Wanted to be the governor of a city, and do crazy stuff, including call upon natural disasters on your city? That’s SimCity. Wanted to be the sensible governor ignoring calls for better sewage and water treatment facilities in the city while staring at your new bungalow being built? That’s Cities Skylines? Want to govern a tropical island in the Caribbean islands, while you reign supreme as the Mighty Dictator of the isles, tasting your scones with tea while people are dying due to a famine? That’s Tropico 5.
If you want a break from all this, want to escape to space, and help a colony grow on a planet different from old Earth? Where you enjoy the sight of a gigantic alien worm demolishing half of your colony as you calmly watch from the terrace of the skyscraper, while the turrets vigorously empty their fill of bullets into the monster? That’s Aven Colony.
Aven Colony is a sci-fi city-building and management sim, developed by Mothership Entertainment and published by Team17 Digital Ltd. The game is available on the Xbox One, PS4 and PC from 25th of July 2017.
Story And Narrative
Aven colony seeks to revive the city building genre by invoking strategy elements. While most people would see it as a “Anno clone” or “Tropico clone” or “Simcity clone”, it must be mentioned that Aven Colony has a distinct taste of its own, different from all of the other games which inspired its creation. Despite Tropico doing its bit by incorporating an interesting story which is both witty and sarcastic (in other words, amusing in its own way).
Aven Colony is a game set in the future, when humanity decides to expand from Earth, and finds the closest bet for a habitable planet at Aven Prime, and decides to colonize it. It is more like desperation, in the population boom back on Earth which has caused a scarcity of resources. The dark implications of Tropico 5 or Anno 2070 isn’t indirectly implied through the tone of the story, but through the background of the game itself. However, it was the failure of Anno 2205 as a title, and the lack of a Tropico 6 which might help Aven Colony get a grip on itself and among the fans.
Aven Colony currently only features single-player, and the FAQ on the official Aven Colony page, it states that the game does not have any plans for multiplayer at the moment. Aven Colony has two modes – sandbox, and campaign.
Sandbox has no predefined objectives of its own, you play around as you wish, till you achieve a customized victory condition. Or play through the hardships of the colonists, as you colonize various parts of Aven Prime, overcoming the harsh conditions imposed by the new world in campaign mode, which include gigantic sand worms, as well as creep spores. Alien flora and fauna are few, but must be taken care of if one intends to survive in Aven Prime.
The lack of a multiplayer is a huge disappointment, and we all will be waiting and hoping for a working multiplayer to be actually added to the game. Tropico 5, Anno 2070, the games that inspired this title, themselves had multiplayer, where you got to compete with other players while aiming for a victory condition. Aven Colony, having the same vibes and the same roots as its ideological predecessors of Anno 2070 and Tropico 5. Even a multiplayer mod, if it happens, should get full support, should anyone decide to work on it.
Aven Colony has two tutorials that help players new to the franchise as well as returning players to rehearse the concepts of city-building games, as well as look into the strategy elements that separate Aven Colony from the rest of the city builders.
Gameplay And Mechanics
Aven Colony has many different elements of complexity that adds to the difficulty, and challenges faced while starting (and managing a colony). Excessive industrialization without sufficient oxygenation facilities would mean the death of your colonists (more likely because Aven Prime does not have an oxygen rich atmosphere). Water needs to be pumped up from the deep, because there is no surface water available, and again, the lack of water would mean no crops, and in turn, no food and no water, resulting in emigration and large-scale famine and drought. Over exploitation and the lack of proper planning on the other hand would mean running out of nanites (the chief building component in Aven Colony), which would mean no more buildings can be constructed.
Resource management is quite detailed, which is actually a better part of the strategy revolving around the title. You need to manage minerals, some of which are the primary source of nanites, without which you cannot construct newer structures, and hence cannot expand your colony. Iron and copper can be transformed into nanites, whereas zorium is used as fuel for the generation of power.
