French game development studio The Game Bakers have released a free content update to their 2020 title Haven which allows players to choose which versions of the two protagonists they wish to play as.
Haven is an action RPG with survival elements that follows the story of two lovers, Kay and Yu, who have fled an authoritarian society which forces all its citizens into arranged marriages. Upon release in 2020, the protagonists were a man and woman, respectively. When paired with other details of the plot, this central narrative conceit of not being allowed to love freely was met with controversy. Some reviewers felt that the heterosexual-focused narrative was tone deaf towards the struggles of LGBT+ individuals, who still experience their love lives being restricted in most of the world even now, especially given that the game’s sole instance of gay representation at launch is an antagonistic force.
The Couple Update, which is already live on all gaming platforms, adds options for alternate versions of both Yu and Kay. Players can now choose for the couple to consist of two women or two men in addition to the “default” option of a man and woman, though the fact that a heterosexual couple is in fact the default in a story such as this may remain a troubling aspect of the game’s design.
In a press release we received from The Game Bakers, the studio stated that the alternate versions of Yu and Kay come with full re-recordings of all 80,000+ lines of dialogue in the game as well as reworked models and in-game art. The trailer showcasing the update certainly seems to demonstrate this well, indicating real commitment to this overhaul of the game.
The press release also included this statement from Creative Director Emeric Thoa:
“Haven is about the freedom to love whomever you want. From the very early days of conception, we had created several couples for the game, with a diverse range of relationships. But the constraints of our indie team production made us focus on Yu and Kay only. After the game launch, we wanted to go back and work on this update. We hope that many players will feel better represented in the game.”
Sequential Planet declined to cover Haven in 2020 upon learning of the game’s controversial elements, as we felt we could not in good conscience provide press to the title. In light of these new developments, we may write a retrospective review that and report more on whether this update is adequate in addressing the problematic aspects.
Sequential Planet has reached out to The Game Bakers for a statement on the whether this major change to the game was a direct response to the criticism Haven initially received. At press time, we have yet to receive a response.