Consoles usually get a bad rap when it comes to city-building games, like Sim City, or Civilization. Developers are afraid to even try to bring AAA-quality games to console, for fears that the processors can’t handle the strain. And when they do hit consoles, they are cartoony, half-versions of the games, like Civilization: Revolution, which was very much like Civ-lite. Aven Colony, from developer Mothership Entertainment, aims to break that tradition by bringing a full-featured city-builder to consoles and Steam, without dumbing down the experience for players on PS4 and Xbox One. And I can proudly say that have accomplished that feat.
Aven Colony tasks players with creating a series of nine different colonies in nine distinct environments on an Earth-like planet called Aven Prime. The colonies all have certain conditions that must be met before the player can move on, and getting there is all of the fun. The “story” mode ties each of the nine locations together with a wrap-around narrative about lost cultures and artifacts on Aven Prime, so there is a decent amount of exposition about the strange world presented as the player worries about air quality, adequate power, crime, and jobs.
Amidst the colony building in Aven Colony, there are other forms of crisis that have to be dealt with. Winter lightning storms are a problem from the get-go, as well as meteor storms that damage buildings. Later on, deadly spores and plagues, and even environmental issues, like huge sandworms, can wreck a budding colony. And if the player is having no issue managing the game at the current level of difficulty, they can always ramp it up to harder modes, turning a nice, fun, calming game into a nightmare of bad things happening all at once, over and over.
In addition to the story mode, there is a sandbox game mode, that allows the player to just start a colony and see how big and successful it can get without designated objectives. All nine environments are available, once unlocked from the story mode. This gives players who just want to build for relaxation — and the game can be deceptively relaxing — something to do when not worrying about mining enough minerals to build a sports stadium to end a scenario.
Graphically, Aven Colony looks amazing, especially on a PS4 Pro. There is zero screen stutter or lag, and the lighting and water effects just pop off the screen, from a distance or in extreme closeup. The detail in the colonies, like the neon cocktail glasses on the sign outside of a bar, just add to the visual goodness at work here.
The music and voice work are two huge components in Aven Colony, both of which help make the game enjoyable. The player can change the camera to follow ordinary citizens and listen in on conversations, and the missions that come down from high command are all relayed with full voice acting.
If there is a downside in Aven Colony, it comes in the lack of variety in the colony building. There are nine locations, but you don’t really change your MO when playing. There are slight wrinkles, like the snow level not having fertile ground for crops, so the player has to rely on the trading of minerals to get food, but there’s just not enough of these kind of obstacles to challenge the player. Knowing this, if the player just wants to play a city-builder with minimal obstructions, Aven Colony might be the game for you.
Aven Colony doesn’t bring anything new to the city-building genre, but what it does deliver is a full-featured sim game that is fun, challenging, and strangely relaxing. The graphics look great on a console, and the sound effects and music are all well done. As a complete package, Aven Colony does enough to warrant a play-thru for fans of this style of game, and creates a golden opportunity to invite new fans, who just want to build and manage a colony on a distant planet and not worry about gunfights, swarms of enemies, or other players attacking.
Aven Colony is available now on the PS4, Xbox One, and Steam. This review is based off a PS4 review code provided by the publisher.