There’s not a lot of competition when it comes to futuristic city simulators, with Anno 2205 and the SimCity: Cities of Tomorrow expansion being the only somewhat recent entrants to the limited category. When Aven Colony is placed next to these games, each of these the titles manage to form a playstyle that is drastically different than the next, but one common factor between each game remains: longevity is key when it comes to keeping players coming back, and here Aven Colony struggles to keep its respective colonies entertaining for the duration.
In Aven Colony, players are tasked with governing a brand new colony on the alien planet Aven Prime. There’s a variety of different locales players can settle in, and each of the terrain types bring their own unique challenges to the table. Despite the inclusion of exotic flora and alien creatures, veterans of any typical city building game will quickly find themselves balancing familiar city requirements: power, water, air quality, and crime must all be handled efficiently to keep the citizens happy. The buildings may all be futuristic domed structures and robotic drones may patrol the landscape, but the roots of Aven Colony lie firmly in familiar territory.
Where other city simulator games have a large focus on making things beautiful as cities expand, Aven Prime has more primal roots: survival is the name of the game for the smaller-scale colonies that settle down on the hostile environment. A harsh summer/winter seasonal system forces players to stock up for cold winters, which impact both farm and power production, and players will find that the air quality of their colony can quickly go downhill if a close eye isn’t kept on the colony’s intake fans. This is the main challenge of the game: each problem is solved by some fairly easy construction jobs.
Once would-be governors have taken control of their food growth and can keep their populace happy with drugs, food variety, or entertainment, there’s little else that the game throws at players to keep them on their toes. Disasters like shard storms and dangers like giant worms seem to happen few and far between, and even the Creep (a Zerg-like infestation carried by Overlord-looking creatures) fails to pose a real threat, instead being instantly placated by the placement of a simple automated structure. We’d like to see more dynamic problems like spreadable fires, citizen work stoppages, or something more significant to break the monotony of late-game colony life.
Developer Mothership Entertainment has curated several different campaigns for players to progress through, and each one logically gets sequentially more difficult. The mini quests the player will be given during each campaign don’t always seem to make a lot of sense, though, and players will be questioning why building a construction drone hub somehow means they’ve earned twenty or so bottles of soda for their colonists. Those who use mills and chemical plants to manufacture items will also likely wish for a more intelligent crafting system, so that they could set minimum amounts of stock to trigger production rather than manually micromanaging each factory.
The game also attempts to inject some humor into the campaign missions in the form of voiced communications from various personnel, though the intermittent punchlines often fall short of actual humor and will have gamers scratching their heads as to why a monkey with maracas is dancing on their screen following a butt joke. Thankfully, these kind of communications are few and far between, and the rest of the communications simply exist to deliver new tasks and rewards.
As players progress through each colony, they will unlock more options on how to govern their populace. Citizens can be placated with drugs to keep them working and out of trouble, but once they’re addicted to a substance things will get difficult for the player should their drug supply ever run short. Likewise, players can start rationing food if supplies are low at the cost of happiness, or even encourage VR usage to keep colonists happy at the cost of electricity usage. These are unique features to Aven Colony, and we’d like to see more of this in other areas of the game.
All in all, Aven Colony is a game that shows plenty of potential. There’s a diverse range of building types to construct and industry items to produce, but Mothership Entertainment needs to develop some more things to throw into the mix to keep things from stagnating once the colony finds its rhythm. Fans of city building games should keep an eye on Aven Colony as it nears release, as with a little more elbow grease it could become a great city simulator.
In any event, ringing in at $25 means that Aven Colony will likely be on the radar for many city simulator fans, even if it isn’t a world-changer.
Aven Colony is currently scheduled for an early 2017 release on PC. Game Rant was provided with a PC key for this preview.