Dreyer
Jul 25, 2017
Publisher: Team17 Software
Developer: Mothership Entertainment
Review platform: Xbox One
Release date: Jul 25, 2017
As an avid fan of city building and city management games, I was eager to play some Aven Colony on my Xbox One. Since the start of this year, many of my favourite developers have started porting over these types of games to Xbox One, most notably Paradox Interactive, with Cities: Skylines and soon Surviving Mars. Even though these games share similar gaming mechanics, Aven Colony offers something unique to the player.

You start off as a new explorer, ready to set off into the unknown and colonise planets, without deliberately killing blue men living there. The game offers you several tutorials you can work through, so you get the gist of the way the game works, and more importantly what is expected of you. I worked through the first few pretty quickly and rather enjoyed myself doing it.



The game takes on the standard Sim City approach where you start with a few buildings, and you expand as the need arises. Your citizens have needs and their happiness depends on how well you run the colony. This is also shown in the toolbar with an emoticon, which changes colour depending on how happy they are. During my several hours long playthroughs, I managed to only get into the yellow during the bad moments, which means I did a pretty decent job.

The Sims can go on strike, and they have to vote in a referendum every few months to make sure they're happy with your management style. The referendum process takes quite a while, and so far I have only won every single time, even when I had some bad management decisions. Basically, as long as you keep the happiness level high, you'll keep your job. Players will remember a similar mechanic in Tropico 5.



The colony requires several resources to keep going, notably Farms and Mines at first. I did notice that in the game, mining resources are extremely limited. These resources are then turned into Nanites, which you use to build more structures, and improve your colony as you go along. During the first few hours, you do encounter a lot of resources and the constant 'missions' that you receive, grant you several Nanites for achieving them. However, at one point at the end of my playthrough, the resources dried up and I couldn't expand or improve my city any further since there was no way to gain access to more raw materials for the Nanite processors. This is a major oversight, even if it's deliberate. I would have loved to trade my massive arsenal of food for more raw materials, or Nanites for that matter.

Once you're up and running, the city also requires you to build hospitals, entertainment complexes and so on. These offer the citizens a way to unwind and buy goods and services. These goods are in turn either traded into the colony or manufactured by the Chemical Plant or the Mill. These buildings offered a lot of nuanced products for your citizens to enjoy. You can also develop the local flora into edible goods so you can yield more produce in the climate you find yourself in. These are developed by the Science Center, and it gives you a lot of options, from cultivating new crops to developing new enhancers for your citizens.



The game also introduces seasons and disasters into the mix. Every few cycles you encounter the dark winter—each map is different—and this affects the production of food and water. Other threats included thunderstorms and ice showers which damaged buildings in the colony. At one point my scientists discovered a plague ravaging the citizens, and a spore that was creeping into the foundations. Fighting off the infection required vaccines and hospital coverage to be top notch.



Aven Colony was a thoroughly enjoyable experience overall, and it offers a lot of nuance and control over what needed to happen in the city. Like most city building and management games, it also gave you 'heat maps' that visually depicted where the problem areas were, where the most fertile grounds where and which part of your city was about to break out into a riot.

Beyond that, trade was quite limiting, as the game decided which services and products you could trade for whatever you needed. I would have loved them to offer a more fleshed out experience, where you could trade food for Nanites, instead of buying more food for Nanites. I would have also liked being able to edit it to include trading food for raw materials, and more.



In the end, Aven Colony was pretty fun, and even with all these oversights by the developers, I have to applaud them for their effort. The game looks and plays brilliantly on Xbox One and it is one of the better implementations of this genre on the system. Usually what you find is that games in this genre have a pretty complex control scheme which makes it difficult to get into, but Aven Colony does it right.

I highly recommend gamers who enjoy this genre to check out the title, and I do hope that the developers change the few niggles I have. This game has the potential to be great.



Summary

Aven Colony is set in the far future where you're an explorer tasked with colonising new worlds. Armed with your city management skills, you start off with a small colony and need to expand it to accommodate the influx of new immigrants heading your way. The game offers you quite a number of challenges including environmental and internal issues with your citizens to deal with, and only the best will power through them to win that next election. Aven Colony is one of the best implementations of this genre on Xbox One and I highly recommend you try it out.
Our score: 7.5/10

Good - A solid concept with wide appeal, good fun if you can look past the flaws.
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