Before Aven Colony, I can’t say that I had ever played a city builder game in which poison balls spewed from the mouths of aliens could destroy my city structures. But sure enough, the pesky sandworms on Aven Prime kept me on my toes.
Aven Colony is a city builder strategy game developed by Mothership Entertainment and produced by Team17. The team consists of four developers who have worked on games like Fable 2, Star Wars: The Old Republic, and Metroid Prime 2 & 3. Mothership made a promise to create fresh, compelling game content, and I strongly believe they succeeded with this one. Your goal is to build and sustain the first human settlements on the planet, Aven Prime. The planet contains several vastly different biomes, from deserts to jungles, and each has its own unique gameplay.
When Aven Colony loads, it feels thrilling even before the playing starts. The main menu features brightly colored space animations and theme music comparable to adventure film scores. Right away, I knew I was playing something special. The game recommends you start by playing two very short tutorial games, called Holo-Sims. Then, it’s best to proceed through a couple campaign scenarios before attempting a sandbox expedition.
In campaign mode, most Aven Colony games start out with a few basic structures. These include solar panels for power, somewhere for the first workers to live, and construction drones. The drones use materials known as Nanites to build all of the structures needed for your settlement. Nanites can be hard to come by when starting a game. You can get them as rewards for meeting campaign objectives, or you can trade crops for them through a slow-but-steady trading center. The most reliable way to ensure enough building materials early on is to mine for iron and copper. You can then build Nanite processors to turn the mined metals into building materials. This was usually the biggest bottleneck I’d encounter in the game. However, it never felt like I had to wait too long to collect enough materials to complete my next project.
I’ve played civilization-building games before that hit boring spots while waiting to reach the next objective. In campaign mode of Aven Colony, there’s never a boring moment. Usually, I found myself managing about three objectives at a time. This kept me from facing that dreaded downtime of waiting for research to complete or the population to grow to a certain level. Instead, while I built up my population for one objective, I could also build farm facilities for another goal. Having multiple objectives at one time like this also kept my settlement resources balanced. The game would make sure I had enough housing and food to support my colony while growing the population.
The map overlays in Aven Colony provide quick and easy visuals that aid in improving your colony. You can choose from 12 different overlays that provide visual data about your settlement. The example below is the Employment Overlay. This shows you where your workers live and where they work. This helps you determine where to place new residential properties and also provides data on commute conflicts. My colonists seemed to be the grumpiest about commute times, but I understand. No one wants to have to travel a long way to work or deal with traffic jams, even in space.
Other helpful overlays provide quick, graphical information about crops, crime, air quality, resources, and more. The crops overlay shows which crop each farm building is producing. This makes it easy to see where you may have a surplus of a certain crop. It also makes it simple to find a summer crop and switch it over to something that will grow better in the winter. The air quality overlay shows where air quality is getting worse, allowing you to add air filters to trouble areas of your colony before it becomes a problem. The resources overlay not only shows you where your current mines are located but points out potential resource areas outside of your settlement.
An interesting aspect of Aven Colony is the ability to create highly-processed and enhanced foods for your colonists. You can harvest basic crops like barley and corn and use them as nature intended. In addition, you can build a chemical plant and a mill to allow processing of crops. Using a chemical mill, you can turn corn into corn syrup. The mill can be used to process corn syrup into candy. The candy has a bonus of increasing morale, but it reduces health across the colony. Luckily, the inventory menu lets you choose which manufactured products go into the general food supply.
Fans of city building games are sure to enjoy Mothership’s twist on the classic genre. The stunning, colorful art design and fast-paced gameplay make Aven Colony stand out from the crowd. The game will be available on Steam, Xbox One, and PS4 starting July 25, 2017. Players can pre-order their copy at a discounted price and receive an exclusive sandbox map of an otherwise unavailable biome.
A PC preview copy of Aven Colony was provided by Team17 Digital Ltd for the purpose of this review