If you are an avid reader of reviews on the site you may have noticed that my last review, of Constructor HD, was not the most glowing review I have ever wrote, and I struggled with my own conscience throughout, questioning whether the reason I didn’t enjoy it was due to the type of game it was. I mean, I don’t usually play those types of games. But, playing Aven Colony has made me realise that my thoughts of Constructor were probably correct, as I had a ball playing Aven Colony!
Aven Colony was originally released on the PC in 2016, and is now getting a console release. The game puts you in charge of humanity’s first space settlement on Aven Prime, an alien planet of deserts, tundras, and jungles light years from earth. Developed by Mothership Games and published by Team 17, Aven Colony requires the player to “Build the infrastructure, look after the well-being of your citizens, manage your resources, and guide your colony to prosperity — all while dealing with the harsh and often dangerous realities of an alien world.” So, to put in simply, it’s Sim City in space. That might be doing the game a disservice, as I haven’t played a Sim City game in a while, so I don’t know how that game has evolved since over time.
Aven Colony features two game modes, Campaign and Sandbox. I kicked off my experience with the game by getting stuck into the campaign. The first two missions are tutorials that teach you the basics of the game, which involves how to build, how to read and interpret the stats, and how to use the overlay and colony rules menus. I always feel this genre of game, with all its menus, are too complex, but I was pleasantly surprised that it is very easy to pick up. Once into the first main campaign, you realise that Aven Colony does a fantastic job of guiding you along (without holding your hand) by giving you targets. In turn, these targets drive the colony forward by fulfilling its basic needs, and when you have finally got to grips with these needs you have realised that the missions have turned into challenging gameplay targets.
So, what do you need to create a thriving colony on an alien planet? Well, lets start with the basics. Water, Food, Air and Electricity. These are all provided at a basic level by building water pumps, farms, air filters and wind turbines. Everything that you build uses Nanites, and these are obtained from mining, which is the other essential need in the game. Dotted around the landscape are areas where natural resources can be identified, such as Iron and Gold, and by building a mine on these areas you gather the resources for your colony. Once you are up and running with the basics you find yourself building structures to keep these basic needs addressed before you are prompted, in order to maintain a safe and happy environment.
Once the basics are in place, the player can then start building and expanding as they see fit. The majority of buildings can be upgraded and you can start building bars, retail outlets, trade ports, museums, police drone stations, etc. Keeping the population happy is the key to success. As soon as they become unhappy they will let you know, and you will receive notifications, for example if the food supply becomes too low, which in turn will prompt you to upgrade a farm, build a new one, or set a trade route to import food in return for building materials. Overlays are an important part of keeping the population healthy, as they allow you to troubleshoot the colony as a whole entity. For example, one shows the air quality, and you can easily find areas where this has dropped below a safe level, so you can use this to decide the best places to build new fans and filters to improve those areas. There are overlays covering all the important needs, morale, electricity, crime, etc.
So, the goal of Aven Colony is to keep the population healthy and happy whilst also expanding the colony. Check out the video below for a demonstration of the basics of the game, recorded on the second main mission.
But thats not all. Being a colony on an alien planet has its downsides. Alien spores, Creeper spores and Toxic Gas are all ready to strike at any point. You can defend against these by building plasma turrets and creeper drone stations. One hint for you as well, build air filters instead of intake fans to prevent your colony from getting infested by airborne spores. There is an achievement for infecting 50 colonists at the same time, which I got!
Graphically Aven Colony looks fantastic. The camera can be moved anywhere around the colony, and can be zoomed right out to see an overview, and equally zoomed right in to see in close detail. When zoomed in, the detail of the various parts of the colony is superb, and gets right into the detail of the individual colony member. The audio is just as good, and again, you are able to listen to the workers protests when they get unhappy. Clicking on a colony member also gives you details about them, with a brief audio snippet of them saying hello!
As you progress through there is a story that links all the missions together. Each mission throws a different scenario at you, for example one of them has you starting on a world with very limited farming resource, so you immediately need to build a trade hub in order to get food for your colonists. Another sees a world where you have abundant farming resource but virtually no natural resource for mining. Aven Colony is challenging but it is not too difficult as to feel like you’re out of control with your colony, even when a disaster is looming. You can increase and decrease the game speed and you can also pause it when you are looking at your stats, which I found very helpful!
This review has been written as I have played 6 of the 11 campaign missions, with the first two being tutorials. My total game time at this point is 14 hours, so I can envisage at least another 20 to finish the campaign, which on a game genre like this is pretty amazing. And thats without even touching the Sandbox mode. And, returning to my comments about my Constructor review, where I said the reason I didn’t like it was that I didn’t enjoy playing it. Well, I love playing Aven Colony and I will continue to play long after this review is published. The difference is in the campaign missions, where it gives you a challenging and worthwhile goal to achieve, although these are not clear when the mission starts!
On a downside I did come across some slowdown of the game later in each mission, where the colony had evolved to be fairly large, and this slowdown occured when I put on an overlay to check the air quality. Maybe it just needs a patch, and considering I am playing a pre-release version it may be addressed before release. But, its not a game breaker, just an annoyance. Its hard to really pinpoint any other faults. It might not be hard enough for some experienced players, but for me it was fine. There are of course higher difficulty levels to Aven Colony for those who require more of a challenge!
For more detail on Aven Colony you can check out their website at www.avencolony.com