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Seatribe | Official Site
MMORPG | Genre:Fantasy | Status:Development  (est.rel N/A)  | Pub:Seatribe
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Haven & Hearth Review: Our Official Haven & Hearth Review - Edit

Under a deceptive guise of java-rendered graphics and a momentary computer generated piece of music, lies a hardcore 'game' that tests our basic survival skills and instinct. Haven & Hearth is social survival simulation game produced by the minds who are now working on the up-and-coming, highly anticipated game “Salem”. This game is completely free (no micro-transactions, no subscriptions) and allows anyone to instantly jump into the world. Various issues arose while I was playing this, both technical and in-game, but there are plenty of positives and for the great price of free – I seem to have gotten my money's worth. Besides, I can make freshly baked bread in real life and H&H now, so I can eat bread while I eat bread (thumbs up if you get the reference).

Aesthetics 6/10

I want to get this out of the way first: This game is not meant for the people who put aesthetics above all else.  H&H is a 2D game built with Java, the same engine that powers the critically acclaimed and highly successful Minecraft. The UI can be clunky at times, and there are sounds randomly scattered throughout the game (ants use a sound file similar to the Starcraft 1 Hydralisk spitting). Doors make opening sounds and indoors has a music theme while outdoors is silent. This seemingly unfinished sound is a cause for concern, but not huge if you prefer to listen to your own tunes/people over voice chat while playing. A great feature allowed is the ability to mod the UI. Currently the Ender's client reigns supreme, giving users an improved field of view and various extra instruments for the UI. Overall, the game sadly is not all that aesthetically pleasing, but the later categories will easily make up for this low score.

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H&H provides a new look at the social world. One can be a hermit and learn all the skills needed for survival, or a group can split skills between them to allow more customization and point efficiency. Playing with friends is easy too, with the help of the Hearth Secret system, which allows new players to appear near your Home location. There are guilds/clans per-say, in the form of kinships. Kinships allow one to set certain rights to others, and in many ways is similar to the friends list of many other games... The gameplay even encourages users to be social. If a person cannot find a certain needed item (I ran into a lot of trouble finding bone), then they can look around for other people and try to make trades. Almost every item in the game is useful for something else, so a mutually beneficial contract should be easy to achieve. When these deals are made, they can lead to further deals or even a banding together Out-of-game, there is an active forum where one can find villages to join, catch up on in-game politics, or simply meet other people. The various ways to be social, and the encouragement that the game itself provides to be social, easily makes this a dominating victory of this game. A point worth noting is not everyone will be friendly. Haven has its share of hooligans, griefers and other generally unpleasant folk. As I write this, I'm trying to fend off another player from my stuff, which is really hard since neither of us have progressed enough for combat skills.

Social 9/10

H&H provides a new look at the social world. One can be a hermit and learn all the skills needed for survival, or a group can split skills between them to allow more customization and point efficiency. Playing with friends is easy too, with the help of the Hearth Secret system, which allows new players to appear near your Home location. There are guilds/clans per-say, in the form of kinships. Kinships allow one to set certain rights to others, and in many ways is similar to the friends list of many other games.. The gameplay even encourages users to be social. If a person cannot find a certain needed item ( I ran into a lot of trouble finding bone), then they can look around for other people and try to make trades. Almost every item in the game is useful for something else, so a mutually beneficial contract should be easy to achieve. When these deals are made, they can lead to further deals or even a banding together Out-of-game, there is an active forum where one can find villages to join, catch up on in-game politics, or simply meet other people. The various ways to be social, and the encouragement that the game itself provides to be be social, easily makes this a dominating victory of this game. A point worth noting is not everyone will be friendly. Haven has its share of hooligans, griefers and other generally unpleasant folk. As I write this, I'm trying to fend off another player from my stuff, which is really hard since neither of us have progressed enough for combat skills.

Gameplay 7/10

Holy God. This game has the most extensive and useful crafting system I have ever seen, and it easily makes up a lot of the points of this category. Throughout a player's H&H career, thousands of items will be made, with hundreds being used seconds after creation. There is no in-game tutorial, and many times I found myself going to the forums and wiki for guides and tips. As you create and discover, you also become more experienced. There is no leveling system in this game, only the ability to learn new skills and improve how you do certain things. Learning Points (LP) replaces experience as the main form of learning new skills. Studying certain objects also grants LP and is an effective form of gaining more. The free-form advancement allows many different combinations and abilities to be used at the player’s choice, and the expansiveness of this system really allows for some interesting roles and things to do. Progression towards combat is a journey in itself, and will take quite a while without the help of others. While this can leave some in awe and be slightly nerve-wracking, a lot of enjoyment can be had from this.

