Eldest Souls

When you think about all-time great pairings, peanut butter and jelly definitely get a top spot on that list. But what about peanut butter and chocolate? That’s another incredible combo that maybe gets overlooked by some people, but it’s still awesome. Pizza topped with bacon and jalapenos. A Dead Alive/Evil Dead double-feature. That one time CM Punk and Kofi Kingston won the Tag Team Championships. These are pairings you might not always think about, but they work. And Eldest Souls coupled with Haven Park is something that, oddly enough, just works.

When you play a Soulslike, you’re bound to go through a sequence of emotional ups and downs. When I started Fallen Flag Studio’s Eldest Souls, I felt a lot of nervous excitement. When I watched the credits roll after beating the final boss, I felt a sense of relief, but I also felt incredible elation. Sandwiched in between those first and final emotions were plenty of joys, some frustration, and a lot of defeat — it was intense, but it was pretty awesome.

Eldest Souls Guardian Boss

Finishing Eldest Souls was great because it made me feel accomplished as hell — so much so that I really want to take on other Souslikes. But before I ventured down that path, I needed a palate cleanser. Haven Park from Bubble Studio was that palate cleanser.

In Haven Park, you run a campground site where your job is to renovate different areas with tents, cabins, food stands, and entertainment. You do a lot of walking as you get from one area to the next, and you interact with a bunch of NPCs. The game is a lot like A Short Hike and Animal Crossing in that it’s meant to be a relaxing, freeing experience. It’s a little meditative, and it has one of the more emotional endings I’ve seen in a game this year.

Playing a game like Haven Park after beating a Soulslike was strangely comforting for me. After being at the mercy of the malevolent deities in Eldest Souls and dying hundreds of times in a 12-hour period, sitting back and relaxing with a picturesque life sim was therapeutic. It was an easygoing adventure that let me do a little bit of sightseeing while tending to campers’ needs. It was nice!

Haven Park Flint

For clarification’s sake, in addition to being a Soulslike, Eldest Souls is also a boss rush game — meaning there are very few moments of respite. You beat a boss (after the boss takes a little bit of your sanity, of course), and then you walk through an area and head into the next battle. That’s it. There are but mere brief moments of clarity before you go into the next fight against an almighty beast. That makes Eldest Souls a unique kind of extreme challenge.

In Haven Park, however, you get those moments of serenity, peace, and tranquility throughout the five-hour story. It’s a wholesome game that’s dedicated to giving you some much-needed time to get lost in your own thoughts. And though it may not be as story-driven as something like Button City or Garden Story, it still offers a few emotional beats and a truly heart-wrenching finale.

Interestingly, both Eldest Souls and Haven Park are able to evoke very strong feelings in the player — albeit vastly different feelings. Where the former amps you up, the latter helps center your emotions. Together, the two games are able to create a wonderful balance.

Haven Park Exploration Gameplay

I’m ready to take on the next highly challenging game on my list. While there were only minuscule moments of calmness in Eldest Souls, Haven Park was able to give me that calm before the storm I so desperately need so I can dive into Ashen or Titan Souls or whatever the hell game is going to upset and destroy me next.

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