Of all the things that make my imagination run wild, nothing does it quite like colonizing space. Exploring strange new worlds, discovering new life and generally making a living on a planet other than Earth is the stuff that my dreams are made of, so when I first heard of Aven Colony, a city-building game that takes you not to a picturesque landscape here on Terra but to the depths of space to build a human-settlement my mind ran wild with thoughts of building the types of starbases I would read about as kid. So does Aven Colony make these dreams come true or is this expedition lost in space?
The very first thing that struck me about the game is the realization that building a space colony is not going to be a simple ‘drag and drop’ type of experience. A lot of planning has to go into building a colony if it is going to be successful, which means that every single one of your decisions can have serious repercussions down the road, so its important to plan ahead. Case in point, a couple of my early colonies had to abandoned after I ran into a problem that I couldn’t have initially predicted made itself known. This type of trial and error gameplay is very similar to other games in the genre like SimCity and Cities: Skylines and forces the player to learn from their mistakes and try again at making a successful settlement.
Of course, building a logical and sound colony isn’t the only challenge here as the harsh world of Aven Prime as the world’s day and night cycle will quickly become your worst enemy. At night the planet’s temperature plummets, rendering your power generation (solar panels) ineffective and your crops to wither away. This challenge forces you to think about how best to design your colony and exploit its resources in duality as have to not only succeed but survive. And this was an element I really appreciated since, as opposed to the games mentioned above you could fail at the core element of building a base and in many situations having deep pockets wouldn’t be enough to save you. Thankfully the game gives you a plethora of (almost too many) stats to pour over, letting you micromanage to your heart’s content.
Aven Colony comes complete with two main modes, Campaign and Sandbox, neither of which should be foreign to those familiar with this type of game though the Campaign does offer some things that are a bit less common in these types of city management / survival games as you actually have a narrative to follow and objectives to complete. The basic premise is that you’re the first human explorers to land on Aven Prime and must prepare the planet for terraforming. However all is not as it seems on the peaceful world as a mysterious substance simply called the ‘creep’ is making things harder than expected. Its a pretty straightforward story but the simple fact that it exists is worth a few points in my book.
However, having a story to guide you along is not enough to detract from Aven Colony‘s single biggest flaw, which is its repetitive gameplay. Over and over again you’ll find yourself doing the same thing over and over again, which, in the game’s ‘mission based’ layout gets pretty old fast. Of course, this is the type of game that caters to a very particular type of player (of which I count myself part of) and a fair bit of micromanagement and trial and error gameplay is to be expected but I found that Aven Colony took things just a bit too far in this regard and was pretty boring to play through for stretches at a time.
Visually speaking, Aven Colony is a bit of an odd one. You see the closer you get to your base or the flora and fauna of Aven Prime, the better things look. Things appear detailed, sharp and crisp, giving the game a look that is both familiar to fans of science-fiction but also unique to itself. But the more you zoom out, the more your start to notice issues. The backgrounds for example always appear fuzzy and have a lot of pop-up and 2D elements that look really out of place which really makes it feel like you are playing a video game and not immersed in a sci-fi world (I get that you are playing a video game but immersion is a pretty important element). In the audio department, I did very much appreciate the heavy amounts of high quality voice acting but the background music got old quick and was replaced with my own tunes after just a few rounds.
All of that said, we also need to take into the game’s budget friendly price tag of $39.99, a reasonable amount for a game that offers a lot of content, especially to fans of the genre. But like I mentioned earlier, Aven Colony can be a repetitive experience, especially in the campaign mode where you constantly have to ‘re-create’ what you had before in order to progress. Its not a terrible time by any stretch of the imagination and fans of the genre will likely have a great time playing through Aven Colony, but more casual players may just end up getting bored at the proceedings.
So did Aven Colony make my dreams come true? Yes and no. On one hand, it definitely scratched that itch I had to explore new planets and colonize them in the name of the human race but I did find it was let down by some of the more ‘video game’ elements found within. The gameplay was a little slow, the levels repetitive and the visuals hit and miss, but if you can look beyond these (admittedly slight) flaws you’ll find a solid space colonization game and city-management title that is worth your attention.
A copy of Aven Colony was provided to Link-Cable by the publisher for the purpose of this review.