Aven Colony is the latest city simulator to take things to the final frontier. Manage humanities first space colony, Aven Prime. Players will be tasked with expanding colonies and navigating the geographical hazards of the new planet. Our job, is to ensure everything runs smoothly.
Let us approach this hypothetically. So you’ve landed an interview with Elon Musk for the position of General Manager for the first human colony on Mars. This isn’t your typical interview. You can’t scribble unintelligible things on your palm for them to be smeared by nervous sweating during the interview. That simply wouldn’t do. So what next? How can you possibly prepare for such an endeavor?
Cities Skylines landed you the job building Trumps Wall, but it just doesn’t cut it in terms of space exploration. Your buddy at NASA suggests Aven Colony. A colony simulator where it tasks the player with creating and developing human colonies on a new planet. It feels similar to Cities Skylines but well… it’s set in space. This alone is a huge contributor to why the game is not ‘just another SimCity game’. You can expect your typical to involve managing food rations, providing entertainment for the settlers, distribute jobs amongst the settlers and above all else to gather resources. It wasn’t the satisfaction of watching a colony bloom under my management, or the whisper of pride when goals were achieved that entertained me throughout the levels.
Instead, it was the fun of failure. I enjoyed watching my colonies burn. Does that say more about me than the game? I guess so.I enjoyed watching giant sand worms wreak havoc through the helpless settlers. I watched as plague spores descended on colonists wracked with illness. I was hoping fervently for a Dead Space type event to befall the planet and watch the spread of death spread from colony to colony. The point I’m making is that it’s O.K. to fail. It can even be amusing. Just don’t get too attached to colonists. As Mr.Musk will tell you during the interview, they should be prepared to die.
The game does a fantastic job at creating a world and universe for the player to be harassed by. Aven Prime, our first colony, is a moon orbiting a gas giant with an atmosphere which provides little to no oxygen. For the space nerds out there this all means something, but what? Our little moon is orbiting a gas giant, therefore the days and night cycles are going to be immense compared to those on Earth. On most places on Earth there is a night/day cycle every 24 hours or so. On an extrasolar moon orbiting a gas giant a few light-years away from Earth this is not the case. Instead, night/day cycles are so long they can be considered seasons. What does this mean for our puny colonists? It means that during the day cycles food shall be plentiful and our solar panels will produce ample electricity. It also means that during a night cycle food will grow much slower, and little electricity will be provided by solar panels.
Morale is a massive factor in managing the prosperity of the colony. I dare say that the happiness of the colonies population is paramount. The colonists can cause some major setbacks to your plans. To counter this be sure to keep an eye on the complex morale system of the colonists. The good news is that it is easy to keep an eye on them. You can do plenty to keep your colonists under the thumb. Planting and farming certain food types, beverages and even the introduction of “enhanced substances”. If the “enhanced substances” don’t do it for your colonists send out the police drones and clean up any unpleasantries before election time. Indeed, there are regular referendums held by the political authorities which coupled with an unhappy population can choose to boot you from office.
Let’s talk dirty for a moment, let’s talk design. I was really impressed with the game’s’ overall design. The team behind Aven Colony put in the effort so players don’t have to. The user interface is so well designed, it makes for a very shallow learning curve. Everything we the player need is provided for via the interlay panel. Here we can view details on the important factors of colony management. These include; crops, citizens, happiness, crime, air, electricity, employment, resources, beauty, structures, drones and water. I know it seems like a lot, but to counter that the game uses a mission objective system.What I mean is that from the get go of the first mission, to the endgame, the games mission objective system guides the player through what is to be expected from the player.
It begins with issuing simple objectives such as crop selection for the plebians colonists, construction and infrastructure or trade objectives. It doesn’t hold your hand for the entirety of the game. No. Instead it does as a good teacher would, it loosens it claustrophobic tutorial-esque grip and issues long term objectives rather than basic short term projects. These longer term objectives involve deciding on how to approach morale issues, overall colony population, shifts in industry subject to your colonies expansion and even trade. Not only is there a mission objective system, the full edition of the game will have a campaign. Currently, the developers have said that it will include 5 missions, out of a possible 10. Characters whom successfully develop the initial colonies on Aven Prime can be promoted and rise from Colony Governor to Expedition President. Relax. Missions don’t become overwhelming. Players can only have a total of 3 missions at a time.
This game NOT a copy+paste job of SimCity or Cities Skylines. For this review I didn’t want to vomit the nitty gritty details of the game and its mechanics onto the web. We could delve into the fantastic building models ranging from pop up tents to nanite buildings, the multitude of research and social choices and developments but instead I wanted to focus on what makes Aven Colony stand out. Yes. It does have similar construction mechanics as other game in its genre, but that means we know it works and works well at that. Yes it involves making a virtual population happy and productive and we know how entertaining those challenges can be. It does all that, but introduces a fresh, handsome experience to a genre dominated by titans. Kudos Aven Colony.
Aven Colony breaths new life into the tedious micromanagement aspects of construction simulators. I know, thats the point of construction sims, however the developers did a fantastic job at streamlining the content. I was never overwhelmed with information thanks to the fantastic design. Not once did I become bored waiting for a construction que to finish thanks to the subtle mission objective system. The interlay panel is something I hope other strategy developers take note of. With that said, the most fun I had was watching the carefully constructed colonies collapse via "enhanced substance" abuse, crime and lightning storms. Who said the first human colony couldn't be ruled by a maniacal dictator?
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.