I remember way back in 1995 when my school set up their very first computer room. I was a 12 year old boy fascinated by these super fancy Apple Macintosh machines. Very quickly I became one of the kids in charge of the computer room and would always volunteer to go help the other kids learn how to use these computers. I’d help them out then go sit down at the even more fancy Macintosh 2 and nerd out. I know what you’re thinking, “How is any of this relevant to a review on Aven Colony?” well the nerding out I was speaking of was because I was playing Sim City 2000. It was a game that I instantly fell in love with and dumped heaps of time into (yeah I know I should have been doing school work in that computer room but what are ya gonna do? Skip forward to 2017 (finally) and here I am writing about Aven Colony, a game that is dare I say it, a Sim City clone but set in space.
I say Sim City clone because I think it best describes the sort of game Aven Colony is. Sim City was a classic for a reason so taking that style of game and taking it to space is not a bad thing at all. Let’s face it most of us have fantastised about going to space and Aven Colony plays on our fantasy of space travel and fuses it with another trait us humans seem to love, having ultimate control over our environment and its inhabitants.
So the basic premise. You’re on a distant Planet known as Aven Prime and you must build a sustainable habitat for your human subjects to live in. It all sounds so simple but as we all know, life is rarely ever that simple so building an inhabitable colony on an alien planet was never going to be a walk in the park. You’ll start with next to nothing other then a very basic life support system, then go about discovering as much about the environment and resources on Aven Prime in order to build a thriving, livable alien oasis.
Of course this is an alien world so there is going to be some dangers about the place but these shouldn’t be anything that most players can’t handle. I’m talking about the dangers of life support failing or alien viruses running rampant through the city, possibly even alien tentacles here and there just to keep things interesting and who doesn’t love a good meteor shower just to mess with this alien magnum opus you are creating? Outside of the most elementary dangers, Aven Colony is a game that is all about building your perfect alien planet. There are no Xenomorphs lurking, ready to kill all your people or Halo-like Jackals waiting to come and help destroy all you’ve created. No, Aven Colony makes sure that the biggest danger of all is the person playing the game because it will more than likely be your poor planning and inability to provide for your inhabitants that is going to be the nail in the coffin for your people.
The opening tutorials do a good job of explaining everything and teaching the basic of building. It won’t take long before you have the fundamentals locked down and have started making buildings that wouldn’t look out of place in a good sci-f movie. You’ll also discover that if you have got a bit too ambitious too early you’ll lose power around the outer rims (see what I did there) and that of course is not a good thing when people lose life support. You’ll also spend plenty of time checking out the environment of Aven Prime because resources are more valuable than hard currency. You need those resources to build so roll up those sleeves and get mining for those precious resources!
An interesting aspect in Aven Colony, is that the inhabitants have no transport, they simply walk everywhere they need to go. It simplifies the game immensely but does feel a bit odd, I mean after-all we’ve traveled through space to get to Aven Prime yet we didn’t appear to think about transport options for this new world. The inhabitants will get from A to B through specially sealed tunnels because walking outside would lead to instant death. These same tunnels filter the power and water around as well so you definitely do not want to mess those up!
When it comes to interacting with your loyal and ever trusting subjects, Aven Colony let’s you delve deeper into their lives, not unlike a big brother type situation. You can zoom in on them and spy on them in order to learn their thoughts and their deepest, darkest fears about this world they have chosen to be a part of. A word of wisdom from Benny, make sure you use your big brother powers regularly because it will allow you to find out what they think of everything you are doing. Why is this important? Because they have the power to tell you to piss off, thus ending your reign of peaceful creation over them.
I reviewed Aven Colony on Xbox One but the game is available on PS4 and PC as well. I haven’t played the game on PC but just from playing it on console you immediately get the sense that having a keyboard and mouse is where, Aven Colony is destined to shine. Being on Xbox One I would have liked to see it join the Play Anywhere program but with it heading to PS4 as well it would have been a long shot to get that feature but it would have been fantastic to play a bit on the couch then jump onto the PC and continue my work. THat being said the console experience works surprisingly well. A lot of work has gone into making Aven Colony feel intuitive on the Xbox One. You’ll make use of on screen dials and icons that do their best to make for a controller experience. It does take a bit of time to get used to but if you stick with it the system is intuitive enough to make the control scheme manageable.
You may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned to much about the story, well that’s because there isn’t much of one. Sure there are little snippets that tell us about artifacts we find or learn a bit more about the people but other than that that is as far as the story goes. It’s a real shame because in this day and age, having a compelling story keeps people interested and gives them a greater sense of purpose for what they are trying to achieve. It’s not too late though, we live in a day and age where updates can be pushed out at anytime so there’s no reason why Team 17 and Mothership can’t give us more story to go with our world building.
Creating a Sim City clone can be a blessing and a curse. A blessing because it is a genre that many have grown up playing so the familiarity and sense of nostalgia draws you in. It can also be a curse because we’ve played this style of game before and to keep things fresh, bringing something new to the table makes it all seem worthwhile. Aside from the sci-fi setting, the game does feel a lot like Sim City without ever really evolving the genre. That’s not necessarily a bad thing because Aven Colony is a very solid city building game but with the help of a more engaging story behind it and taking a risk on some deeper innovation, Aven Colony could have gone from good to genre redefining. If city building is your thing then Aven Colony is worth your time.
Aven Colony was reviewed on Xbox One from code supplied by Team 17.