In Aven Colony, you play as the Governor of a newly formed colony on the alien planet of Aven Prime. Using the missions your advisors provide, you must expand your reach while maintaining happiness and adequate resources. Just be careful though, as the natives don't take kindly to their new neighbors and will try everything in their power to see you fail. Mothership Entertainment's industry veterans have knocked it out of the park with their entry into the strategy/city builder genre.
As the newly appointed Governor of Vanaar, your first assignment, you must build up the colony to become self-sufficient and able to produce enough power and goods for everyone to be happy. Along the way, you will hear from your superiors with different missions to accomplish that will eventually get you to your goal, building an Earth History Center. From there you will be promoted to Sandy Gulch, a desert biome wrought with new dangers. As you progress through the different assignments, you will gain ranks and unlock the mysteries of this new planet you call home.
There are currently nine missions in the game and sandbox mode, where you are free to make your colony as big and complex as you would like, without a true end game.
As with most strategy games, you must learn to keep your colony functioning with enough resources. If you are a fan of this, you won't be disappointed here. Your colonist's basic needs are food and water, and you will need to keep a very close eye on both quantity and quality. The game breaks these down into how many each colonist gets per hour. Have decent amounts of food but a ton of people to feed will result in low portions, which will cause people to be unhappy, complain, and possibly leave for greener pastures. If you don't have an Immigration Center, they will become increasingly unhealthy, protest and then die. This becomes a bigger issue as you increase the difficulty; colonists will use more resources and die quicker as a result.
Ores and farming will be equally important as the colony grows and will unlock further products to manufacture for both trade and keeping people happy. By combining a few inedible plants, you can make a drink that can be sold from Dispensaries, which will make your population more compliant. As with real life, you don't want your resources far away from your living quarters, so it's ideal to build even small living spaces next to mining outposts or power generators. The further people have to commute to their jobs, the less likely they are to perform their jobs efficiently. Make them angry enough, and protests will sprout up around the colony, resulting in key structures not getting the resources they need. This can definitely cause a chain reaction to a complete shutdown of your entire colony.
This is closely related to the above section, but survival just isn't about resources. Happiness comes in many forms, regardless if you are here on Earth, or hundreds of light years away on a desolate planet. Colonists want entertainment, good food, and a place to spend their money. They will begrudgingly accept putting their nose to the grindstone in the colony's infancy, but as you obtain new research and make their lives more comfortable, they won't ignore these needs any longer. Referendums will occasionally appear and you will have one Sol to show that you are fit to be Governor. As long as you keep your overall happiness in the 70's, you shouldn't have a problem with these and will be voted for another term.
Once you get comfortable with the game, you will become tempted to start building what you are going to need in the near future, before you actually need it. This could lead to your colony as a whole being undermanned, producing far fewer resources than is needed. Even as a veteran of this type of game, I built one of my colonies up as I saw fit, and ended up with the majority of my buildings at or below 50% efficiency. You can combat this by assigning different priorities, so your power and farms can run better than your bars and shopping centers. There are also expeditions you can perform, which will open a larger map of the area, where you can send ships out to look for stranded explorers or supply new drop ships of other colonies. Occasionally you will run into a raider outpost and can lose crew members. A decent amount of resources can be obtained from these events, but I never ran into a situation where I needed them. Sadly, expeditions don't give you the option to run more than one colony at a time, but here is hoping that is something they might add in the future as it is a requested feature.
Defending Your Base
As mentioned before, the natives and environment of Aven Prime are not friendly by any stretch of the imagination. Creep Spores will be attracted to your colony and if they make it to your base, they will spread the Creep to your buildings. You have scrubber drones that will clean it off, but if you can't get to it in time, it can run rampant, damaging and rendering whatever it's attached to useless. Giant sand worms sprout from the desert biomes and flail about, spitting giant acid balls. At lower difficulties, these are harmless but crank it up to hard, and they will do quite a bit of damage. Ice Shard storms, tornados, lightning strikes, and toxic fumes from geothermal vents are some of the environmental dangers you will have to figure out how to manage. Redundancies in your power connections and defense turrets will be vital to your survival as even one tunnel disconnected can strain your control.
