It's not very often the RPGs do things new and interesting. They almost all fall under the free-roaming wRPG stereotype, or a "retro"-inspired or modernized turn based format highly famous from the jRPG stereotype. It's not very often that an RPG completely avoids the combat system at all, focusing intently on the writing and story. Interestingly enough, the game has been done by the Escapist user Cleril, and was done in RPG Maker VX.
Surprisingly enough, the "No Combat" style of the game works surprisingly competently. There's no equipment, or stats, or leveling, so there's little in the way of customization. The protagonist is pre-set, the progression of the plot is completely linear, and aside from randomly placed side quests, little is completely unique. The meat of the game lies in two facets: The atmosphere, and the writing. Both of these are equally important to the game, and play out both independently and cooperatively where necessary.
To that end, the atmosphere of the game is well done. The piano remains a consistent theme throughout, really setting a pensive tone. This matches the philosophical tone the game sets, and carries itself well with the various segments of the game. Changes in weather, lighting, and decor all seem to accompany the music and overarching tone the game is setting. It does this so well that the game actually encourages tension and worry during appropriate times, and can really settle a knot of tension at the pit of the stomach. Although the music and lighting is consistent throughout the game, the tension isn't always perfect. Sometimes, highs and lows come too quickly or too slowly, being ineffective at building the proper stresses that make the game's various conflicts. At times, it can even suck the life out of the game's events.
Having been built in RPG Maker VX, anyone familiar with the layout won't find a lot unique about Haven's style. The graphics are sprite-based, of a comparatively low resolution, but they're quite polished. The colors blend together well both within the sprites and in the background details and effects. However, the map composition can be crowded at times. The fields, buildings, and settings pick alternating times to be overcrowded with debris, and too blank to be remarkable. As well as that, the sprites just sometimes don't fit. A tent, at one point, appear smaller than a headstone. The interior, however, is larger than an entire building more than twice its size.
This means that while the implementation of effects and music are almost always placed wonderfully, the rest of the game hiccups in odd places. All of the sprites individually look good, have a lot of polish, but they don't look good together.
Which would normally be excusable, but the other facet is sadly lacking. The game is based on the protagonist, a poet and bard named "Cleril." The game refers to him as the last of his kind, which is boggling. For such a eternally pensive game, it stands to reason that more of the game's NPCs and denizens should show favor to reading and learning more about the arts. Normally this could be excused if Haven's NPCs had more practical or functional preferences, but they don't. They show unerring favor for Cleril's poetry, or any of the books, plays, or poems found throughout the game's nooks and crannies.
More to the point, every seeming poet and ponderer in the game has an unfailing pessimist attitude. Most of the poems hold a dark, saddening theme. They favor selfishness, tales of self-pity or woe, with dark thoughts on darker horizons. Throughout the game, NPCs seem to either have a "Keep myself busy to avoid sadness" tone, or a tone of suicidal sadness. The poems make reference constantly to demons, damnation, sadness, insomnia, torture, blisslessness, abysmal darkness, and any other buzzword that could be found from any depressive poetry collection. Throughout the game, there is a single happy-go-lucky writer, who sits in a spring park with joyous music, and no matter how the player tries to respond, the character Cleril will dismiss the writer as tosh. Everyone else, however, seems to idolize (or in the least, respect) Cleril's dark and brooding tone.
However, Cleril doesn't seem to be as intelligent as he makes himself out to be, nor as ever NPC seems to regard him as. Structurally speaking, the writing in Haven is flawed because it is completely one-dimensional. Everything about the world has the pseudo-philosophical stance, and the whole thing could use some rounding out. The writing encourages the player to regard Cleril as one of heroic intellect, drunks as brooding drunkards not worth the code of which they're written, the people as mindless passers-by unable to comprehend the complete intellect of the almighty bard, and the sheer bald-faced evil that comes from the mayor of the village.
However, the tone reeks of Mary Sue because the protagonist is a close-minded braggart unable to summon respect of anyone that he so self-righteously demands of everyone else, every character seems unable to fill out their own agendas, coming off as even more flat than the protagonist. Even the passage of events seems to follow along with a sparsely-believable series of events. If anything, the writing strikes the vein of a all-encompassing parody of philosophicals and the working class, but a parody that has no punch line. It all just seems so unabashedly shallow.
Considering more than half of the game rests on the writing, and that the writing lacks any sufficient depth, there's so little to the game as a whole. The production value, the polish of the assembly, belies a lot of potential in the function of game making. The game is fundamentally flawed. It's all problematic, because a game about a narrative without a strong narrative cannot be a good game. Had the writing been different, the potential here betrays something that could have been great. However, the strongest drawing point to this no-combat RPG - the writing - isn't a drawing point at all. If anything, it is the nail in the coffin that has buried Haven.
Bottom Line: Haven has potential where composition is concerned, but the writing does nothing but detract from the whole experience. Considering that is the main purpose of the experience, Haven needs something more to be good.
For more information about Haven, feel free to learn more about it here.