If you ever wanted to create a little colony without the stresses of losing your people of death and starvation but just want to expand and grow as much as possible, then Havendock is for you. It is a city builder game, that removes the city part as you are stuck out in the middle of the ocean and allows you to build up your settlement all the while removing the danger aspect of similar games. The people will get hungry, thirsty, and injured but there is no real threat of them dying from it, allowing you to focus on trying to build a better colony and in turn solve the issues that plague it.
The game starts off with allowing you to create your own character, but this is mostly just cosmetic changes and has no real effect on gameplay. One item description even confirms this to be true. You then start off trying to collect resources so you can expand your total playable area by using the wood to build more decks. This then gives you more space to build other resources generator like water a pump that fills up with sea water. As you progress, you get to build a small dock. This allows NPCs to show up and recruit them to your little haven. Some just want a place to call home while others require you to give them food or water before they join. The game does feel like a mixture of Raft, being stuck on the ocean and collecting resources as they float past, and any other colony builder game. Using the resources, you can construct buildings like homes to increase your total population or prayer buildings to keep the populace happy. A happy worker is an efficient worker.
Many of the resourcing producing buildings have multiple options to what they can produce like the basic farm can be used to produce vegetables, fruits, trees, and flowers. They all use the same starting resource, seeds, but produce at different speeds and volumes but most of them tend to be 4. This kind of game element is repeated with most of the buildings as you will need to build multiple of them to be able to produce all the required resources. As you progress, you are required to do research to unlock further options for buildings or new buildings in general. This is the loop that then becomes apparent as you constantly need to build, produce and upgrade to be able to progress to the next set.
This is thankfully automated to a degree as you can assign some of your population to automatically collect the starter resources, create the item and either leave it at the building for you to collect or add it to a storage chest that you can make. Most of the time, if a villager is idle, they will start filling up any buildings that require some sort of resource to start and in the case of that resource being used up, creating a new one, will move it to another building to start creating another resource. The best example would be a villager taking seeds to grow some vegetables but as soon as they are grown, takes them to the cooking station so it can be prepared in food, which is then eaten or stored. This does make getting things made and added easier and allows you to focus on getting new buildings up and doing further research. You also have the option of upgrading the buildings that increase the speed at which items are made like the smelter or cooking stations, or increasing the total number of items it can store such as the storage chest.
If you manage to get the perfect flow going, it makes managing the people and items a breeze as they are constantly fetching, making, and storing items that are needed. This can be a pain sometimes as they can take items you are waiting for to be completed from right under your nose, forcing you to restart the process if you do not have enough of the base item. There are multiple areas that you can unlock like underwater that does contain its own set of challenges and buildings but those are best discovered as you play.
I did have some issues with trying to collect some of the floating resources especially when you have expanded to a bigger size and the items go underneath the deck. If you were looking for something specific in the distance and you manage to miss it before, if you are not 100% certain where it is, good luck trying to find it. I normally just swing the cursor from one side of the screen to the other side hoping I see it highlighted so I can collect it. This also becomes a nuisance on the occasion if the item goes underneath an existing building, you can select it rather than the resource or when walking around and trying to select a building, hover over a resource and you have collected it instead of clicking on the building. This can be a bit frustrating as you are trying to get something you need and end up missing it because of this. Some way to highlight the item as it flows underneath would be helpful.
Even though the game is technically finished, it can be played from start to end, the decision was made to release it under Early Access to be able to update and change gameplay before finalizing it completely. This does work well as there have been a slew of updates being released that add better ways to collect resources or just fix small bugs and issues here and there. Thankfully the stigma of Early Access titles has become a bit less since most stores do have policies in place to prevent them from cashing in and then bolting later but this could be a bit detrimental to it at first.
Overall, the game has a nice relaxing pace that allows you to enjoy some of the other aspects of the games like watching the resources come floating past. There are also some secrets hidden about it like clicking the title on the opening screen generates a few funny icons that fall off the screen. There are even some options to mimic the Simlish language that is described as broken English, but actions and pictures tell you what is needed. It is curious to see if any of the updates will add a significant more options and how big the game will become once it exists Early Access.