Team17 and Mothership Entertainment are releasing the new sci-fi, city-building game, Aven Colony. The title is an example of understanding what must be done with a game and a developer then doing just that. Aven Colony checks all the boxes it needs to from a formality perspective. However, too times did the game lack that extra ingredient to take it from good to great.
If you’re a fan of city-building experiences, then I think you’ll have a good amount of fun with Aven Colony. Its worlds are diverse and create enough variation with each setting to make them feel different. While their differences are largely in the realm of color, they do provide some basic changes to a mission’s objectives.
While these changes can slightly diverge how you build your colonies, they still largely involve the same gameplay loop. Stocking up on nanites, while increasing power to construct building after building is the gist. Even though other resources are in the game, nanites and power held the most sway.
Sure, you have to monitor things like water, food, storage population and colonist happiness. However, a player has to ignore these in order to have them really impact your experience. I can recall a winter-centric level in the campaign where green land for farming was scarce. But even the struggle of not having that resource as freely available wasn’t demonstrated enough in the gameplay itself.
Aven Colony‘s campaign provides nine missions to conquer, plus a beginning and advanced tutorial. The latter are serviceable in helping players understand the basics in an effective way. The nine missions can also be played in Sandbox mode where you decide the settings to play under. Each of the nine missions present worlds that are visibly different in their own way.
For example, Vanaar is a lush, green planet that provides countless opportunities for growth. It is the first mission you’ll undertake, and therefore the easiest of the nine. Sandy Gulch is a deserty landscape with scarce farmable lands and water lacking. Azara Falls bring a wintery world covered in ice and snow.
The latter two levels should bring more challenges in how gamers play each level, right? Well, for me I stuck with the same strategy of increasing power, mining iron for nanites and expanding as I could. This approach helped me complete the objectives in every level.
In a level where water should have played more of a role, Sandy Gulch ignored it. In a level where food should have had immense impact, Azara Falls ignored it. Mothership Entertainment had the right idea of creating different gameplay challenges with each level, but the execution flat out missed.
Gameplay does provide fun moments for players as a feeling of satisfaction came after every mission beat. Amassing a large city, with diverse buildings and a population that was very happy makes the experience fun. Gamers can build how they like or they can take suggestions from the game for what to do.
Taking on missions and completing them will yield resources and benefits to the player. These missions come in the form of building a structure, trading a resource, completing an expedition and more. Assigned tasks certainly gave the game a path for players to follow. However, they largely remained the same when going from mission to mission.
There is a massive building wheel for players to become familiar with. Just about every one of them has a use in Aven Colony. Understanding how they impact gameplay is paramount to your ultimate success. You’ll need to monitor crime, air quality, food, residential capacity, power, nanites and more. Building a lightning tower is essential for winter, as strikes happen often.
Your cities will come under attack from adversaries like creep spores, plague spores and ice shards. They can be defended against by adding plasma towers around your city. The frequency in which they emerge varies in every mission, so planning ahead is always to your benefit.
While these elements might seem like a lot to manage, but they’re really not. Aven Colony uses these merely to provide the appearance of varied difficulty, but fails to truly press a gamer’s talents. I’m not talking about the difficulty setting, but how the game functions from a systematic level. Too often is gameplay need centered around nanites, power and storage.
As far as narrative goes, gamers try to build a city on every planet they visit. This helps in the greater effort of establishing a new home for mankind. You’ll encounter characters like Veronika Colton, who is the boss of all bosses in Aven Colony. There are several other characters that voice their opinions here and there. However, Jack Toren is by far my favorite. His banter with Veronika and others bring a fun, comical mood to the game.
I always enjoy a game that manages to inject some level of humor into its experience. Jack is the goofball that obviously enjoys poking fun at his coworkers. With how uptight Veronika comes across, it’s nice to have Jack there to make light of her and of course, himself. Outside of some funny instances, the narrative is too basic to have any real impact on your experience. That said, how important is narrative in a city-building game anyway? It’s not there in Aven Colony, but it doesn’t need to be.
Sound is fairly strong with an fitting soundtrack and interesting sound effects. These elements help bring an intangible, necessary feel to each planet. The gameplay experience is richer because of the sound quality in Aven Colony. Visuals are varied, but they look a bit outdated. With other city-builders showing exceptional visual quality, Aven Colony struggles to not look like a last-generation experience at times.
Finally, the control scheme in Aven Colony is absolutely masterful. It can be difficult for developers to map an effective, yet intuitive control scheme in a city-building on console, but Aven Colony does just that. I never felt like controls were awkward or became a deterrer to my success. I applaud Mothership for coming up with an effective scheme that console gamers will learn quickly.
Aven Colony is an experience that’s rewarding when you conquer each mission. Controlling is a great gateway to mastering gameplay, something many city builders miss these days. However, its gameplay loop relies too much on a few elements, when it has so many other ingredients that could diversify a player’s priority.
Aven Colony is a fun experience worth checking out, but it stays too close to convention to establish a truly powerful identity. The game is available today on PS4, Xbox One and PC. Stick around here at We Write Things for more on video games. Team17 provided We Write Things with a PS4 review code of Aven Colony for the purposes of this review.
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