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Shattered Haven (PC) Review

/ Apr 24th, 2013 No Comments

Darrell treks through a Gray infested forest.
Shattered Haven

Shattered Haven

Shattered Haven is the latest game by independent game developer Arcen Games featuing the walking dead whose popularity still has yet to wane significantly. Except this game isn’t merely one where you kill zombies as its creators have attempted to make a unique horror game requring not just brawn but brains as well. It’s a concept that is ambitious but is plagued by issues that impact its final result.

Story

The story of the game takes place in a post-apocalyptic future where a strange outbreak turning the world into a dismal place and turning living creatures into the undead with humans in particular becoming zombies given the name Grays.  Taking place nine years after the sickness takes hold of the world. The story focuses on the Williams family: one of the last few remaining groups of human beings unaffected by the plague. They live in a sheltered enclosure relatively safe from the undead.

Things begin to go wrong after Darrell Williams brings back Pierce, a young whose mother was killed by zombies, to their home. Because of the actions of his daughter, Lula , the undead swarm their house. Pierce and Lula soon after go missing. Players control Darrell and his wife Mary as they abandon their homestead to look for them.

The game’s story tries hard to differentiate itself from the usual zombie story by attempting to weave a story that goes beyond having players survive and fight zombies. At times it takes hints of inspiration from H.P. Lovecraft in addition to zombie lore. It even tries to keep players coming back for more with a branching story that changes depending on choices you make during the game ending in one of many different endings.

But these efforts to make a good story fall flat. The plot is half baked with poor pacing, badly written dialog, no real character development,  and barely any attempt made to make players feel connected with the main characters. It’s just saddening that a promising story is hampered by the inability of the writers to push it to its limits to make it truly memorable.

Gameplay

Shattered Haven plays just like a typical overhead two dimensional adventure game but with a heavy emphasis on puzzle solving which. As is to be expected in a game like this, players must fight against the undead ridding them in this case from the nearly 100 levels in this game while doing their utmost to survive. Players can do this alone or can do so with the help of a friend playing the game locally.

But even if you play alone or with a friend there is a catch: enemies are only vulnerable to iron based weapons, explosives and certain environmental hazards like pits. Players must hope they’re lucky enough to find traps to slow down enemies, iron based weapons or using the environment if possible to defeat them. To some extent this kind of gameplay is surprisingly inventive, challenging and forces players to think while staying on their toes.

The game like most typical overhead two dimensional adventure games with controls are handled through a very simple control scheme handled mostly through the keyboard. But players can also use the mouse to point to a point on the screen while holding the left mouse button to move their characters. Players new to the game should have no issues playing the game immediately.

Darrell fights Grays in an abandoned farm.

Darrell fights Grays in an abandoned farm.

There’s even an extensive game editor and tools allowing players to make their own puzzles and even entire adventures. The level of freedom is immense and is so great not just neve levels can be made but entire games.

Despite some great ideas and features, the game is riddled with problems that is owed largely to poor design choices. The levels tend to lack any genuinely unique qualities and often fluctuate in difficulty instead of gradually rising from easy to hard which is often the case in many games. As the game goes on it grows more tedious and

Graphics

The image that is on display in the main menu is a wonderful prelude to the excellent artwork that is shown in the game’s cutscenes which are beautifully illustrated and really do capture the dismal, horror filled world the Williams family is forced to survive in. It’s a shame that when the game actually starts that this level of quality takes a nosedive and pales in comparison. The graphics in the  game’s world is drab, its characters simplistic and its overall look is just average. The main characters look more cartoon than human, enemies look more whimsical than frightening and the world in general looks very simplistic as opposed to scary as it should be.

In general, this area of the game is half baked. Instead of graphics being good all around, it’s a mixed bag that is average instead of maintaining a constantly high visual quality. If the same level of effort that went into making the cutscenes went into the main game then this part of the would stand out more.

Sound

Where the game really delivers is its soundtrack. The music is superbly composed by Pablo Vega who is to be commended for making one of the few outstanding features this game has. It’s eerie, suspenseful and many times fits in with the game’s settings. It’s one of the few aspects of this game that is genuinely enjoyable. The same can’t be said though with the other audio aspects of this game which are sadly average.

Darrell treks through a Gray infested forest.

Darrell treks through a Gray infested forest.

It’s worth noting that there is some voice acting which is very minimal in this game and is only voiced by one voice actor as well who voices Darrell Williams. He does an alright job with the strangely low number of lines he’s given many of which are not very well written. It’s strange why the developers never got more voice actors or tried to voice the entire game a majority of which is told through text. It’s a point of detraction that is both enigmatic and a negative point for this game.

Conclusion

Shattered Haven is yet another a game that presents intriguing concepts and great potential but is crippled by a lack of effort and execution on the part of its developers. What could have been a great game that stood out from the vast library of other games featuring the walking dead is one that’s barely above average instead. Unless you’re a diehard fanatic of zombie games or are still interested in playing, the game costs $9.99 and can be bought from online game distributors like GOG.com. While not as dismal as the setting of this game

SHATTERED HAVEN (PC) REVIEW

Gaming Illustrated RATING

Overall60%

GAMEPLAY5

Despite interesting game concepts, the execution

GRAPHICS6

Graphics in the main game are disappointing with the small saving grace being the ones featured in the in-game cutscenes.

SOUND7

Okay sound effects and minimal voice acting would bring down this part of the game if it weren't for a terrific music track.

STORY6

Despite a branching story and a good attempt at trying to be more than a typical zombie story, this game's tale barely just manages to be above average.

Jonathan Anson

Jonathan Anson

A resident of Southern California, Jonathan Anson has been a lover of games ever since his father brought home a Windows 95 computer where he was first introduced to his first games. He previously worked for The Gamer Studio before jumping ship to Gaming Illustrated where he can be found showcasing his other love: writing. He is also in the process of attempting to acquire an AA degree in Journalism from Saddleback College.
Jonathan Anson

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SHATTERED HAVEN (PC) REVIEW

Gaming Illustrated RATING

Overall60%

GAMEPLAY5

Despite interesting game concepts, the execution

GRAPHICS6

Graphics in the main game are disappointing with the small saving grace being the ones featured in the in-game cutscenes.

SOUND7

Okay sound effects and minimal voice acting would bring down this part of the game if it weren't for a terrific music track.

STORY6

Despite a branching story and a good attempt at trying to be more than a typical zombie story, this game's tale barely just manages to be above average.

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