Throughout history, all massive cultural phenomena are followed by a slew of content inspired by it, often looking to take a piece of the pie.
This may sound cynical, but I’ve been burned by this trend enough times that when I was introduced to the Indie game featured in this Sun Haven review, I was wary I was walking into a rushed Stardew Valley clone looking to make a buck.
Looking at its pixel art style and all-too-familiar UI, you wouldn’t be judged for worrying about it. But I’m glad to say this is far from the case.
Sun Haven, created by Pixel Sprout Studios, is a multiplayer high-fantasy farming RPG. Settle down in the town of Sun Haven and establish your own farm, all the while exploring the beautiful world, battling monsters, and even finding love, either alone or with up to 7 friends.
At its core, Sun Haven is a fantasy Stardew Valley, but this game is so much more than just a cheap cash grab.
Funded by a Kickstarter and released for early access in 2021, Sun Haven is a project born from love by people passionate about delivering a good indie game. It recently made its official full release, so let’s look at all the wonderful (and unfortunately not-so-wonderful) things this game offers.
Putting Down Enchanted Roots
Sun Haven is, at first glance, your standard farming RPG. You have farmland to build up, planting colorful crops, raising livestock, harvesting wood, delving into the mines, cooking, and interacting with the local townsfolk.
All with a high-fantasy coat of paint. If you’ve played Stardew Valley, you know exactly what you’re dealing with here. The inspiration is pretty blatant.
But there is much more to this game than just being a Stardew clone. This game took the Stardew Valley system and supercharged it with classic fantasy RPG features, such as the skill tree, the magic (which isn’t just for fighting), the combat system, and quests.
Not to mention dungeons. This game has a lot going on, and it doesn’t do any of it in halves.
I loved a lot of what I was doing in Sun Haven. Talking to the villagers was charming; the farming system has a lot of depth; there are plenty of events to engage with, and the museum suggests there’s so much more down the road. I played for around 10 hours, and there is so much I haven’t seen yet, including two new towns.
However, there was one major flaw with picking up this game, and that was the speed. This game not only progresses slowly but literally moves slowly.
At the start of the game, everything is slow: the walking speed, the rate you use tools, the amount of time it takes for things to grow and craft, and even the loading screens took an age on my computer.
This isn’t ordinarily a deal-breaker in a game like this; you expect it to start slowly and pick up as you progress. But this was too slow, to the point where I don’t know if I would have made it past the threshold of engagement if I weren’t playing to review.
This problem disappears as the game progresses. As you upgrade your tools, they work faster, and the movement speed has upgrades too. Once you unlock mounts, I’m sure it will get even better. And while this does work, it’s not great. The rate you move and use tools is slow by design, making the early game feel like molasses.
This is offset by the absence of a stamina bar, which is a massive departure from this genre, and I actually like it. It means that while the game may feel slow, you’re never worrying about wasting your time and resources.
But it doesn’t fix the problem. The early game was laborious, and that’s not great for the part where players have to decide if they’ll devote tens of hours to this thing or turn it off and let it collect cobwebs in their steam library.
That said, it does pick up. I got into the rhythm of things by about the 5-hour mark. By then, I was knee-deep in the main storyline, had developed my farm a bit, and upgraded my tools and walking speed.
But this is coming from a genre veteran. I know what I’m getting into and how to progress quickly. I can see this early slog turning off many potential players, which is a shame because Sun Haven promises so much if only you’ll keep at it.
One thing about this early slowness is that I feel it would be counterbalanced in multiplayer. I didn’t get the opportunity to delve into multiplayer for this review, but it supports up to 8 players, and I can see the extra hands making progress faster.
The money pool and resources are shared, and there’s a lot of opportunity for large-scale cooperation.
I’ve read that the multiplayer mode has suffered from many bugs, but the devs are active with the community and constantly working to improve the experience. In fact, the game was patched twice while I was reviewing it, so I have high hopes for its future.
A Cosy Fantasy Tale
At first, the story of Sun Haven appears to be your standard farming RPG affair: you’re moving to a new place to start a farm, ready to get down and dirty with the earth. But, from the game’s opening cutscene, you see there’s something more at play in Sun Haven.
There’s talk of danger encroaching and rumors about the nearby monster town. You’re trying to settle in, and all the while you’re being called upon to aid the town protector Elios and ensure the Sun Haven thrives instead of succumbing to ruin.
The game boasts an extensive storyline and even a final boss, although it’s slow to take off. But, considering the sort of game this is, I wouldn’t have it any other way. It develops at a pace that doesn’t distract from the main gameplay.
More than that, the interaction with the townsfolk in this game is outstanding for the genre. It’s hardly the most original or best-written game I’ve played, but the sheer amount of unique dialogue is staggering.