This simply cannot be ignored; Aven Colony is absolutely gorgeous! Whether zoomed out as far as you can or up close and personal with the enemies, the level of detail and textures are top notch. While slightly cartoonish instead of realistic, I was constantly stopping to admire the beauty of the environment, the buildings, and weather. Tilt the camera up far enough, and you can capture every building in a panoramic shot, with a planet showing in the sky for added effect. Similar games such as Cities: Skylines or SimCity look good and all, but they lack the pizzaz that you will find here.
For a game with so many good aspects, you might think that there would be an area that is lacking. Well, I am here to tell you audio is not that area. The soundtrack is amazing and at times I just didn't notice it was there because it blended in with the rest of the game so well. Every building has its own ambiance that it adds and the great part is you don't have to hear them if you don't want to. Zooming in and out changes the volume of the buildings as well as panning around the map. While I didn't find anything that was annoying, I am sure some will. The weather and enemies all sound unique and whenever a worm appears, you will definitely know it by the booming roar. I would love to give the devs a high-five for the sound alone.
Changes from Preview
While I was not the author of the Preview done for this back in October of 2016, I watched quite a few YouTube playthroughs. Between reading the last article and the videos, here are some observations about what has changed.
You now have seven difficulty settings, depending on your level of expertise or desire to be challenged. Lower difficulties will reduce the number of negative events such as storms and Creeps but also disable certain things like toxic fumes. Crank that bad boy up to Insane though, and the full might of colony survival will be thrust upon you. Colonists will eat more food, more Creeps will appear, worm spit does damage, toxic fumes will run rampant, and weather events will barely give you time to breathe. I am not the best strategist when it comes to these games, but dang it gets near impossible to beat even the early levels. There are even achievements for completing missions in short time periods and/or on a harder difficulty.
Connecting Buildings to Tunnels
I do remember the time when you had to connect buildings with workers to tunnels in order to provide oxygen and power, but times have changed. You no longer need to even have tunnels since power and air flow through buildings unimpeded. Workers will gladly go through one or two buildings to reach their job if they haven't already gone too far from their homes. However, it is still preferable to keep your job buildings attached with tunnels since they provide the fastest transportation. But, buildings like the Storage Depot, which doesn't use any workers, doesn't need to be attached to tunnels to work. One of these days, I will build a colony without tunnels, I swear.
I feel that Aven Colony has become extremely optimized over the last few months to a year. Even watching gameplay videos, there were small hitches when an event happened and the occasional slowdown on larger colonies. Now, I can have worms, storms, and a sprawling metropolis with only a slight 5-10 fps hit, but still well playable at 80ish fps. Granted, my computer is newer, but my GPU is three years old now and my CPU is not the latest and greatest out there. Good thing is, the game still looks pretty darn good with the lowest settings, as you can see in the picture below, so if your computer is a potato and you need to squeeze every last frame out of it, you can.
It has been a long time since I found a game that I have kept track of for almost a year and still ended up loving it when it was released. Strategy city builders are not uncommon, but high-quality ones are rare. If there was support for mods and the ability to manage more than one colony at a time via the Expedition map, this game would have everything I want in this type of game. I had a hard time coming up with negatives to say about this game, but they are more nitpicking than anything else. For me, Aven Colony is a hidden gem that, in my opinion, is being overlooked by many gamers and is a great addition to any strategy city building fan's library.
|+ Deep and engaging Campaign||– Insane difficulty can kill you in minutes|
|+ Difficulty scales well||– Expeditions don't seem worth the time at the moment|
|+ Superb audio and visuals|
– Can't customize trade options
|+ Missions keep you working towards goals|
– Doesn't allow mods
|+ Tons of achievements to challenge players|
– CCTV feature serves no purpose