Aven Colony is a city-building strategy sci-fi game by Mothership Entertainment, and Team 17 (the Worms folks). I’d tell you more about Mothership, but I can’t find much, and as far as I can tell, Aven Colony is their first game. The game itself is something like a cross between Sim City and Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri. It’s available for Windows PCs, Xbox One, and the PS4. For this review, I played the PS4 version, which is notable, for the difference in controls.
Aven Colony is an interesting, yet flawed game. It has some cool ideas. Setting Sim City in space seems like a brilliant idea on paper, and with the current vacuum in the city building genre, we could use something fresh, exciting, and new. Unfortunately, Aven Colony falls a little flat, and while it has some awesome potential, and takes some risks, it doesn’t come together in the end. There’s value here, you just have to dig a little.
As a city builder, it follows the basic concepts of Sim City or the Cities series (Skylines etc). You create buildings, distribute resources, manage the populace via policies, and expand. As your cities grow, the demands on power, water, and other resources become more complicated to manage, especially in environments where the is a scarcity of one particular resource, such as water. This is where Aven Colony sets itself apart. Most other city builders essentially have one major resource: money, and only a handful of others that need to be distributed, such as water and power.
In Aven Colony you have to carefully manage the water usage, food production, electricity generation, mineral extraction, air purity, and more. It can be pretty cool at first, seeing all the options, but also incredibly overwhelming. Take farms for example: every farm can be built in two basic forms, farms and greenhouses. From there, each farm can be one of 12 different crops, which will be successful depending on the terrain it is placed. Even more than that, some crops aren’t meant for direct food consumption, and will have to be processed by a chemical plant into something more useful. Now, on top of that, each farm can either be tier 1, 2, and 3. Additionally, any structure that has available tiers can be upgraded later.
What this all amounts to are large sprawling cities of domes and tunnels (Aven Colonies version of roads) whose needs have to be balanced to accommodate further growth. At this stage, like many other city building games, comes the twist: aliens. Alien creatures will attempt to destroy your city, infect your population, and poison your food, water, and air. Special buildings are dedicated to eradicating and or fending off the alien threat; but, ultimately it just comes down to this: aliens are just Aven Colony’s version of disasters from other city building games. Instead of of earthquakes, you have alien monsters. The differences becomes abundantly superficial when you see them in action.
All of this is framed around a incredibly dull story, which is told more like a radio-play than an actual interactive adventure. Rarely are you called upon to make choices that affect the story in significant ways, instead voice over provides the context and narrative flow. Occasionally environmental events will show up, such as a rescue ship, or an alien space worm, but again they have little impact on the game flow itself.
The console control scheme is passable, and is a decent substitute for mouse and keyboard, though I did find myself fighting it from time to time. If given a choice, between console and PC, I would recommend console. City building games were never designed to be played with a controller, and it shows. While serviceable, it still feels like a compromise.
There are things to enjoy with Aven Colony, and if you need to scratch that city building itch, this might be the game for you, but with Cities Skyline available on consoles that’s likely a better option. I hope Mothership uses this as a stepping stone to make a more focused, better looking, sequel. There’s tons of promise to this game, and hopefully it improves with a follow up.