Haven Moon, by sole developer Francois Roussel, was meant as an hommage to Myst (made by Cyan) and it clearly shows: as a Myst-like¹, and as a tribute, Haven Moon has all the required parts, so, as an old Myst fan, I enjoyed it, even if it had a few flaws.
The different worlds you could visit in Myst are here represented by a set of neighbouring islands (on an ocean moon somewhere in outer space), which you travel between via a small airship, but first you will have to activate various mechanisms on the island you started on. This is where the fun begins. It even began twice: because of how Quern spoiled me a little with its in-game notebook, I didn’t get properly started until the second try (I started up the game once, checked out the first island, but without really doing anything, quit the game, and didn’t return to it until a couple of days later when I felt ready and properly prepped with pen and paper).
The island you start on is pretty miniscule and hardly suited for any structures to speak of, but there they are anyway, precariously balancing on top of a group of small rocks. The island is deserted and the only sounds are those from the vast ocean or the wind in the trees, which somehow sustain themselves by growing right out of the rock. It’s peaceful.
The buildings and the whole island look like something out of Myst III: Exile (made by Presto Studios), but updated (in Unity3D) to meet more modern standards, so the prerendered surroundings have been replaced by real-time graphics (with the same life-like, photorealistic look, but at a higher resolution) — as perhaps expected from a game made in 2016. Everything is inviting you to start exploring and learn more.
The other islands are in the same style as the first. There is no stress and no one to disturb you on any of the islands, so you can take your time exploring, solving puzzles, and admiring all the buildings on each island, which are welcoming with lots of detail, while the underlying landscapes, on the other hand, feel a bit lacking, although they do work well enough as a foundation, so it’s a minor complaint².
The puzzles are what make up the gameplay of a Myst-like so that’s what you get and they are properly executed with little exposition. All puzzles are about mastering an unknown device by mastering other unknown devices. Just like in Myst II: Riven (made by Cyan) you have to become an integral part of the world to progress.
I got really stuck on one device, because I totally missed a certain tiny detail despite passing it by several times. What I should have done in that case was to take a break (there were clues that I ought to have picked up eventually), but instead I looked it up and moved on³.
There is a bit of fast-travel once you’ve unlocked it, which is always a lovely bonus, because it avoids what could otherwise become tediously repetitive.
The classical soundtrack was especially made for the game by Leo J. Russlan and was delightfully and satisfyingly “Mysty”.
The story was a standard piece of morality and choice, but was of no real consequence for the game. It did have some world building, which was nice, but the story still felt mostly like a container for clues. If I could, I would wish for more in-depth backstory.
It’s easy to tell that Haven Moon is a game for Myst-fans. The puzzles were challenging enough. The environments were well built and detailed. The story was pretty thin, though, so don’t expect to be particulary amazed or excited by that. There’s no free exploration, but that’s not a main theme in any way, so not a problem. A general tip is to be in the mood: don’t play if you feel stressed or need some affirmation after a “shitty day at work”. It wasn’t my favourite in the genre, but I enjoyed it.
¹See my Quern review (first footnote) for a definition of what makes a game into a Myst-like game.
²The only place where it felt off enough to be a little jarring and maybe worth fixing was on the first island: the way leading down to the docks felt like it should have been a proper path or a set of stairs instead of just the rock and the curved stone railing, which looked particularly out of place here.
³Sorry, game. :/ That is the only possible problem with a Myst-like: sometimes you want to play a set number of hours, but the game might not let you do that and thus it’s in danger of spoiling itself… On the other hand, you could say that a Myst-like is a game you play even when you are not playing it 😉 but, well, that might not help much…