Mothership Enterainment (studio)
25 July 2017 (released)
26 July 2017
It ain't easy leading the colonization of a new planet, hell I find it difficult to lead my own life let alone that of over 200 people in the middle of deep space. It's particularly difficult if you've got all manner of problems to deal with, ranging from storms of ice shards, thunder and alien attacks. My time with Aven Colony was a mixture of bliss and agony, a grand experience of building my utopia to the masses until it came crumbling down thanks to the harsh reality that is the planet, Aven Prime.
Mothership Entertainment's Aven Colony is interstellar Simcity constructor that focuses on elements of city building and complex resource management. Aven Colony's main goal for players to is lead the human colonization of the planet Aven Prime as smooth as possible with a few disasters along the way (easier said than done).
Aven Colony is here to capture the complexity of other Simulation series such as Anno but to construct the design with simplicity in the mechanics. Two words that may not seem appropriate in the same sentence as you can't usually have simplicity and complexity together, especially in game design. But I will admit, with my lack of experience in the genre I was timid to venture with this title but found myself discovering a new fondness and curiosity for the genre.
The developers have done a great job at setting up the complexities and mechanics of the game world with care and consideration. It reminded me greatly at the gentle guidance Age of Empire 2 offered, allowing new comers to ease into the gameplay and master it quickly, while those more experienced could find challenge still. Aven Colony’s main focus for gameplay aside from building/expanding is heavily reliant on survival (more on that later).
Aven Colony can be a highly immersive experience, simplified but offering new dynamics around every corner. Throughout the main campaign there are different areas of Aven Prime to colonize, each with their own unique elements, altering the state of play. These elements are mostly consider as dangers and antagonizing factors to often cause a stall in the progression of your colony. Usually however there's a long period of calm, filled with various mission objectives to get you building, trading and improve the well-being of your colonists. These missions can repeat a little often but the pacing is gentle enough to allow you to become invested and naturally attuned to the game’s sense of flow. Never did I find myself lost or wondering what I had to do.
Even to leave the game aside for a few days and coming back to didn’t inflict my sense of direction. The game’s mechanics and gameplay were second nature and it’s impressive how easy the core mechanics were to grasp and difficult to forget. However this can't be said for the game's rather generic plot. The narrative throughout the campaign lacks any real substance and thus feels unimportant. With the amount of dangers arising in Aven Prime. Truth be told, there was really no need for the story unless it was stronger and more interesting.
What was slightly daunting as the hours progressed was the simple method of problem solving. If a disaster came to be, you'd just build something to counter it. This leads to an un-invested sense of expansion that ruins the flow of player freedom and creativity. Players will be at times forced to put their own designs for a city aside and create what the game has pushed them to do. This in return leads to other issues, as building more to counter a problem just brings up a new one and thus the cycle continues. It's unnatural but not entirely game breaking. The real problem lies with the colonists. They’re burden and are there really to just cause more issues. They're unhappy to walk to work, usually stubborn and easily displeased, even when you do your best to help them.
I love the idea of maintaining order and the wellbeing of the colony, but it's a little fragile on what can tip the scales. Either things go according to plan or the air quality drops in a section causing your rating to down significantly. This is only a problem later in the campaign when other, more demanding factors arise. But for the most part, the sense of challenge is fun for those who learn the basics and some of the advanced logistics of Aven Colony.
I was pleased with the variation of world dynamics that could inflict tremendous agony on my colony but also made Aven Prime vastly compelling to conquer. While I do feel the sense of danger a little whelming at times, I do greatly appreciate the developer’s intentions to present a simulator that brings in an element of survival. It’s rewarding in the end once you have full control over the colony and everything is running smoothly.
If the campaign becomes a little restless for you, there’s always the sandbox mode which allows more freedom. Here you can build to your heart’s content and with different modifiers changing the world’s dynamics, you can alter how gruelling or pleasant you want the experience. Sadly the colonist AI doesn’t improve through any of the options.
Aven Prime is highly engaging for all types of players. As someone who’s not invested much time in the genre, I can see myself looking more into it thanks to Aven Prime. Its simplistic nature is great for those like me but to the advanced player, it might be underwhelming. Yet the dynamic sense of danger will keep most players gripped even if at times it seems a little relentless. There’s much to like about Aven Prime, from its beautiful visuals, survival elements and complexities in gameplay that are simplified yet remain highly intelligent. There are various small issues including the overbearing sense of danger, colonist AI and the poor narrative which was not needed.
Considering some balancing issues, Aven Prime is worth checking out for those new to the genre and the hardcore players.
+ Highly immersive and enjoyable
+ Great for new comers into the genre
+ good replay value and lenght
- Relentless dangers impair on player progression and creativity
- Bad AI for colonists
- Pointless narrative
A PS4 code of Aven Colony was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review