Back in June I brought you a preview of Mothership Entertainment and Team17’s colony building title Aven Colony. Now I know you may be wondering where our review is since the games release, but we have been doing changes to the site and it has taken a while to complete. Now though I am proud to bring you our review and is the first since the new change over. 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 in Aven Colony you can do just that on the planet Aven Prime.
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 had access to two tutorials and the first two campaign missions. Now I have been able to play through the majority of the campaign but will try and keep any spoilers to the minimum. 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.
You are given a total of nine campaign missions, two tutorial levels and a sandbox mode based on all the areas from the campaign. I spoke about the first two missions from the campaign back in our preview which you can read below for a recap.
“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 a 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 artifacts lost civilians and study dead sand worms etc.”
The games campaign is even better when you explore Aven Prime much more deeper and the mission based mechanics lead on to the each new campaign area really well. I would go as far as to say the two tutorials and the first two campaign missions act more like one big tutorial and train you up for what is to come. One of the campaign missions that I really got into was one where you had to help take in a certain amount of people by a certain number of sols – more on that below – to be successful. Other missions will include building a specific type of colony, for example a trade only colony and another putting you in an area where there are creep and plague spore nests, that you need to eradicate. While there is a sandbox mode separately where you can adjust a plethora of options, in each campaign mission you can claim victory, or continue playing effectively turning the campaign into a sandbox experience.
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 Most of your structures can be upgraded in order to gather or research for more resources like consumer goods to sell at retail stores. While this may not have the structure count of say City: Skylines I found it to be adequate enough although I would love to see some DLC that maybe adds new structures or locations. 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 mine nanites from iron resources etc. but you will need to watch as these will deplete over time. You can gain additional nanites by completing certain missions as well as trading other resources.
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. 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.
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.
Graphically I am more than pleased with how the game looks, 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.
The Good Things
- Highly accessible colony building title.
- Fun single player experience.
- Great U.I interface.
And The Bad
- Doesn’t quite have the scale and scope of other city-building titles.
- Would love to see DLC bringing more structures and locations.
- Avon Colony ha certainly grabbed my attention and done what many of these type of games fail to do, and that is to keep my attention. The downside to this is I know loose some of my time to other games, since I don’t have a 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 gels together so well it just kept me coming back for more. It may not have the scope and scale of City: Skylines and such, but it does have a uniqueness to it.
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.