Over the past few years city building games have experienced something of an unexpected resurgence. The early issues with Sim City’s new incarnation aside, titles such as Tropico 5 and Cities: Skylines have done much to give the genre a much needed shot in the arm.
Aven Colony is the latest city builder that hopes to continue this trend and, in so doing, set a new standard for future offerings.
The premise behind Aven Colony is now no longer considered science fiction.
With PayPal founder Elon Musk claiming that his SpaceX program will play a crucial role in colonising Mars, it seems appropriate that we learn how to do this from the comfort and safety of our living rooms.
In Aven Colony developers Mothership Entertainment tasks you with settling a new colony on a distant planet called Aven Prime. Over the course of some 100 hours of gameplay your job will be create buildings, transport networks, establish farms, initiate and expand mining operations and commercial activities while at the same time keep your growing population as happy as possible.
As we’re in the (not too distant) future and on an alien world, the usual road problems associated with city building games simply do not exist. As the world runs on carbon dioxide rather than oxygen, your population will travel around through tunnels that you have to create and replenished with fresh air.
The in-game buildings themselves are also unique and range from squat tent- sized affairs to sprawling skyscrapers. Many of the buildings have specific functions which range from creating oxygen to serving as living quarters or resource mining.
Power issues are resolved through a rock paper scissors conundrum. Each option has its ups and downs and it’s your call to decide the best route for your burgeoning population. If you choose wind farms, you’ll avoid the likelihood of pollution problems in the future, but their output is low. Go for the more powerful geothermal power plants and you have all the juice you need. But not during the winter period. Speaking of winter, Aven Colony offers an interesting twist of the usual day and night cycle; rather than twenty four hour periods, Aven Colony has yearly cycles with two seasons. Once it gets dark, winter sets in, meaning your colony will be prone to freezing temperatures and all the inclement weather we’ve long grown used to here on Earth.
Trading with the mother ship is a big part of Aven Colony. In some cases you’ll be unable to produce enough food by yourself – or you may simply choose not to. In these instances, you’ll be able to trade with the mother ship for supplies at different rates.
As well as trading, Aven Colony tasks you with keeping your population happy. This may come down to simple things like making sure there’s enough pure air or suitable entertainment to keep your populace contented.
For those unfamiliar with city building, Aven Colony comes with a refreshingly accessible learning curve. In the campaign mode, you’re gradually introduced to all aspects of the game via a very welcome challenge and reward system. After a couple of hours of this gentle hand holding you’ll feel comfortable enough to take on the games more demanding tasks.
Like many of its predecessors, the devil is in the detail when playing Aven Colony. The game offers no less than 12 different menus, all providing you with updated information about the state of your colony and population. If you feel somewhat overwhelmed by the amount of information to process you can alter the speed of the game while you take stock.
Graphically Aven Colony is a treat to behold. Mothership Entertainment have taken full advantage of the monster processing power of the Xbox One to produce one of the finest looking city building games we’ve ever seen. Each building is distinct and recognisable and the panorama looks like something that you can hang on your wall.
If we had any niggles with the game it’ll be minor frame rate issues we experienced as our population expanded. Hopefully this is something that can be addressed with a future patch.
This wrinkle aside, Aven Colony is a worthy successor to the mighty Sim City and Tropico 5. It’s a hugely rewarding endeavour for any fan of the genre. And, for anyone new to city building, there can be no better introduction. Highly recommended.
8 out 10