Aven Colony Review

Video Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_5vDsB_sMU8

Name:

Aven Colony

Platforms:

PC, PS4, Xbox One

Developer:

Mothership Entertainment

Genre:

City-Building, Strategy, Survival, Indie

Publisher:

Team17

Modes:

Single-Player

Release Date:

25th July, 2017

Engine:

 

Reviewer:

Charede

Product Rating:

PEGI: 12, Bad Language

Review Score:

60/100 (%)

Disclosure:

Copy: Press copy

 

Another day and another dive into the derpiest leader of all taking on space exploration and the control of a colony of unsuspecting residents or should I say victims of my poor colony management. I am of course taking you on a journey to explore Aven Colony.

 

Visuals

Starting with visuals overall the game does look great but I do have some nitpicks. When scanning around looking at the environment and the colonies. However, I rapidly found myself feeling lack-luster when I realised just how homogenized my colonies were looking between levels.

 

Leading on from this not only do you expect your colonies to appear more substantial and varied once they reach later levels, it is a fair expectation that the population sprawl should really have an impact. However, this was never the case on Aven Colony. My large colonies always just seemed a bit too quiet when looking at the paths and it did not scream to me a thriving population and people rushing around their busy lives. This game would have benefitted from this being better represented.

 

 

 

The environments themselves are lovely but at best they are a shallow re-skin of surroundings and consist of environments that are not particularly creative. Seasons do have some bearing on mixing up the environments but in a fairly predictable fashion. Seasons do however; affect the game play by influencing abundance of resources such as food and electricity. This consequently has a knock of affect as to how you manage your colony to survive.

 

Outside of the objects and environment visuals another important factor in games like this is the interface and menus. A bad interface can really hurt a game, especially when it is management orientated. In Aven Colony the interface is overloaded with information to the point of saturation. The result is lots of noise and over complication, and persistent interruptions from alerts that are really not necessary. Another consequence is it also means more digging around to find the specific thing you are looking for. Alerts will continue to bombard you even after issues has been dealt with and the game fails to notice this. This was not just a nuisance visually but also from a game play perspective as it is a major distraction and annoyance. On a side note they did a menu update a while back and I have to say I do appreciate the change, it does look far better in my opinion.

 

Environments & Models

Going deeper with regards to environments planets feel empty and there is a distinct lack of flora and fauna. The few interesting things I can see I cannot interact with (such as ores) you cannot use or discover anything about them. The possibility of learning more from the lands is a huge missed opportunity. The sense of discovery is lacking which is something rather bizarre for a game all about reaching out into the stars and colonizing new worlds. Lands are not particularly memorable. This is a huge missed opportunity.

 

From a mechanical perspective the terrain is very important and not something to ignore. There is a decent variety of biomes even if they are not the most inspiring or creative. Working around the land you have available to get the maximum amount of resources whilst keeping colony layout in mind for keeping citizens happy is super important. The position of buildings in relation to homes and workplaces being balanced out with the environmental optimization for farms etc is an interesting. I am glad this is a key part of the game but getting away from the typical environments you expect to see would have given the game some unique identity and kept me interested for longer.

 

 

Game play

Aven Colony features a good variety of game modes which is always welcomed. The game starts with an excellent tutorial level that introduces each mechanic and the tools you need to understand and then test you on them. From there it has a decent length campaign of story missions were you are the governor and must establish colonies dealing with a variety of issues. The campaign is a bit repetitive and would have benefited from more depth and complexity to it. Additional missions given to the player by advisors during missions keep things interesting but cannot hold the game up on their own. Of note maps from story mode unlock for use in sandbox once you have played the first few missions.

 

As far as the game play is concerned generally it is a mixed bag. I need to highlight at this stage that this game is intensively focused on various meters and heavy in micro management which in itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There is essentially the usual range of needs meters you would expect. But if anything there is too much focus on meters and this is where the game fails; or at least in the sense of how transparent the meter managing is. I think a lot of this falls down to the way the UI works and the rest is down to the way the game is structured. The reason I highlight this is because it took away from my immersion significantly which for me was a disappointment.

 

On the topic of immersion colonists feel like robots. All seem to act identical, no social mobility, skills, educational background, information on their lives, family units, age etc. Some more identifying features would have been useful to make me care more about my colonists. An example of this done to an excellent standard is Surviving Mars. In Aven Colony it got to the point of the poor colonists being so bland and robotic that I gave little care about them. This led me down the path of fixating on balancing meters for the numbers monster rather than looking after minions with actual needs and desires. When it gets to that level of dehumanising I may have well spent my afternoon inputting numbers into a calculator.

 

 

On a positive note seasonal mechanics work well and do affect game play such as affecting electric and food production, this is something I valued. Disasters are interesting and something I thought would spice the experience up but don’t really pose any major threat. Not only are they not particularly threatening mechanically there is a visual disconnect. You cannot see the evidence of the chaos within your citizens which takes away from the gravitas of the event. There is a good range of different disasters that can happen, but they don’t really have the impact and drama associated with them that I would have hoped for. As long as early game is managed reasonably well you can end up in a situation of being so well of any threat the game throws at you really can have no impact. The game needs something a little extra to keep you on your toes late game. As to what that might be I am not sure, but what I do know is it leaves a gap that is noticeable. Going a step further as far as the late game of levels being imbalanced, similar can be said of the difficulty for the levels across the campaign. At times missions will be brutal but the one following it will be a breeze. It doesn’t feel like a raising of the stakes or an increase in challenge as you progress in skill as a player. This needs serious refinement.

 

In the department of minor gripes I found the enable button to grow inedible crops a bit stupid, time controls are not separate when you click, and I had major issues with repeated crashes when the game was originally released. I also rapidly lost patience for the fact there is no mass transit system.  Everyone walks and this puts limitations on how far workers can go for goods and services. On the flip side I can see the argument that this plays into forcing the player to think more carefully about their colony layout and adds some more challenge in terms of layout planning. Regardless, I would have still liked to have mass transit. As a compromise perhaps mass transit could have be hard to set up or very expensive to implement. This huge cost would offset the payoff of it overriding limitations of range that makes placing certain services and buildings crucial.

 

Conclusion

Aven Colony is an awkward case of a lack of depth in some areas which makes the thin veneer of the elements it excels at rather transparent in its attempt to hide something that is under the surface lacking in personality and wow factor. The game does function reasonable well and looks great in some regards. However, it is plagued with over saturation of alerts and noise from information splattered all over the screen to the point where it really takes you out of the whole experience. In addition to this with a difficulty curve that has no proper flow, lacklustre end level game play and residents that feel homogenised and lifeless it takes what could have been a pretty awesome game into ‘meh’ territory.

 

I still feel this game is worth a play but I cannot see it being something that has the staying power to stay installed on my pc and be something I come back to over and over. I feel there are much better offerings on the market such as Surviving Mars which in comparison really makes you engage with your residents and manages to keep things interesting at all stages. Surviving Mars also has a lot of replay-ability whereas Aven Colony suffers from fatigue fairly quickly due to its repetitive nature. As a consequence this game scores a mediocre 60%. It is an ok game but it just does not blow me away and draw me in enough to want to play it again and again. With some minor tweaks in a few crucial areas this game could have had significantly better. Worth a play, but missing the polish and wow factor other games in the genre have.

 

 

 

 

 

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