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Project Haven Demo Impressions – Turn-Based Tactics

Project Haven is an upcoming turn-based squad tactics game developed by Code Three Fifty One and there is currently a demo available to play on Steam as part of TactiCon 2023. Co-hosted by Hooded Horse and Firesquid, TactiCon is a digital convention held on Steam with strategy games as its focus. The demo for Project Haven is short but gives a good sample of the differing gameplay elements that enhance the turn-based genre and make it feel more dynamic.

Set in the gritty, sci-fi world of Haven City, players lead a team of mercenaries called the Steel Dragons as they strategically fight on a grid-free urban battlefield. With an action point-based movement system, players will need to master the game’s intuitive mechanics and aim every one of their shots precisely using the game’s over-the-shoulder manual targeting. Killing blows have a bullet-time effect which I ended on the wrong end a few times.

The demo drops us into the Steel Dragons’ HQ in free mode where we initially control the character Bubbles. From an isometric view we can see her health, stamina and action points (AP) above the character and then click to move. As you move the mouse cursor you can see areas that will provide half or full cover as we move across an accessway to a second character called Mongrel. Next to Mongrel is a weapon and ammo that we pick up and equip (weapon and ammo both take up inventory slots) then move to do some target practice.

Pressing spacebar switches to firing mode which has three viewpoints over the left and right shoulder of the active character as well as above the head (press V to switch views). Once in firing mode we can move the character using WSAD but be careful as each movement you make uses an action point. I wiggled my character into position and then wondered why I had no action points left to fire the weapon. You can see the number of AP you have left as well as the number of AP required for each action like shooting, crouching, leaning around a corner and more. The aiming reticle is a large circle where it has a chance at hitting the target somewhere in that area.

Once the tutorial is complete we are thrown into a story mission titled ‘Serve and Protect’ where we hear from more members of the group and find we have been set up and ambushed in the street. We control Scarlett who has a pistol and a medkit, and Fang with a shotgun. Both have a grenade each which I use once I position Fang closer to the first two enemy units who have taken cover behind vehicles. When Fang is shot at, he yells some profanities back at the enemy (there is a profanity filter available in the options). When a character gets shot, they start to slowly bleed, losing HP each turn.

I position Fang behind cover but in between the two enemies and set him to interrupt which is like overwatch in similar games. An interesting feature here is that when the enemy moves position on their turn, we can see a red silhouette of where we last saw each character. If they were behind full cover, they may not be in that same position next turn. During our next turn, as we get closer to their last known position, the character silhouette will either stay glowing red, or if we get line of sight on the enemy, it will show their new location. In this respect, AI is smart enough to change position to get a better angle on us.

However, the same thing can happen for us to the enemy if we can use cover to stealthily move around their position. If we can sneak up behind them, they will be unaware and leave their back fully exposed. I exploited this fact and took a shot at one enemy with Fang but they didn’t move position on their next turn, so it was an easy kill for Fang, then ran Scarlett around a vehicle so she had line of sight and took out the second guy. Two more enemy units arrived, and we were able to control two more of our own characters, Indigo and Altan.

Once we completed his mission, we see a cutscene with all characters back at HQ and we see the banter amongst the characters showing each of their unique personalities. In the HQ, the only option we have in the demo is to view the mission area where we have a cutscene for the next mission, and then a market section where we can purchase new weapons crew members.

So far this demo for Project Haven has shown a lot of promise and the cover/stealth system and manual targeting system are excellent additions to the genre. These make the game feel more realistic and immersive as, unless you always have line of sight to the enemy, you won’t know where they could have move to in their turn. The game can be played either solo or in 4-player co-op which is an exciting prospect as I know how much Johnny loves a good turn-based strategy game, and to play co-op is always our preferred option.

The game doesn’t have a set release date yet, just that it will release sometime this year and I am super keen to see more gameplay over time. You can follow the game on the Steam page or the official website.


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