Mothership Entertainment and Team 17 Software have teamed up to bring us a new strategy building title that puts the player in the role of governor over a new colony of immigrants from "Old Earth." Welcome to Aven Colony
As the game begins, you're the new governor of a tiny community on a newly colonized planet. It's your job to turn your small outpost into a thriving colony after which it will be turned over to a junior governor to maintain while you move on to another place in need of your expertise. While the game calls you a governor, your work is much more akin to that of a city planner. Vanaar is your first colony and it's here that you learn the ropes. You'll start with two optional tutorials that walk you through the basics. The sheer amount of available options seems a bit daunting at first, but the game is actually very easy to learn.
After finishing the tutorials, you will receive assignments, each of which provides rewards when completed. It's through these small tasks that you learn the ins and outs of gameplay. Depending on the needs of the particular colony, you might first be asked to build a geothermal plant for more electricity or a pump for improved water supply. The game takes you through baby steps this way on each map so that you quickly gain a thorough knowledge of the building mechanic. The steep learning curve I expected never materialized.
Yep, that's a giant sandworm.
The resources you have to watch include the population, employment, air quality, mineral resources, food production, water supply, traffic control, and others. High on the list is citizen morale. In addition to keeping your colonists alive, it's your job to keep them at least moderately happy. Although it sounds terribly complicated, the game is so well put together that it's really not. You have all the tools you need to make quick decisions and respond to any approaching crisis.
The game requires that you keep things balanced. Those sending your assignments are always urging you to grow the colony larger, but sometimes a constant influx of immigrants can outstrip your resources, in which case you might have to set a "no immigration" policy for a while until you bring the community back into balance. Policies can be as harsh as forced overtime and martial law to as lenient as free gaming for everyone — it all depends on how you want to run the show. Of course, being too Draconian will probably get you the boot at the next election.
Map overlays are really helpful.
In the second colony, expeditions become available. These let you send out exploration crews that might recover supply pods or rescue lost explorers, but these require caution, too. You can come across rebel colonists, who can kill your entire crew and take out your ship. The expeditions add a nice touch of variety to your building routine. Other dangers include Creep invasions, which can literally destroy your entire colony, and plague outbreaks that can wipe you out if you have inadequate supplies of medicines or hospitals.Aven Colony
is a very pretty game with nice graphics and beautiful environments. You control the view with both the left and right sticks, one letting you move from a normal horizontal view to a top-down viewpoint while the other moves from side to side, letting you survey the terrain. Being able to go into top-down mode whenever you like is really convenient when you're trying to see exactly where you want to go. Even better, game lag and crashing are rare; slow downs where only experienced when the colony was huge. It runs quite beautifully most of the time.
A pretty locale
Most importantly, the game is just plain fun. As you're learning the ropes, you can quickly become absorbed in your job of expanding this new place on a new planet. How quickly you move through the game is really up to you. You can go slowly and build your community to your heart's content or you can move quickly through the assignments until you hit the one that gives the prize of Victory. Once you've been awarded Victory, you're given the choice to continue on in the colony or claim the prize and move on. The game has seven difficulty levels with Normal right in the center, so you can make it as easy or as difficult as you wish. Once you start getting some story, it's a nice combination of funny and mysterious. There's even a sandbox mode if you just want to build.
experience is overwhelmingly positive, although one small thing from which the game would benefit would be being able to set production or storage limits. Full storage is a constant problem. Yes, you can discard items but it hardly seems efficient to throw out 2,000 melons or to have no water because your chemical plant made thousands of doses of plague vaccine while you were busy elsewhere. Instead of having to check production levels continually to avoid storage issues, being able to set the number you want of something would be nice.
Creeps can wipe out your whole colony.
Finally, Aven Colony
has a nice variety of achievements. Over half will be gained simply by playing the game. These include achievements for completing each colony on Normal mode or higher (only one achievement requires that you finish a map on Insane difficulty), as well as a number of cumulative achievements that will come along naturally, such as upgrading 100 buildings or completing 100 trade contracts. Others will take some time, such as having 1000 colonists in a single colony or gaining a number of promotions through the course of the game. Some will require some special attention. Completing the first colony in five years or having three super structures in a single colony (that's 1000 nanites!) will take some doing. The achievement list varies from simple to not-so-easy, but none of them look impossible. This won't be a quick completion but it's one that should prove satisfying.
All in all, Aven Colony
is a blast. Planning out the best places to put your facilities in order to keep most people happy is both fun and absorbing. Surprisingly simple to learn, the game makes it easy to quickly get in the groove of building and splashes of humor keep you smiling. There are times of frustration when overproduction keeps your storage facilities at capacity, but this is a very small dark cloud in the otherwise blue expanse of Aven Prime's skies. If you're into building games, you'll definitely want to give this one a try.
- Surprisingly easy to learn
- Addictively fun
- Pretty graphics and beautiful environments
- Inability to set production or storage limits
- Occasional lag when colonies get very large
The reviewer spent about 25 hours creating colonies and earning 29 of the game's 48 achievements. An Xbox One game code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.
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