Aven Colony ReviewSim City in space? We take a look at the anticipated colony sim and see if it meets expectations
In Aven Colony you’ll be tasked with developing and maintaining a series of planetary bases, progressively dealing with a range of common issues such as starvation, smog, and… space worms.
Sitting comfortably between Sim City and Anno 2070, Aven Colony eases you into the boots of colony commander where you’ll learn and adapt to an ever-evolving array of base expansion and maintenance tasks, ranging from the mundane problems of commute congestion and air quality to attacks from alien worms and spore strikes.
At its heart Aven Colony is a city building simulator — you’ll be planning how each colony you’re assigned to develops and expands over time, making sure to meet the needs of the inhabitants and ensuring everyone is well fed, has clean air, and happily employed.
The game drops you into the boots of colony commander for an array of different colonies in the main campaign mode, with various specialty buildings and functionality slowly unlocked across the first few colonies in order to give you time to acclimate and learn how buildings work and how they interact. The learning curve is very simple even for those unfamiliar with the genre, though more experienced players may find the initial colonies frustrating as they rush through objectives and are stuck sitting around waiting on immigrant ships for population goals to be fulfilled.
Genre veterans will quickly feel at home here — build power stations, mine resources, connect buildings with roads (or in this case, tunnels) and make sure your colony is adequately covered by police services and hospital access.
If you’re coming from Sim City however, Aven Colony introduces a few different concepts that you’ll have to keep in mind. Firstly, being on an alien planet means that your colony is self-enclosed and relies on air filters to pump breathable air into and throughout the base; let the air foul and the populace will quickly get sick, work quality degrades, and you risk being expelled from managing the colony at the next referendum.
You also can’t build anywhere you choose — construction and maintenance is performed by drones who are limited to operating within a small radius from their base, so you’ll need to keep developing a steady amount of additional drone ports from which to launch new drones for new building work.
Seasons play a solid role in Aven Colony too, with the punishing winter season crippling food production: Farms drop to zero food production during the harsh cold, while the more expensive greenhouses have their food growth halved. It’s something that can easily catch you off-guard if you’re not fully prepared; more than once I’ve sat helpless as food supplies dwindled, hoping the colony would somehow not die off before spring arrived.
As you progress, you’ll have to wear more hats than just city designer — trade hubs allow you to export excess resources in return for food or luxury goods that can be sold by retailers to raise happiness. The economy of Aven Colony is admittedly very basic, favoring simplicity over variety; players who want to focus on the macro stuff will find this refreshing, though in-depth players who enjoy rich complexity may find it a little lackluster.
You’ll also soon unlock expeditions, where you can send intrepid colonists out on adventures to explore the local area beyond your colony, which is surprisingly fun; you’ll be stumbling across ancient ruins, rescuing lost explorers, and even engaging rebel colonists and the robotic remnants of the planets long-lost civilisation.
Your base isn’t completely safe to grow and expand, either; as you move to harsher, tougher colonies you’ll quickly discover that the lightning strikes and hailstorms aren’t the only things that threaten your colony. Plague spores will occasionally drift towards your colony ready to infect buildings and citizens, while massive sandworms can erupt from the surface, spitting acid all over that shiny new infrastructure you just built.
Aven Colony also has plenty of nice cosmetic touches, from the ability to peek through tunnel cameras and watch colonists roam, to how flocks of birds migrate seasonally. The visuals are consistently clean and attractive, and it’s nice to simply watch the worker drones assemble a building.
Don’t be fooled by its friendly visuals, however — this can be a challenging game. You’ll constantly have to juggle priorities, managing and planning for a multitude of issues. For example, given that winter seasons cripple solar panels and farms, the first instinct is to forego those and work with geothermal generators and greenhouses instead, but it’s not so easy; geothermals can only be built on top of a few, scattered thermal pockets around the area, and greenhouses have a much higher ongoing electricity cost than farms.
Indeed, as you progress to the final few colonies you’ll sometimes be left wondering how you could ever manage to survive. Between catastrophic power cuts, food shortages, and spore attacks, the game can be pretty overwhelming if you’re simply expecting a relaxing city builder. At these levels Aven Colony feels more akin to titles like Banished, where things can go sour very quickly — and if your populace is miserable when referendum time rolls around, you’ll be starting the colony over from scratch.