Survival games come in all shapes and sizes these days, but most boil down to the same repetitive tasks and busywork. But how that busywork gets doled out is what separates the wheat from the chaff in this genre. And, for the most part, Havendock manages to stay on the wheat side of the spectrum.

At first, the premise seems pretty limiting: You wake up in the middle of an ocean on a singular platform with small islands and points of interest surrounding you, as well as an endless supply of wood, leaves, fish, and crates full of goodies floating by. But as you follow the checklist of things to craft and discover, things start to blossom and even balloon outward. Before you know it, you have a veritable floating utopia that all manner of refugees will flock to in order to join your collective — and in some cases these refugees will even offer specific skills or boosts in the process.


Take, for example, the zoologist who can decipher penguin speak, which will conveniently come in handy should a stranded penguin wash up on your dock looking for refuge. If you didn’t have a zoologist, you wouldn’t be able to welcome the penguin aboard, and without the penguin, the fish-holding igloo you can construct would be mostly useless. I like this system of jobs and perks, although in some instances it might not be immediately clear what the purpose of, say, a superhero who can’t fly might be.

But that all plays into the puzzle-solving nature of understanding and ultimately mastering the survival mechanics of Havendock. At first I had an ever-expanding group of survivors that pretty much just milled around, shuffling random supplies to the various work stations while I busted my butt keeping the entire enterprise humming along. Once I realized that Survivor A might be better suited to Task A instead of Task B, I began to cobble together a well-oiled machine — one that, admittedly, still required me to do a lot of the heavy lifting (then again, that was more than likely the result of me just not knowing how to best utilize my staff, or perhaps just not having the right body for the right task).


As you expand your empire, you’ll research more and more things to build and bonuses to aid your production on a rather expansive unlock tree. You’ll start to learn the correct items needed to upgrade your current structures to maximize your community’s output, and you’ll slowly unlock avenues for exploration beyond your Waterworld-like compound. You’ll eventually be able to make a submarine and explore the oceans deep, which unlocks yet another entire ecosystem of resources to mine or harvest, along with items to craft or use to update previously constructed workstations.

It’s a pretty well-designed and tightly interwoven system. It isn’t rewriting the wheel, so to speak, but Havendock does what it does really well. And although the visuals harken back to a Mii-style game or even a Facebook game of the early aughts, it’s all quite charming and goes a long way towards not melting my rig with blistering visuals that only end up looking like a hot mess (cough, Icarus, cough).

The music is also quite pleasant, which is always a plus if you aren’t podcasting or listening to your own playlist while trying to get off this infernal, no-end-in-sight raft of last salvation. 


And god bless whoever had the wherewithal to include a detailed encyclopedia that not only shows the icon for every item, but also what it is called and how to go about finding or harvesting it. I’ve spent far too much time in games trying to decipher what it is I’m even looking for, to say nothing for how to then actually find the stuff I need. This is is something that seems unique to the survival genre, where something as simple as a feather can be harvested in any number of mostly nonsensical ways, like chopping down a tree (sure, I guess, since birds live in those), or simply finding them on the ground (I mean, I don’t recall the last time I found a clump of feathers lying around every five feet, but okay). In the case of Havendock, you’ll need to use bear traps with bait inside (which seems like overkill, if you ask me), so that encyclopedia can be a real time-saver.

I enjoyed the 20 or so hours I spent with Havendock. It does a great job of encouraging just another round of researching the next thing to unlock so you can then research the next thing you really want to unlock, and before you know it another hour has flown by. It’s a pleasant game to look at, and it can be quite relaxing with no real danger or threats other than hunger or occasionally having someone sustain an injury while diving for resources.


I would recommend Havendock to anyone who is a fan of laid-back, timesink, factory-style survival games, especially for those who adore a cute aesthetic. Havendock is set to release in Early Access on April 20, 2023. You can wishlist it on Steam now.

Disclaimer: I was given an Early Access code for Havendock on Steam, but the opinions expressed in this article are my own.

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