This charming magic zoo game is all about keeping misbehaving critters in check long enough to help them

Some time into figuring out Fantastic Haven's UI and menu options, I received a notification that a gryphon—who I'd so nicely made a little patch of grassland for—had gone rogue. Tabbing back to my settlement, I watched the little rascal sprint for my quarantine building and smack it before my helpful golems came along to calm the poor blighter down.

These charming little vignettes give the creatures of Fantastic Haven a whole lot of personality, even if they're only in your enclosures for a short period of time. Fantastic Haven is a Fantasy Management builder—meaning you'll be making adjustments to your clinic for wondrous beasts from a top-down view, plonking down buildings, assigning your wizards to tasks, navigating a research tree, that sort of thing. 

This isn't a game about building a massive wonder zoo and balancing strangers' opinions of the decor, though, it's about the challenges of healing wild animals, and the little buggers will fight you at every turn.

A gryphon from Fantastic Haven looks understandably miffed while being researched in a quarantine building.

(Image credit: Goblinz Studio)

In the demo I played I wasn't even allowed to put a fence around that enclosure—granted, that could be a later-game unlock or something. It was also home to a gryphon, so it probably wouldn't have done much. Once I'd kept it happy enough—feeding it, making the right biome for it, and curing its sniffles, I was asked to release it back into the wild.

That's the gameplay loop Fantastic Haven is creating, and I think it's genuinely pretty charming and unique. You oversee a clan of Wizards with an interest in magical fauna and a dream to bring balance to the landscape. Once you've spent resources—called Ether—they return to you as raw magic. Pour them back into the land, and you can reuse and recycle them.

Granted, it did take me a while to figure out how to actually do that. The game's tutorial systems are a touch work-in-progress, making me feel like I was trying to figure out what exactly my local council recycles. The game also asked me to establish a diplomatic relationship with a city, but never really told me how to do that—and I discovered I could send my wizards on caravan journeys basically by accident.

A caravan trader from Fantastic Haven negotiates with the player over a captured beast.

(Image credit: Goblinz Studios)

The enclosures you build are temporary fixes—ways to keep your feathered, scaled, and furred guests comfortable long enough to let them go. Building and adjusting them is suitably slapdash, though the demo doesn't provide quite enough options to really satisfy my inner terraformer. It feels barebones right now, though I'm looking forward to seeing how those options grow as the game progresses—besides, the whimsical chaos of catering to fussy, wild creatures is pretty endearing.

Fantastic Haven is being published by Goblinz Studio, known for Shogun Showdown (developed by Roboatino) and Terraformers (Asteroid Lab), and is being developed by Piece of Cake Studios. You can support the game on Kickstarter, and it plans to release on PC sometime next year.

Staff Writer

Harvey's history with games started when he first begged his parents for a World of Warcraft subscription aged 12, though he's since been cursed with Final Fantasy 14-brain and a huge crush on G'raha Tia. He made his start as a freelancer, writing for websites like Techradar, The Escapist, Dicebreaker, The Gamer, Into the Spine—and of course, PC Gamer. He'll sink his teeth into anything that looks interesting, though he has a soft spot for RPGs, soulslikes, roguelikes, deckbuilders, MMOs, and weird indie titles. He also plays a shelf load of TTRPGs in his offline time. Don't ask him what his favourite system is, he has too many.