After the success of Cities: Skylines on Xbox One, I've found myself enamored with the city-sim genre ever since. I've previously written about Surviving Mars, which is an in-development space city builder heading to Xbox One, from the same publisher as Cities: Skylines. I've also previously reviewed Planetbase, which is a modest take on what it might be like to attempt to build a colony on another planet, complete with all the hazards you might expect with space faring.
I found Planetbase to be an addictive title in short bursts but found the lack of creativity possible in the game to be a little frustrating. Thus, I had high hopes for Aven Colony to achieve where Planetbase didn't. Aven Colony is now available for Xbox One and PC, and while it's invariably deeper than Planetbase, it's certainly not perfect.
Aven Colony: What you'll like
In Aven Colony, your task is to set up and survive on various types of alien planets. There's a lot of gorgeous sci-fi art work to be found in the game, from alien tundras, to extra terrestrial jungles, and majestic, exoplanet deserts. Sci-fi fans will be in for a visual treat, particularly if you like giant sandworms as seen in Dune.
Aven Colony has sandbox modes, and also a series of campaign levels with light-hearted humor and some rudimentary alien-artifact hunting plot points. The campaign will teach you about Aven Colony's deep and varied mechanics, while injecting some interstellar context into the mix. Aven Colony's campaign isn't going to win it any Oscars, but it's a relatively interesting way to learn the game, and hey, easy gamerscore.
What will give Aven Colony its longevity is the sandbox mode, which grants full access to all the game's features and systems for building your very own space colony.
While Aven Colony is a city-builder, it also has strategic elements owing to the generally hazardous nature of space colonization. You have to ensure your colonists are provided with adequate food, oxygen, and water, first and foremost, with entertainment, employment, and health coming in later on.
The primary resources in Aven Colony are excavated from mines, such as iron, and some sci-fi minerals like zorium. Different materials allow you to craft different things, such as food types, medicine, and all-important nanites, which are a type of synthetic robot swarm responsible for forming buildings.
As your colony grows, you'll be able to build space ports to trade for materials and other products that might be hard to find on your existing planet, in addition to handling immigration to help build your population. People don't like having babies in space, apparently.
Eventually you'll even be able to build an expedition center, which allows you to explore the outskirts of your planet in a separate mini-game. On the expedition map, you can find supplies, resources, and even alien artifacts, which grant special bonuses and abilities to your colony, such as a large energy overshield.
Aven Colony has pretty fun gameplay. You'll construct square bases on a grid, essentially, and your job is to manage the flow of colonists as they move from home, work, and recreation, while ensuring they have adequate resources and health.
Aven Colony: What you won't like
The game throws curveballs like bad weather (limiting farm production), alien spores (that erode your base), and even toxic gas clouds (that choke your air-intake systems) to keep you on your toes, but it won't be long until you settle into an almost mindless pattern of knowing what to build, when and where to account for every potential problem.
There simply isn't enough dynamism in Aven Colony's overall gameplay to make it interesting over long periods of time. Once you realize you have to build farms on grassy areas, build oxygen filters and residences every few grid squares, and cover the place in lightning rods and anti-alien spore turrets, there's not much more to gameplay, sadly.
You could probably say the same about most city-building games, but Aven Colony doesn't really give you the tools to get creative, either, which would have made up for the repetitive simulation gameplay. Most bases will follow the same sorts of construction patterns, due to the game's relatively constrained systems and lack of building choices.
Aven Colony maintains a solid frame rate even when your colony grows to larger sizes, but the trade off on Xbox One is some fairly aggressive resolution and texture scaling that can be a little jarring at times, but it's hardly what I'd call a deal breaker.
Aven Colony is a capable sci-fi city-builder with great visuals and satisfying gameplay systems. The different alien landscapes do provide some welcome variety, but you'll exhaust Aven Colony's gameplay mechanics fairly quickly, but considering the game costs only $30, I think it's a fair price for the overall package.
- Fun sci-fi construction gameplay.
- Great art and visuals.
- Well priced at $30.
- Gameplay can get repetitive.
Aven Colony is a solid sci-fi city builder over all, and while it's a bit thin on management mechanics, fans of the genre will enjoy what it has to offer.
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