With all this skill and ability customization however, the game completely lacks character customization, so that is slightly concerning. Clothing has visual effects on your looks, so one may not even have to worry about what the face or hair looks like. Combat is a slow-process in this game, with hunting and home defense being a low priority early on. If a new player sees an armed and armored player, the general consensus seems to be: run. Fighting animals is usually the first step and takes a good while to be ready for. Further down the line, there are sieges that players can take part in, and some players take up the roles of bandits and raiders. The combat itself is not very noteworthy, being a system of pressing buttons on your skill bar and clicking on the target.

There is no pathfinding, so there are issues of people getting stuck and ending their skill and movement, causing one to do the process again. Preparing for combat is an arduous task, and an often time takes a lot of time and resources (not to mention the amount of LP that must be earned to do any of it). Moving onto housing and construction, you make buildings too. From cabins to walls to chairs and tables, they are all made in the same fashion as the crafting system. These structures degrade over time, so one may actually have to repair a chair or house. Repairing things requires different materials, so this improves the idea that every item really is usable. It is worthy to mention that exploring is a good idea in Haven, as you can sometimes find abandoned (or still occupied by sleeping people) places and loot various trinkets and stuff from them. Often times one may find something extremely valuable looking through a chest in a broken down house. The end-game isn't particularly defined, but the general idea is that end-game starts when you can either use a weapon effectively or provide a really useful skill for your village/group. That isn't set in stone; more of a guideline really.

Innovation 7/10

The ideas that you can make everything, do anything, and be/not be a socialite are all very refreshing. There aren't really any other survival simulation MMO games out there, and Salem is still a long ways away. H&H also rewards making friends/communities rather well by making the game as a whole easier, almost instantly. A similar concept is in most strategy games: more workers mean more production, which means more stuff. The permanent death feature is also very scarce in most games, and it provides a new life or death feeling to the game. The server is also reset every year or so, which allows new forces to rise and collide. The cycle allows new players to join without fear of a dominant power constantly ruling and raiding neutral/enemy parties. Whether or not the resets will still happen once development is finished is uncertain.

Polish 5/10

The various Java issues and odd bugs in-game bring down the overall score of this game, and rightfully so. There are a ton of issues, all highlighted on the forums, that have to do with connectivity, java crashing or having errors, dropping certain things and having them disappear, etc. While Java can be a very powerful engine, it is littered with the little things that make it obsolete in terms of game development. There is no real customer service, but the developers and community do browse the forum quite often, so technical help can be found rather easily. The game is also hosted in Germany, and my East Coast internet had a lot of trouble with lagging and rubber-banding. Some days tend to be worse than others. By far this is only category I really had any gripe with.

Longevity 7/10

Longevity gets a seven because while this game can be very entertaining for some and can keep players coming (as I have been for quite a while), various in-game events could dissuade a player to stop. Getting robbed early on, killed early on or simply not understanding how/what/when/where/why to do things can demoralize a player into stopping and not touching the H&H launcher for a while or ever again. However, if success is had, then a player would have the incentive to keep playing. Being a part of a community also would increase the longevity of one’s playtime, and I highly recommend starting this with friends (please read up on how the hearth secret system works) or find a community in the game.

Value 9/10

Haven & Hearth is completely free, and for what it delivers is completely reasonable and expected. A person can download the free client and play for an unlimited period of time, and they can stop at any time. There is no cash shop, so real life money is not factored in any way to another person's advancement. The game already has a loyal player-base that graciously gives donations when they can.

Conclusion

Haven & Hearth has a lot to offer both casual and hardcore gamers. Once I hopped in and actually played around a little bit, I was impressed rather quickly. While there are quite a few issues looming over the little hearthlings, the games major features and gameplay provide a very entertaining experience. I was not surprised at all when I first heard Paradox was going to publish a new take on this style, as this is an extremely interesting and fun concept that I wish there was more of. Haven does very well in most categories, and still maintains a good overall score despite the setbacks. While I wouldn't link this to anyone as their first MMO experience, I would give this to someone looking for something new and entertaining in a sandboxy package.

Final Score

7.1

Pros
 Completely free
 Great to play with friends
 In-depth survival simulation
 Variety of skills & attributes
Cons
 Can be confusing at the start
 Connectivity an issue
 Quite a few in-game bugs
 Runs on Java with various issues

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