Preview: Aven Colony

Have you ever wanted to just escape and start new life far far away from this planet? After all global warming is going to kill us all at some point. Well thanks to Team17 and Mothership Entertainment you can now see if you could make a successful governor on the planet Aven Prime. I have had the chance to preview a little of what is offered with this sci-fi city-building title, and if you are new to this kind of game, there is a handy tutorial to guide you in the right direction.

The story to Aven Colony is one where you are given the task to colonize the various sections of the planet Aven Prime so that the human race can flourish on this strange alien planet. These areas are represented by different terrain types as well as different hazards and hurdles to overcome. This alien planet features various locations like deserts, tundras and wetlands. It is here that you build, customise and maintain your settlement, manage your resources, encounter a variety of alien life forms and look after your citizens – all while dealing with the challenges of life in an entirely new solar system.

In the preview build I have access to two tutorials and the first two campaign missions. The campaign mode features a dedicated mission objective system that gradually introduces colony management setting you up for the other areas of the campaign. Your aim is to advance from Colony Governor all the way through to Expedition President. The tutorials are informative and not overwhelming to new players which I am pleased to see. I am not a city-building whiz kid so it’s great to be able to follow the tutorials with ease. They teach you the basics and how to use some of the structures as well as managing them, which is enough to get you started in the first Campaign mission.

Such Beauty

Such Beauty

The campaign situated in the Vanaar location on Aven Prime is the perfect area for taking your first steps into colonization. Vanaar is made up of plenty of lush green land and plant life which are key areas for being able to farm food. You are tasked with creating a self sustaining colony that can support hundreds of citizens, manufacture exotic foods, enhance substances from alien plant species and eventually build an Earth History Centre. It all sounds simple but it is anything but and I love that it has a high challenge level, yet can still be fun at the same time.

The second Campaign location is at Sandy Gulch. I like the way this campaign starts with a worker going on an unofficial expedition, it has a bit of an Aliens feel about it. This is a wasteland where mining food is a lot harder to do than in Vanaar due to the lack of plant life and green-land. All you have is lots of desert and rock, as well as deep dark holes. You really need to watch out for those holes as you will come across giant alien sand worms popping out to say hello and blowing some plasma kisses. If you have ever seen the movie Tremors, they are pretty much similar but ten times the size. The colony you are tasked to maintain and expand here is one for mining materials with the goal to grow large enough to build an Expedition Centre. Once this is built you can send crews off on journeys to recover artefacts lost civilians and study dead sand worms etc.

You can expect the gameplay to be similar of that to most city-builders, with a plethora of structures like farms, green houses, chemical plants, mines, research plants, hospital and expedition centres. This is only a small list of the overall structures that I had access to in the first two campaign missions. Time in the game passes in “sols” which play out as a year with your summer, spring autumn and winter. In the winter you will find your Farms will stop production due to freezing over and solar panels will only produce half the resources etc. Building a good mix to get the most out of resources is the key plan to success. In Aven Colony you don’t deal with money, that wouldn’t be very sci-fi now would it? You deal in nanites which is what is required to build all your structures. You can also gain additional ones by completing certain missions as well as trading other resources.

Where I have found it hard to get in to city-building titles Mothership Entertainment has made this the most accessible title in the genre for me.

Where I have found it hard to get in to city-building titles Mothership Entertainment has made this the most accessible title in the genre for me.

Everything you build will be done using drones which will cover a certain radius so the further you expand on the colony and structures the more drone towers you will need. I like how you are rewarded if you extend beyond the centre of the colony you start each campaign with. You will come across toxic gas pockets which will provide electricity provided you use a Geothermal generator. If you leave these gas pockets bare for too long the toxic gas will spread over the colony. It is little things like this that make you want to keep playing as everything just ties in nicely. You will need your farms and green houses to create both edible and inedible resources. These can then be used in the chemical and research plants and in turn allow the creation of medicine to fight plagues. You can also make edible foods to control your populations mood and health. I also like how you can enforce things like rationing and a police state, or even an immigration ban. Kudos also goes to the team on how you can have citizens speaking Spanish etc. There are also a host of defence mechanisms like lightning towers that protect against lightning storms and plasma turrets to protect against plague organisms and other stuff.

On my play through of the Vanaar campaign I thought I was doing well until I learned the hard way not to expand too quick. I was just building structure after structure and forgot about keeping an eye on the food levels and ultimately my colony all died of starvation. It made me laugh though as you had people outside of buildings protesting wanting more food. You will find that civilians will demonstrate and protest about a variety of things. You can keep them happy buy building retail markets and VR centres two name just a couple. I was also introduced to shard storms which feel a bit like a more deadly form of hail stones. The one thing I did notice over both campaign levels is how fast your storage can get used up, but that is me not micromanaging things.

I actually done much better in the Sandy Gulch campaign which I am surprised at as it is much harder to keep control of food quantity and quality. I did learn some lessons from Vanaar and put them to good use. I was more slower at expanding and kept a closer eye on resource levels and it certainly paid off. I was able to build a hospital as well as fight off a plague. Then there is the Expedition Centre, I was able to explore beyond the colony. This involved sending a crew to study dead sand worms and rescue other civilians. I really loved how this is laid out and leads on to gaining more items.

So much to discover outside the colony

So much to discover outside the colony

I have to really give Mothership Entertainment immense credit with the design of the user interface and various overlays. Usually these type of games can be a bit tricky to navigate without a proper keyboard and mouse, but you will be able to get to various stats in just a couple of button presses. You can get really in-depth of micromanaging pretty much everything. Thanks to the gigantic number of surveillance cameras you can pinpoint colony members locations and home straight in on them. You can also bring up overlays of what like the air quality is as well as where electricity is needed. When you are laying down farms it will tell you the production rate of the various resources. When planting structures you can see where the staff will come from as well as the area that will be covered in the case of drone towers. If you love going in-depth with stats you will love all the information you are presented with and have access too.

There is also a sandbox mode for you to take a step away from the mission based structure of the campaign levels. You can keep the missions on but you are also free to switch them off and do your own thing. You will also be able to change a wealth of options to make things as easy or as difficult as possible. You have access to how hard it is to raise the colony’s moral, to how much resources you start with or how often an election is hold etc.

Graphically I am more than pleased with how the game is progressing, with all the little animations like the signs projected outside certain building etc. it has a great sci-fi feel. You can zoom right in on any area for more detail as well as zoom out to give you more of an overview. You will be using the left and right thumb sticks for camera rotation and movement. This works almost flawlessly but I would like the camera zoomed out a little more when placing structures.

From what I have played of Aven Colony so far it has certainly grabbed my attention and some of my social life. Where I have found it hard to get in to city-building titles Mothership Entertainment has made this the most accessible title in the genre for me. A fresh and intuitive user interface and well structured tutorials will get you off to a good start. The campaign levels so far have kept my interest for hours. The way they seem to link up to each other is great and look forward to seeing more nearer the games release.

About no1phil

PR Manager & Editor for XLC Gaming Network. I have been gaming since the ZX Spectrum days growing up through many generations of consoles. A bit of a jack of all trades when it comes to gaming genres. When I'm not either being shot at, dancing, scoring for the other team or racing I am trying to become a guitar God with Rocksmith 2014.