Have you ever dreamed of building your own settlement on an alien world with nothing but the local resources and your wits? If that’s a yes and you also enjoy the games like Tropico then Aven Colony will be right up your street. We’ve had hands on time with the first few levels of the Mothership Entertainment developed and Team 17 published game, and it’s shaping up to be a stellar example of the genre.
Travelling to the world of Aven Prime, you’re a hotshot administrator with the skills needed to make a success of turning hostile environments into habitable colonies. A variety of wildly differing biomes is promised, and we’ve set foot in the lush and fertile Vanaar region and the contrastingly arid Sandy Gulch. Both present very different challenges and showcase the gameplay on offer. After a couple of straightforward tutorial missions, you’re let loose (with a decent dab of guidance) on creating your home away from home. For those familiar with the genre it’s easy to pick up – create power, water, places to work and housing then watch it grow. Construction is done through nanites and 3D printing droids and fits neatly into the sci-fi setting alongside the look and feel. There’s no doubt that you’re on an alien world given what’s around you, and simply the fact that you have to use airtight walkways to link areas of the complex together reminds you that things are inhospitable.
Mechanically it’s nicely suited to console with menus mapped to triggers and the d-pad to make accessing them quick and easy. Terrain selection and item placement are easy with the analogue sticks, and you never feel like you’re fighting with a PC interface shoehorned into a single controller. There’s also an unexpected depth to what you can do that adds to the variety on offer. Creating the colony is the start with progression driven by completing tasks set by your advisors. Obviously you can’t just employ the locals to help out, immigration is the only way to get more people in, and emigration is a disaster for your operations. Having the spaceport opens trade routes with other colonies, and lets you pick and choose what you want to be known for exporting, as well as bringing in whatever you need to get you out of a tight spot. Food is grown, alien plant life researched to see what you can use it for, and even facilities built to send out expeditions and explore the regions around your own slice of Aven Prime. This little mini-game adds a new layer of strategy to manage outside simply keeping people warm and well nourished.
Aven Colony’s challenge comes in with the plethora of difficulty options and the alien presence you have to contend with who don’t like you taking over. In the first couple of missions we saw spores, floating in and clinging to our buildings, infiltrating the ventilation system and zombifying the populus, night time freezing our crops, giant sandworms and vicious lightning strikes. Each disaster has a way of managing around it, if you’re quick enough and prepped, and they don’t seem to be scripted for specific points either. We’re hopeful that there’s even more variety as the levels open up later on. It looks like there might be an underlying story unravelling too, something that’s not always easy to pull off in this type of isometric strategy game. However, if you’re more of a freeform creator there’s the Sandbox mode which just lets you go nuts in a region of your choosing with a full suite of customisable options.
What we’ve experienced so far with Aven Colony is absorbing, easy to get to grips with, and a refreshing take on a genre that doesn’t get a huge amount of love, especially away from PCs. There are some things that need tweaking before release – a bit of rendering slowdown with shadows, tutorial messages not matching up with completion requirements, and Xbox controller buttons displaying as prompts in the PS4 code. That said, there’s nothing here that didn’t stop us from getting lost in the setting and micromanagement for hours. It’s definitely one for those craving a bit of sim management.
A preview copy of Aven Colony for PS4 was provided by the Team 17 PR team, and the game will be released on 25th July for Xbox One, PC and PS4, and can be pre-ordered now. We’ll bring you our review when the game is released.