Rating : 9/10
Well it’s finally here! Just last month I wrote up my preview of Aven Colony and I think it’s fair to say I had little less than unwavering praise for the city-building game. Now that I’ve seen more of the game, I can say that much of what enamored me with the title in the beginning can be found all throughout the rest of the campaign. This is wonderful as at no point did I feel like I was simply “going through the motions” as I have with many other similar games in the past. But what does Aven Colony do that sets it apart from these other experiences? Why can I essentially do the same thing across multiple levels without getting tired of it all being the same? The short answer is level variety, but let’s dive deeper into what makes Aven Colony great.
For those that don’t know, Aven Colony’s campaign mode follows the journey of an up-and-coming governor as they build, maintain, and often fix various colonies across several different planets. Their story isn’t all that important by itself, because the real plot happens outside of the actual gameplay. This overarching story includes many different characters (all excellently voiced) and several different reasons why the governor must attend to different colonies. Once the reason for visiting a colony has been explained, the player is given control over nearly everything and let loose to reach the main goal however they see fit. While choosing how and where to build various structures and buildings, the colony being built will grow and come alive with people. In order to keep the player on track, the side characters provide several optional objectives that can be completed for small rewards that will help the colony out. These objectives tend to coincide with the goal of the colony the player is currently working on.
The nine campaign missions (after two tutorial missions) are completely different, each with their own challenges and goals to accomplish. This is the beauty of Aven Colony. By spending the time to make each colony feel unique and different, players don’t even realize they are mostly doing the same thing across the whole campaign. Realistically, all that needs to be done to succeed is keep track of various numbers and bars that will determine how well the player is doing. Most of this is monitored on one of two areas and are rather simple to take care of. Nearly all issues that arise can be solved by constructing certain buildings in key areas. Without going into too much detail, I’ll simply say that Aven Colony is the perfect amount of complicated without taking away from the overall enjoyment. I believe that a lot of this comes from how easy it is to keep track of everything that’s going on within your colony.
I truly can’t stress how nice it is that I can fully tell how people feel and what needs to be changed to improve their moods and keep my colony happy. This becomes especially useful when you look at just how many things could go wrong or hurt your colony. Just off the top of my head I can think of some simple things like: power, jobs for colonists, air purity, nanite manufacturing, and housing. But these pale in comparison to issues like: crime, lightning/shard storm safety, protection/purging of plague spores, food production, winter preparation, and even freaking colonist commute. That’s right, if colonists have to walk too far, they will riot! Since there are so many things to keep tabs on, the pressure to pay attention is fairly consistent and keeps the player engaged. But when the player does catch up with all of these factors, they can always take on those optional objectives from earlier that can even push the game’s narrative forward.
This is only true in the campaign mode of course. There is also a sandbox mode that can be endless if the player wants. This mode is customizable and allows different players to create different challenges for themselves. The hardcore may make a map that has very little resources while a more casual player may take out referendums (elections that can end your game if lost). This customization means that the various planets can all be played in different ways and create new experiences each time a new map is created. Because of this, while the campaign is rather rigid and offers a specific challenge every time, sandbox mode makes the game fun time and time again, offering new challenges each time. Honestly, I find it hard to find much wrong with this title.
There’s the gameplay, which works wonderfully and is never terribly confusing. Even when the gameplay begins to loop, it never really feels repetitive or boring. The art and sound look awesome and sound even better. All the structures have detailed models with fun to watch construction cycles. Each character has an excellent voice actor and the background music changes often enough to be noticeable without being distracting. There are many different difficulty settings for players of all abilities. There’s just nothing to fault here. If you enjoy city building, you will more than likely love Aven Colony.
Aven Colony makes for a prime example of how a game can transcend its genre and be fun whether or not you like other games like it. Showcasing detailed visuals, immersive voice acting, an engaging gameplay loop, and enough content to satisfy most players, this title has the potential to make a lasting impression on many gamers this year. If you enjoy city building games, you owe it to yourself to play Aven Colony.
Resident Dark Souls Expert