We brought you our exclusive preview at the beginning of the month, but earlier this week Aven Colony was released and after spending some time with the final release, here’s our full review of the fantastic city builder from Mothership entertainment and Team 17.
Before we get into the guts of Aven Colony, it’s worth noting that Mothership Entertainment are a small development team from Austin Texas (U.S), comprised of only 4 veteran game developers, it’s a real mark of achievement to produce a game that’s so complete, and also give members of the press such early access to document the latter stages of development.
Mothership have done a fantastic job throughout, so without further ado, let’s delve into the depths of Aven Colony.
We’ve all seen city builders before, Tropico, Cities Skylines and Constructor are among the recent console releases, but after all of these years, it’s somewhat surprising to see so many based in a Sci-Fi world, especially when it’s an area we see so much of in other gaming genre’s.
It’s safe to say that the setting fits the RTS genre perfectly, you start off with a small base station which is expanded in a lego-like fashion as new hubs, units and buildings connect to each other making controls simple and intuitive which is more complicated than it sounds on home consoles.
Have Mothership finally nailed the age old question of ‘can an RTS game be controlled adequately using a game pad?, well we’ve seen some great attempts, Halo Wars wasn’t bad, but Aven Colony is such a breeze to control, your right stick and bumpers control your view, LT and RT menu’s and the build menu is displayed as a circular wheel that’s quick and easy to navigate through all of the sections such as residential, mining or power structures.
It takes a little getting used to correct placement, with a trip to sandbox mode well worth considering as you battle to build enough structures to start a thriving colony while maintaining enough power to run them all and enough Nanites to afford them all.
Nanites are the most important resource in the game as they’re the backbone of building, upgrading and expanding. managing your starting quantity soon becomes a thing of the past with some mines and a processing plant, but it’s far to easy to worry too much about power and inhabitants leaving you backtracking to collect the all important Nanites.
Through the main story missions, there’s a gentle touch of introduction, not enough to feel patronising to returning players, but you’ll regularly be greeted with quests which will help to get your colony up and running in no time, experienced players will breeze through these early stages, but newcomers will find it welcoming and instrumental in getting a thriving colony established.
With threats such as the lightning inducing winter, toxic gas leaks and infectious creep spores that literally eat away at your structures, there’s plenty to learn, but on top of the mining, resource storage and management, air and water quality and farming for food, It all sounds a little overwhelming, but I dare say that Aven Colony has managed to package all of the information together in the perfect way, it’s well spaced out, inviting and informative without being boring or tedious.
Just working through a simple sandbox mission, might only feel like half an hour, but before you know it hours have passed and you’ve still barely touched the surface of the game, delving into trades, and expeditions as well as discovering alien artefacts and soon enough you’ll realise there’s not just dozens of hours, but days, weeks possibly months of enjoyment from such a well crafted and balanced strategy game.
Another area where the presentation is near perfect is graphics and sound, Aven Colony is beautiful to look at. Sure there’s some great scenery and effects, but zoom in and watch your colonists go about their daily lives, or follow a drone around as it scans the nearby area for crime, and you’ll realise how much is going off at once, story linking missions actually happen and you’ll see the ship or event playing out in real time without the need for constant cut-scenes.
Delve into the later levels for an even great variation on landscapes, each bringing their own troubles such as reduced resources or a tougher time managing something as important as the air your colonists breath, there’s a great variety only limited by the underlying gameplay which thanks to it’s depth will take quite a while before it starts to feel repetitive.
Audio is equally as impressive, with background music always accompanying every action which helps to give feeling to what you’re doing without ever leaving the game feeling cold or isolated. There’s a few too many computerised beeps as the notifications roll in, especially when you bite off more than you can chew and end up with a colony running out or air and water, infested with creep spores and not enough nanites to save your population.
As you’ve read so far, I’ve been really impressed with how well Aven Colony plays, but as with everything there’s always a few negatives, some details have been overlooked, After destroying a colony I was simply left with a menu that said Game Over, no death rattle, no CGI as the final few colonists took their last gasp of air and no real overview of how well (or how bad) I’ve performed.
I would have liked a little more depth to the story side, maybe a few cut-scenes here and there, but that brings us back to the developers Mothership only being 4 people, and taken into consideration we can’t complain because they’ve managed to create an absolute masterpiece.
Bottom Line :
Aven Colony is a true masterpiece, created by such a small team, Mothership Entertainment have crafted a beautifully balanced city builder that is easy to recommend as one of the best city builder strategy games available on home consoles.
Gameplay : 8.5
Graphics : 8.5
Sound : 8
Story : 8
Value : 9
Overall : 8.4 / 10