One of the things that I’ve always been wanting more of when it comes to console games is city building simulations. This is a genre I love, the pride I take when building my cities and everything comes together nicely and you see things start working, especially when you get more and more people coming into the cities and more housing is needed, expansions for jobs, is there enough power, food etc. This is what makes these games for me, the attention to detail, going back over and making sure everything is covered and working.
So when Aven Colony was announced I did get a bit excited, the way it was presented was brilliant, it looked like the ultimate alien city builder. So when the kind people over at Team 17 sent my copy through you can understand my excitement. The first impression that you get of the game is a beautiful vista, which I have taken a screenshot of and I am currently using as my Background on PS4.
When you get to the menus, there are 2 choices, these are Campaign and Sandbox. The campaign is your usual story mode, this allows you to learn all about Aven Prime and the mysteries that it holds. Sandbox is anything goes, you set the rules and difficulties and try to make a brave new world.
There isn’t really any difference in either modes, the main one is that in Campaign you’re learning about the world and everything is set for you where as Sandbox you have control over certain aspects before you start. So you can decide the difficulty of the game, how often referendums happen, how many nanites (in game currency) as well as if you want challenges on. After a quick play through of a few levels of Campaign, I decided to just go straight into Sandbox, the reason being is I felt I would learn more myself about the game by doing it this way. It’s nice to learn about the world you’re on, but I’m here to just build stuff and beam from ear to ear about my creation.
One thing that got to me from the off was that there were a few levels open for Campaign, but all of the places were open in Sandbox, so it kind of doesn’t really matter about the campaign a bit, because you can go straight into any area and start building. I would have thought that there would be more emphasis on getting people to play through at least a few levels of the campaign first before having 1, 2 or even all of the levels open in Sandbox mode. There maybe a lot of people who play this game who won’t play the campaign, and that is a little disappointing as the campaign is worth a play through, especially from the several levels that I managed to play.
These type of games can also be a little daunting when it comes to the controls. I have always found city builders to be better on PC due to the controls with mouse control being a lot more clinical, so it was interesting getting used to this game on the Dualshock 4. The right trigger brought up your ‘inventory’ of buildings, which was designed in a wheel like menu, pretty decent and well put together. Triangle would bring up any notifications that you had such as low power, incoming attacks, or your Jon Snow warning of ‘Winter is Coming’. You had the thumbsticks then that controlled the camera and the R1/L1 bumpers which zoomed in and out.
In terms of everything you needed to know information wise was placed on the screen making it easy to check storage, food, water, air and power. This is displayed along the bottom in a fairly standard info bar. It does the job and you don’t really need any fancy for it.
One disappointment from the game that I got was the lack of buildings. At first glance when you’re looking around you may think that it looks like there is a lot there, however a lot of these are the same building, just based off Tier 1, 2 and 3. This is basically the stages that each building goes through for upgrades etc, so when you get to a certain point in the game, you’re going to be always using Tier 3 buildings, and I wouldn’t say that any colony actually grows, the reason for this is because you just add and re hash the same buildings over and over, so it’s kind of like the same city just being repeated and expanded to get around the part of Aven Prime you have picked. One reason for doing this is so that you can get to mines so that you can get materials to trade or create nanites of other items from. This is the only reason, it’s not like new buildings suddenly appear after getting to a certain stage, everything is shown in the menu and shows what you need to be able to create them, this then allows you to set targets, especially if there is a certain building that you want.
When expanding the colony, you have to be careful that the place people are working isn’t too far away from their home, or else they won’t go there and no one will work in any of the structures that you’ve just placed. You also have to make sure that if this is away from the main base that air intake and purifiers are placed down for people to breath…. I kind of forgot about this little part…. Ooops. When it comes to people working away from their homes, you can solve this by placing down outposts, I found this when I created a construction drone away from the base, I found no one wanted to work there, but when I put an outpost down where they could stay, the jobs instantly filled and I could start building my mine (the reason I moved a drone out there).
There are attacks that happen within the game, however as long as you have defenses up, these aren’t a problem. You do get naturally occurring hazards happen such as lighting strikes, asteroid attacks which can damage your colony, but any buildings needing to be repaired show up with a red bar showing their ‘health’. Simply click on it and select repair, job done.
I found missions in the game to be pretty boring, as well as all they happened to be, was to increase the population by X amount. Nothing else. Need a bit more inventive things here and hopefully, this is expanded upon in further updates.
Aven Colony is a good start to what could be an awesome game. I was a bit disappointed that there weren’t any online elements to the game. I feel a leaderboard showing your friends scores and the areas in which they made their world would have been good. Also, the trade aspect was a bit disappointing, it would have been nice to be able to set up trade deals with friends. Have each area have its own unique resources and set up deals with friends to be able to swap these into their own games.
A good effort, but I think it needs to be built upon because I will admit that after getting so far in my world and re hashing the buildings, I got a little bored as I felt I had pretty much done all I could with the world.