you’d expect from millennials trying to write their interpretation of modern teenage girls.
There is a moral choice system in Batora, with choices that are split between Conqueror and Defender. In general, Defender choices tend to be about mercy or forgiveness, while Conqueror choices are more selfish or aggressive. Each choice grants different rewards and can change the outcome of the story.
The big choice presented in the demo involves infusing a crystal with magical energies. A race of small gremlin-like creatures need the crystal’s energies to survive. However, the story’s current antagonist is holding a character hostage in exchange for this crystal.
I chose to leave the crystal with the gremlins, which resulted in the bad guy killing said hostage and another character becoming very angry with me.
Avril can be customized with runes that act as the game’s loot system. Each rune gives some small stat buffs and correspond to Conqueror, Defender, or Neutral. Avril has a set number of slots she can devote to runes from each category based on what alignment she is leaning into, giving the game’s moral choice system extra weight outside of simply how it affects the story.
The demo features a bit of questing and exploration around some fairly linear areas on Gryja. You typically walk down narrow pathways that connect combat areas together. There’re a few branching pathways here and there that lead to chests with resources, but in general the levels are extremely straightforward and linear.
In terms of combat, Batora controls a bit like a twin-stick shooter. The main gimmick of the game’s combat involves swapping between two forms, Mental and Physical. In Mental form Avril fires purple bolts of energy, while in Physical form she wields a large energy sword.
These forms, and your enemies, are color-coded. If you want to maximize your damage output, you need to swap to the corresponding form.
The combat is extremely basic and, frankly, pretty uninteresting so far. Each form has a basic combo, a dodge move, and a cooldown-based special ability. Mental form summons a vortex of energy, while Physical form’s special ability is a ground slam that deals high AoE damage.
The rather simplistic nature of the combat is the least of the demo’s problems, however. The performance in Batora‘s demo is absolutely abysmal. I was actually unable to beat the demo because the final boss battle maintains a very consistent 17 FPS.
As you can imagine, trying to dodge laser beams while swimming in a pool of molasses is rather difficult. Outside of this fight, the game mostly ran at around 40 FPS on my machine on high. Some segments dropped as low as 9 FPS and stayed at this framerate for several minutes at a time.
Now I’ll fully admit that my PC is old as dirt. I’m still stuck with a 1070, after all. But there’s no reason why an indie game like this should be bringing my PC to its knees on high.
Tweaking the settings actually doesn’t help much at all, with really no noticeable difference between ultra, very high, and high. The only way I was able to hit 60 FPS was by turning everything to the bare minimum, and even then, the game still frequently dropped by 20 frames or more in some areas.
I understand that Batora: Lost Haven is still in development, and this is likely an early build, but the demo was more or less unplayable in a lot of places on my machine.
Besides combat, Batora has a few puzzle areas too. These sections usually involve hitting color-coded switches to move around platforms until you get the correct solution. One involved guiding a ball along narrow platforms Super Monkey Ball-style, and it was pretty infuriating due to the game’s camera angle, poor performance, and the ball’s overall controls. This was the aforementioned area that dropped to 9 FPS on my PC.
If you haven’t figured it out by now, my initial impressions of Batora: Lost Haven are very negative. Even leaving aside the awful performance of the demo, the game’s combat system just isn’t very interesting so far and the loot was pretty bland and boring.
It’s a shame, because I generally like the art direction of Batora: Lost Haven and was kind of looking forward to playing it. If you’d like to try out Batora: Lost Haven for yourself, you can download the demo during the Steam Next Fest.
Batora: Lost Haven releases in 2022 for Windows PC (via Steam), Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S. Batora: Lost Haven was previewed on Windows PC using a preview demo provided by Team17.