Review: Aven Colony (PS4)

Review: Aven Colony (PS4)

Formats:

  • PlayStation 4
  • Xbox One
  • PC

Format/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4
  • HDTV

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
Flag_of_the_United_States.svg
Title: Aven Colony
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PSN (9.67 GB)
Release Date: July 25, 2017
Publisher: Team17 Digital
Developer: Mothership Entertainment
Original MSRP: $29.99
ESRB Rating: E10+
PEGI: 12
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Audio Review:
The audio review for this game is available on 534 of the podcast.

Gameplay:
The gameplay in Aven Colony harkens back to the old SimCity series but with a Sci-Fi twist. Humanity is expanding across the galaxy and you’re the governor of a new colony on Aven Prime.

Starting with the Campaign Mode, it’s best to play through the tutorials because there’s a lot to learn and the sheer amount of menus and information to keep track of can be quite daunting at first.

One of the hardest things to do in a game like this is get the controls right. City building type games rarely make a successful jump from PC to console because you’re going from more than a hundred keyboard and mouse button combinations to a controller with sixteen inputs.

The small team at Mothership Entertainment has done a remarkable job of giving you access to dozens of screens filled with information and they’ve done it in a pretty concise and easy to learn way. I’m really impressed with the control scheme here.

You’ll have a specific set of goals laid out and new missions will be given as you grow your colony. Since everything you do is geared directly towards that growth, successful completion of each of the missions will have rewards to help you attain your goals.

The atmosphere of Aven Prime is heavy on the carbon dioxide so you’ll need to attach pressurized corridors between every module and building you add to the colony. Since you’ll be adding lots of living quarters, power generation stations, factories, farms, mills, spaceports, recreation centers and more, a bit of planning is in order.

I didn’t take any of this into consideration during the early stages of the first mission because I really didn’t expect it to be that deep. I then spent the next few hours trying to make up for my lack of foresight in civic planning.

Fortunately, you can pause the game at any time and look through the dozens of statistics, overlays, reports, and more. I’ve found that it’s a good idea to do this every now and then during the game anyway to head off any potential issues before they become a full blown disaster. Failure to do so had me scrambling to install air filters and scrubbers around strategic points in the colony so people could continue breathing.

You’ll start each mission with a small group of colonists and a foothold in the environment. It’d be wise to scout the area before you place a single building. You can move the camera around and figure out where the mineral deposits, geothermal vents, and cargo drops are and plan accordingly.

While you are given missions that are designed to help grow your colony, you don’t need to tackle them immediately. You’re free to take your time and build things up at your own pace, at least with the early colonies. Things get more hectic later on so these first few are your chance to get comfortable with everything.

The overlays are a huge help in determining where you need to make adjustments to your colony as you grow. You’ll quickly be able to spot where you need more air filtration, housing, police drones, and more. It really makes management much easier so take advantage of it.

Social policies can be enacted in times of duress to try to get things under control. You can ration food, water, and power. You can even force overtime, ban immigration, and declare martial law among other things. Each of these can affect your citizen’s morale which in turn could get you kicked out of a job.

Once the colony reaches 100 colonists, referendums will be initiated. You need to keep at least 50% of the population happy over the next year to win. Referendums happen every three years so you have some time in between to get your colony in order.

All this growth isn’t consequence free however. Periodically your colony will come under attack from a number of different environmental and biological factors. Some will affect your infrastructure while other will infect your colonists. You have some defenses against these different attacks but you need to make sure they’re deployed to cover the entire colony.

You’ll also be battling the elements as you go. Aven Prime has a winter season which can cut down dramatically on your food production and power generation depending on how you’ve built things up. It also brings lightning and shard storms which can wreak havoc on the colony.

Once you’ve attained your overall goals and achieved victory you have the option to continue on and grow the colony as much as you want before you accept the victory and move on. It’s a nice option to have and I’d urge you to take advantage of it because it can affect your campaign as you move forward.

When the colony goals are complete and you decide to continue to the next one there’s no going back which is kind of a bummer. Staying put for awhile also allows you to experiment a bit and grow the colony to a much bigger size which is good practice for things to come.

Which each new beginning you’ll eventually be able to trade with your previously established colonies so having them up and running in good shape can be beneficial throughout the campaign.

Each successive colony brings new challenges with the terrain and environment along with discoveries of alien artifacts and the ability to eventually send your colonists on expeditions. The game builds at a good pace and you can always stick with one colony for as long as you want to get a handle on things.

If you want to just mess around for a bit or practice before you move to a new area, a Sandbox mode is available. This allows you to select any of the nine environments and set up a bunch of parameters including your starting resources, mission objectives, difficulty, referendums, and more. It’s a great addition and it lets you try out a number of different scenarios without worrying about your overall campaign.

I do wish I had more control of the camera however. You can’t lock it in place and move up and down, it always tilts as you go. It makes it a bit harder to move exactly where I want at times but it’s not really a big deal.

I’d also like the ability to move the camera around when looking at things like the range of drones because I’ve had to recycle and rebuild a number of times based on not being able to clearly see the full extent of their reach.

Visuals:
I absolutely love the look of this game. It immediately caught my eye when I saw it at E3. The attention to detail is phenomenal and it’s what really drew me in.

I loved SimCity 2000 but I always wanted to get down to street level. Granted, SimCopter and Streets of SimCity allowed me to do that to a certain extent but they were always a bit clunky.

While you can’t actually put yourself inside the colony, you do have the ability to zoom in very tight, giving you a good look at the incredible level of detail and animation in each of the structures.

You can even see the individual colonists walking through the corridors. Click on one and you’ll see all the relevant information about them including their name, occupation, resource consumption, and more. They’ll even talk to you.

Audio:
The characters assigning missions and making suggestions are all fully voiced and the voice acting is really well done, even when they’re goofing around.

Zooming in as tight as you can brings things to life as you’ll hear the machinery of the colony chugging along as well as bits of conversations from individual colonists. It’s a nice touch.

The music just kind of fades into the background, for me anyway, and goes relatively unnoticed. It tends to be synth heavy with a new-agey science fiction bent, but I’m often so wrapped up in what I’m doing that I don’t even notice it.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is one player only with no online component.

Conclusion:
I think the most impressive thing here is just the fact that Mothership Entertainment has been able to take the complexity of a city simulator from PC to console with such a smooth transition. What’s even crazier is that the main team consists of just four people.

There’s a lot going on here and without a good set of tutorials and a great control scheme, this could have easily ended up as a clunky mess. Everything quickly becomes second nature and I never found myself lost or confused among the dozens and dozens of menus, popups, and overlays. It’s quite an achievement.

Add to that some great gameplay and an interesting story and this game is a winner. I didn’t realize how much I missed the old city building games until I got sucked into Aven Colony for about eleven straight hours the first time I sat down with it.

Fans of the genre should be very happy to add this to their collection. I know it’s one I’ll be playing for a long time.

Score:
9.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

Flag_of_the_United_States.svg
Flag_of_the_United_Kingdom.svg
Flag_of_Canada.svg

 

Twitter Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Technorati Facebook