Much of the allure of the city simulation genre stems from the mastery of an array of municipal variables. While you might sink a township into the ground across the first few playthroughs, gradually you’ll realize how all the intricate inner workings all fit together, finding fulfillment when you’re able to ensure your populace is safe, happy, and healthy. Another potentially appealing element is rooted in validation. Perhaps, you’re better at urban development that your own local city council- identifying and tackling emerging problems before they become crises. In hard to feel smug when you’re proven yourself smarter than a city official.
Undoubtedly, the developers of Aven Colony have a perceptive understanding of what makes urban planning so damn fun. While the game’s tenets can be traced back to Will Wright’s SimCity series, it’s the indulging sense of autonomy that elevates the game above its peers. Unlike many city builders where there’s often just a single answer to each problem, Aven Colony bestows flexibility, bringing equifinality to the genre. Not only does the multi-solution design feel fun, but it also ensures longevity across a multitude of playthroughs.
Even if you’re an armchair urban planner, a trip through Aven Colony’s campaign missions are advised before heading into Sandbox Mode. Initially, these undertakings feel more like tutorials, with your first assignment centered around learning the nuances of the interface. Smartly, if you’re played either a real-time strategy game or city builder, Colony should feel familiar. Adjusting the perspective on your outpost uses a customary three-button mouse control scheme. And while the title is simultaneously launching for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, the PC version prudently requires a more traditional point-and-click system. Here, everything can be managed via mouse or alternatively with hot-key commands for many functions. Nicely, needling notations can be dismissed with a single rick-click, vanishing with a satisfying chirp.
After mastering the basics of the UI, the game’s next mission instills the fundamentals of operational management. Here, you’ll discover where the title garners distinction. As the moniker implies, you’ll be responsible for advancement across a succession of increasingly antagonistic environments. Unlike most city simulations, Aven Prime’s carbon dioxide-dense atmosphere requires sealed environments, with players responsible for maintaining the quality of the air. Surprisingly, that obligation is a good thing, and keeps players from building a convoluted sprawl of independent facilities.
Fortunately, Colony provides all of the necessary tools needed for survival. All of the games vital statistics, from population size, to data on food, water, air, power, and storage reserves are secured at the bottom of the screen, each with a handy gauge that offers insight at a glance. Above that are a row of icons for each type of facility, with a single click opening a sub-menu where each type of buildable structure is exhibited and explained. Whereas many city builders can have a learning period- where players learn the placement and function of each resource, Aven Colony is almost always clear. The sole exception is if you happen to accidently find yourself growing non-edible crops. Until you build a chemical plant, you might not realize that you’re able to produce exotic food items and pharmaceuticals. Not only are many of these valuable in intergalactic trade, but they can also produce responses like increasing productivity or reducing the temptation to commit a crime. As expected, these kinds of wonder-drugs often have a side-effect.
Actual construction isn’t handled by humans, but rather by drones, which naturally have a limited radius. Although that might seem like a burden, you’ll quickly appreciate the automatons, since most of your human population will be tending to the essential services of your colony. On Aven, winters are especially harsh, cutting the efficiency of elements like solar generators and farms in half. As such, the season is an annual test of preparation. Of course, even if you didn’t adequately arrange for winter, you can try to import food from your trade hub. But even that might be a bit too slow for hungry, hibernating colonists. Soon, Aven Colony throws simultaneous tribulations at players, compelling a look at overlays to assess the state of things like of air quality, power, commute time, and crime. Pleasingly, it’s absorbing without being overwhelming, with Colony maintain interest with a drip-feed of managerial duties.
What’s best is that there’s no ideal way of running things. Almost every type of unit has an up and downside, inducing certain decisions if you go with powerful, but polluting energy systems or clean, but weaker solar power. Another upshot is a reprieve from micromanaging, which can make things too tedious. Here, you can automate things like building repair, while water pumps are smart enough not to fill inventory with excess. Secondary functions like using a Wind turbine to temporarily push away toxic gases are possible too, demonstrating the ingenuity of developer Mothership Entertainment.
The title’s selection of nine campaign missions bring a nice variety of environmental complications, from arid terrains unsuitable for food production to more monstrous types of adversity. But once you master Colony’s complexities, you’ll want to head into Sandbox mode, which offering a surprisingly relaxing way to consume your recreational hours. Currently, the game’s sole transgression stems when the size of your settlement grows too large. Once you exceed 500 colonists, triggering certain overlays can induce immersion-spoiling lag and even the sporadic crash.
Hopefully, those issues can be worked out, because Aven Colony is an incredibly well-designed city simulation. Elevated by a distinctive context, it’s the game’s freedom and rejection of micro-managing burdens that makes it all quite enjoyable. Those with even the slightest interest in these types of city builders should consider an extending habitation on Aven Prime’s collection of jungles, deserts, and plains.
Aven Colony was played on PC with review code provided by the publisher.