My biggest pet peeve in this genre has always been that, despite the focus on community and romance, there’s often a limited amount of dialogue. It doesn’t take long for the townspeople to start repeating the same lines every time you say hello, and this is even worse after marriage.
Not in Sun Haven, though!
Sun Haven has so much unique dialogue that I was initially taken aback. Every villager has so much to say, along with interpersonal relationships and routines and jobs. All of this adds up and makes Sun Haven feel so alive.
And the marriage candidates all get this two-fold. They have building dialogue structures that remember what’s come previously in basic conversation, not just dates! Yes, it can feel guided at times, the best options are obvious. But this deep relationship system adds something truly special to Sun Haven.
This may be a premature opinion as I only made it through 10 hours, but the developers say that the game has over 700k words in it (that’s one and half times the word count of the Lord of the Rings trilogy), so something tells me I’d have to play for a long time to exhaust this.
A Jaw-Dropping World and Scenic Sound
Sun Haven knocks it out of the park in the graphics department. This game is gorgeous. The world is bright and colorful, the places have visual personality, and the character designs are appealing and memorable.
Sun Haven takes the high-fantasy aesthetic and runs with it, throwing in demons, elves, elementals, angels, and furries, and it all looks wonderful. So much fantasy nowadays is determined to be gritty, dark, and realistic, and I’ve missed this cheerful variety of the genre.
I will be honest; the character models sometimes look a little uncanny. The anime-esque style in Sun Haven is pervasive, and the shrunken-down character sprites can look odd. The character portraits can look strange, too.
Also, coming off the back of Stardew Valley and Rune Factory, only the marriage candidates having character portraits is disappointing. However, I understand why Sun Haven did this considering its time and budget. But I hope the devs might someday make some portraits for the non-romanceable NPCs.
The music is less noteworthy than the visuals. The music is what I expected: pleasant ambient music that reflects the season or the location I’m in. It’s nothing to write home about, but it does precisely what it needs to.
The Technical Stuff
The quality of life in this game is excellent. Lots of inventory and easy-to-build storage. The UI is intuitive to read and navigate. The little things too, like a button that lets you transfer all items into storage if there’s already at least one of that item inside. Or your tools being unable to accidentally destroy your crops.
This isn’t something I’d point out in other games, but it’s worth explicit praise for a farming RPG like this. I’ve played so many games like Sun Haven, where I’m fighting against the UI and making mistakes caused by the game. So Sun Haven was a breath of fresh air in this department.
However, I had a big problem with the loading screens. Maybe it was just my computer, but they were distractingly slow. The map in this game is large, but this is not an excuse when lined up against its competition.
Maybe I’m just spoiled from modern impatience, but compared to other games of its ilk, namely Stardew Valley, they don’t suffer the same issues.
Looking for More?
If you’re anything like me and always on the hunt for more games like Sun Haven, here are a few options that scratch the same itch:
- Stardew Valley
- Rune Factory — I recommend Rune Factory 4 special
- The Atelier Series — I recommend Atelier Sophie
- Potion Permit
- Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town
Final Verdict – Score: 7/10
- Engaging and varied farming RPG gameplay
- Beautiful art design
- Outstanding dialogue variety
- Seamless quality-of-life features
- Painfully slow early game
- Game lags on lower-performance PCs
- Long loading screens
Like every other game in this genre, Sun Haven isn’t for everyone. But it’s most definitely for me, and I loved it! There’s so much on offer, all of it polished and engaging. The game is visually stunning, fun to play (once you get over the initial progression hump), and sucks you into its world.
But that initial progression hump is inescapable. It’s a glaring problem and will be a deal breaker for players who dislike slower games. Even people who have played Stardew Valley will struggle with the slow start. I struggled with it, and I love slow games. But with all of that said, Sun Haven is highly rewarding if you can get past it.
There’s so much to love here, and I think anyone could take something worthwhile away from Sun Haven if they’re willing to put in a bit of time.
Sun Haven Review: FAQs
Question: Is Sun Haven on Nintendo Switch?
Answer: No, Sun Haven does not have a switch port as of this review. However, the developers have confirmed that console ports are in the works.
Question: Can You Play Sun Haven Alone?
Answer: Yes. Despite Sun Haven marketing itself as a multiplayer farming RPG, there is an option to play in single-player.
Question: How many People can You Play with in Sun Haven?
Answer: Sun Haven supports up to 8-person multiplayer and even rewards achievements for doing so.
For this review, I played 10 hours of Sun Haven, completing the game’s first season and earning a handful of achievements. This is only scratching the surface, and I intend to play more.