Havendock releases into early access on April 20, 2023, and already impresses with its simple, yet addicting gameplay. Read our Havendock Review from our first impressions of the Early Access here!
For being an early access title, Havendock gets everything right from the get-go. This clever mix of base-building, basic survival settlement management, and whatever we call the Factorio-like subgenre is already a delight.
I've put a few hours into YYZ's solo project, actually, I'm still playing it while writing to tell you all about my newfound addiction and the reason I can't get any work done. Here are our first impressions of Havendock
*Early Access Copy was provided by the Publisher*
It's tough to describe Havendock without talking about Factorio. But first, I would like to dedicate some words to the absolute rockstar that is this game developer YYZ.
His real name is Ying Zhi and he's been making neat games like Havendock for over 10 years now. I highly encourage you to look up his catalog of games here.
Because even if Havendock is visually plain, it is polished, and the way everything just clicks together is impressive. And you can tell that Ying Zhi has had a lot of experience to hone the finer aspects of game design.
The reason I'm putting this here first is that Havendock might look simple on the surface but a few hours in, you realize just how many deep the rabbit hole of its gameplay gets. And if you let it, it can consume your life in a similar way Factorio does.
Welcome to Havendock
Havendock's premise is relatively simple, and you're lost at sea with little more than a few planks of driftwood and a sandbank to call your own. Your goal is now not only to survive but to thrive by building a town that would even put Atlantis to shame.
Things start off easy, you collect wood to build more platforms and start to pump and distill water. At first, survival is a relatively easy task, especially when it's just yourself to look after. Once you've sorted out the basics to survive, it's time to get comfortable and expand your ambitions.
All the things you do at first manually can eventually be automated. For that, we employ strangers who ask to come aboard our floating would-be paradise on the ocean. And as long as you keep them fed and entertained, they're happy to give you a helping hand.
At first, you simply instruct them to automate the little tasks you don't want to be bothered with. Like pumping water, distilling that water, and storing it in the water tank. While they'll take care of their needs as long as you provide the means to, you'll have to only manage hunger and thirst.
Please note that you don't have to make the same mistakes I always make, by eagerly expanding without making sure your production pipelines don't run into any bottlenecks or come to a total halt.
The Means of Production
What makes Havendock stand out and why I really can't put it down anymore, is the way it just keeps escalating. Just like Factorio, the more you play, the more complex and intense things get. Especially once you start digging deeper into the research and development tree.
It's also here where the settlers in Heavensdock shine. In usual management sim fashion, they come with a bunch of meters for you to nurse and provide, some even have special traits that make them more suitable for certain tasks.
Every settler lets you automate a process, you can put one in charge of, let's say, the cooking station and they'll make sure to turn as many resources into food as possible. Then you use a few more settlers to automate the production of those resources and suddenly, you don't have to deal with them anymore.
Gameplay like this gets to shine when all those individual tasks start to feed into each other. Then the game becomes more about creating a well-oiled machine that produced all the materials and resources you'll ever need to expand your operations.
And at this point, I don't really tell you much more. Because the way Havendock manages to escalate its mechanics and the ways you interact with them is a delight. I'll only leave you with the tease that there is much more to conquer than just some islands you see off in the distance.
Vibes and Visuals
I'm really afraid some people won't give Havendock a second look due to its relatively simple presentations and visuals. While a lot of its visuals are very basic with its low-poly models and simple unlike its genre colleagues the screen always remains readable.
There is a certain mastery in making assets look like it belongs in the same video game, while also making sure they're easily recognizable. That's the biggest praise I can give to Havendock is that I could even tell at what level of upgrade a facility was by looking at its shapes and colors.
The whole game has this very disarming visual charm, the lower graphical fidelity adds a level of levity and humor to the experience that would be lost otherwise. Once you see low-poly Santa throws down with Gandalf, you'll understand what I mean.
Compared to other games like it, Havendock goes for a more relaxed vibe. You never find yourself in an outright hostile situation. Its laid-back atmosphere makes it so comfortable to play and I don't mind having it running in the background as a sort of digital fidget toy.
I really liked the time I've spent with Havendock so far. For being in Early Access, the game already feels extremely polished and just works. There is also already a lot of content for you to tinker around with. And there's even an experimental multiplayer, which I sadly haven't been able to test.
But I have a few little nitpicks I'd like to see addressed. For example, I don't really see a reason for homes. They exist to give your settlers a place to stay, but outside of being a requirement to keep them happy, I have yet to see a settler actually use them.
There's the Sleeping Rock that lets them rest up, so the homes barely serve a gameplay function. Please, please let me manage who bunks with who and make me match up their personalities!
The game could also use a random world generator, currently, there are set locations that unlock certain features.
This makes progression in subsequent playthroughs very linear and the game could also do with random events and things to deal with to shake things up and keep them fresh.
But that aside, I'm extremely excited to see what kind of direction Havendock will go into. It would be nice to have some kind of roadmap to refer to but as it is now, Havendock is well worth your money when it launches into early access on April 20th.
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