You need crops, mostly edible at the start of the game, with a greater variety leading to an increased food diversity and food happiness amongst the populace, which also helps to increase the population. Inedible crops must be grown for industrial purposes, either for export off-world, or for making retail items for distribution amongst the populace and further increasing their happiness. Water is another chief ingredient, which is both used directly by the populace, and by the Farms and Greenhouses who utilize it to cultivate crops.
Population is a hidden resource, not displayed on the UI directly, but the most important resource of the colony, which must be used properly for the player to actually utilize the buildings made to the fullest extent. Population happiness is key to a thriving colony, as unhappy citizens mean you get outvoted during the next election, and a new governor comes in to fill your place.
Areas in Aven Prime are differently favorable for different crops, meaning an atmosphere suitable for rice might not suit barley. Meanwhile, you also need people to actually run the places, so you need population, and extra population comes from the existence of families, and from immigration. You need good housing, and adequate entertainment facilities, as well as food and water and oxygen. Entertainment facilities, while improving the morale of the citizens, also is a hotbed for crime, which needs to tackled. Solar panels and farms have reduced production in winter, thanks to reduced sunlight. The strategy is highly dynamic, and does not have limitations (it is limited only by the player’s imagination).
Aven Colony features a simplistic UI which is equivalent to the UI used in most modern city-building games starting from SimCity. However, unlike SimCity and Cities Skylines, you do not have “zoning” here, meaning you need not create zones for residential, retail and industrial spaces. You must place each building individually. The game’s more open in terms of buildings allowed to be built rather than Anno (which places a restriction for buildings depending on the population of your colony), which is rather a way of attracting more players rather than pushing them off by offering a difficult start. However, population plays a key role in maintaining the several workplaces that you build. Another venue where Aven Colony takes a tip from Anno are the expeditions, which can be launched to explore the surrounding planetside. These are more for rescue missions and for retrieving goods dropped from space pods rather than trade with another colony on the same planet.
Aven Colony does has some problems in its current state however. The UI being too simplistic does not offer a few inherent features that would have benefited every player. One feature would be to highlight buildings of identical types. You want to change the production mode for that Chemical Plant, or for that Mill, and you can’t even find it on the map. Want to change the production mode for the Water Pumps to increase water production due to a drought in the colony? You have to trace the individual pumps, SORRY.
Also, another feature which is baffling from the start was the Research Center. It is a pre-requisite for quite some buildings, like the Chemical Plant and the Plasma Turret. I was in the dark as to how to grow alien crops in the game, which would feed the Chemical Plant once research is done at the Research Center. How to produce the soda for retail consumption, or the kelko sludge for producing nanites for construction of more buildings? It appears that there is not some hidden pre-requisite, but apparently, only ticking the “Enable Inedible Crops” while constructing a Farm or Greenhouse would allow you to cultivate those kelko spores, or quari spores, for industrial production, which is not a straightforward way of revealing the raw materials of advanced stuff.
Also, you cannot see supply lines in game. So you cannot trace which storehouse your crops are being sent to, and which storehouse your minerals are going into, or which factory is consuming the resources from your storehouse.
Graphics Sound and Performance
The game features vibrant graphics, perhaps one of the best offered by a city-builder of the strategy genre in recent times. The settings have high customization options, should one feel the need to find a balance between performance and graphical quality.
The game is optimized pretty well, sparring a memory leak issue that happens when your colony grows into a thriving big city center on Aven Prime, leading to major FPS drops as well as crashes. This is the same issue that affected Cities XL, but was later fixed with patches. So technically that isn’t a worthy at all.
Also, during a session, if you zoom into the tunnels, you can see the details on the citizens of the colony, down to the smallest units of the colony, which is a pretty neat detail, if you are into those kinds of things.
If you love strategy games, and prefer a more laid-back kind of game, where you can sit back, and enjoy (while the resources pile up and the drones complete the construction of the new buildings for the expansion of the colony on Aven Prime) then this is the perfect game for you.