As a huge fan of city building simulators, I was really looking forward to Aven Colony. And the fact that it’s also on PS4 was an added draw for me, since that’s where I primarily play. And this is where the game has me a bit divided. On consoles, it’s one of the better city builders you will find. But on PC, there’s a lot that Aven Colony lacks, specially when held against games like Sim City and Cities Skylines.
Your main objective in Aven Colony is to colonize Aven Prime – an alien planet with a wide range of habitats ranging from deserts, tundras and tropical regions. The premise itself is fascinating. Building a colony in space sounds like the coolest thing ever. And in the beginning, it really does feel like it. The intro tutorials are easy to understand and accessible to new-comers. The planet’s surface feels very different from anything I had played before in the genre, and the tech available to you seems apt for a space-faring species.
You start off laying down tunnels – Aven Colony’s alternative to roads, since the atmosphere isn’t breathable – and putting down buildings for residence and production. Some problems would have smart and simple solutions – pollution caused by geothermal plants can be cleared by putting down air filters next to them, crops can be grown in greenhouses to protect them from the harsh winter. The initial act of growing the colony feels great and the flow of incremental goals and rewards is immensely satisfying.
The game also looks pretty great. The lighting, day night cycle and weather effects are all rendered well. The buildings looks alien and so do the different zones. You also encounter some alien species as you progress further, though I wish there was a greater variety to them.
The AI residents automatically fill in jobs as you set up workplaces around them, and you can even set priorities for buildings depending on how important their out out is to the colony. This is important because if you are not paying attention, the residents have the habit of leaving one workplace and going to the next if morale goes down. While the overall morale vs priority system sounds good on paper, it feels like the game keeps pulling your attention from what’s cool about building a colony in space to all the boring nuances of governance. This stands out simply because of how much of there is apart from simply building and expanding.
Just a few hours in, the game’s starts showing how limited in scope it really is, and pretty soon the focus shifts from expanding and building a grand space colony to constantly playing damage control. The planet surface is hazardous and faces frequent lightning strike and storms. after the initial few stages of upgrades to buildings, you’re the forced to be making repairs due to the damage caused. Harsh winters cause sever food shortages, and the seasonal changes feel random and prolonged. You can always store additional food and energy to prepare for winters, but doing so is also stopping you from straight up expanding and adding more residents and buildings.
The UI is pretty good though. On PCs it’s similar to other city builders with the basic tools and overlays at the bottom and top left corner. On the PS4, the controls were again surprising easy to get a hold of, and navigation never felt cumbersome. To be honest, I was just happy to see city builders making their way to consoles and I might even out up with worse UI and controls.
Overall, Aven Colony leaves a lot to be desired, but is still a game that’s fun to play for many hours. The game needs patches to iron out some of the prominent issues and also a few additions to content. There’s something uniquely fascinating about the idea of building in space. Aven Colony definitely gives out a small taste of that, but falls short in significant other ways. The survival aspects of Aven Colony hinder the joy of exploration and building, and this is what needs to be balanced.