I was lucky enough to be given a free code for the sole purpose of reviewing Aven Colony by Mothership Entertainment, but I have really struggled to actually get round to writing anything as I have been addicted from the instant I installed the game on my PS4.
From the loading screen, I knew I was on to a winner. It has been published by the mighty Team17 who are based just round the corner from me in Wakefield
Aven Colony is a city-building strategy game about mankind’s first colony on a moon orbiting a gas giant ten light-years from earth called “Aven Prime.”
Its basic premise is as a Sci-fi city builder. Think No Mans Sky meets Sim City. Now, I know that the very mention of No Mans Sky will be enough to put a lot of people off, but don't let it. This game is much more fun than No Mans Sky ever was.
I was always addicted to games like Sim City so this seemed like a great game to get stuck in for me.
You start off with basic training missions which help you prepare for what is to come with the main game. I wouldn't say there was a story-line as such when it came to the main game, but with these types of games there never really is. You just try your hardest to survive.. and the further into the game you go, the harder this is to achieve.
Straight away I noticed how beautiful the graphics were. I don't think that's just down to the latest generation of consoles; it's due to some great design and artwork by Mothership Games. The closer in you zoom to the gameplay running in the background as you try to build various structures, the more you appreciate the subtle details that most would overlook.
The campaign mode offers a great sense of progression as you work your way through it after you have gotten to grips with the basics of the game through training. You do need to be careful and plan your builds well. If you rush ahead with the game as I did the first time, you will come to a point where you have to start again. Don't let this game fool you in any way... it can be harder than it looks, which will appeal to every hardcore gamer who plays it.
The more you build, the more the population of your city demands from you. We all remember how annoying the people in Sim City were when they demanded more police, medical services and Fire services? Well, in Aven Colony our residents also demand you build Chemical Plants to supply them with recreational drugs as well as recreational hubs, parks and all important pubs.
The main part of this game is based upon strategy, but by running through various missions within the gameplay, they help you to understand what is needed to build a thriving city. It is easy to navigate around the area through the use of an intuitive control setup. I felt the PS4 controls really easy to get to grips with and use.
Its not just about building however. There are quite a few natural disasters in pace which can wipe out a huge part of your colony if you don't prepare for them by implementing various things within your custom city. One thing I liked was a change in seasons. Why there are seasons on an alien moon, I don't know, but running into winter can give you major power problems as well as crop issues if you haven't prepared for it beforehand. Like I said, it's these little things that so many people overlook, and in this game they play a major part.
There are also attacks from alien creatures on your city, but again, this is where you have to prepare before it happens. The game will notify you that the attack is happening, but it won't give you enough time to build the defences needed at that time. Some will find this very annoying, but I liked it as it proves that you need to plan for every eventuality within the game, not just follow the basic instructions that the game throws at you to build a very basic city.
I touched on the graphics a little earlier, and I'd like to get a little more into the details of these in this review.
So, by now, we all expect the graphics on next gen releases to be amazing. Well, this has certainly been achieved here. OK, don't get me wrong, there's no movie quality cut scenes where you step back from the screen in awe and amazement, but when playing the game you can zoom right in on the structures and nothing is lost when you do.
The entire planet has obviously been built from scratch, and the backdrop felt authentic enough, but the design of the buildings that have gone into the game are fantastic. They fit very well within the sci-fi idea of the game, not to mention how the lights come on at night and various elements of the game take on a new life in the darkened setting.
It would have been all to easy for Mothership Games to have done what so many developers have done in the past, but they haven't. When you attempt to take on various levels in the sandbox mode, each one's setting is different, and no two areas are the same. Yes, all of the various challenges are different, but Mothership could have so easily done what so many have done before and just used the same setting, which has always felt lazy, but they didn't. They created new backdrops for every different game you start on. Thank you so much for putting so much time and effort into this game. It shows very well.
This is easily a game you can replay over and over and not get bored of it. Don't get me wrong, there are a few niggles that can start to annoy after a while, such as various parts of the planet that get in the way of you constructing your tunnels (basically your roads within the game), but you do start to get used to that and you can spot them easily enough to avoid them. Once you do learn to spot things like that, there is so much packed into this game, it will keep you entertained for a very long time to come, and that's what is lacking in so many titles released now. You can have a game finished within a few hours and the only thing that would cause you to put the disc back in your machine in the future is possibly the online aspect of it. Not Aven Colony; Mothership Games have concentrated on giving us a solid base game with no need to ever want an online part, as well as implementing a full trophy support for all of you trophy hunters out there (Yes, me included).
In summary, this is most definitely a game I can highly recommend. It's on sale now on the PlayStation store for a very reasonably priced £24.99 in the UK.
If I hadn't been lucky enough to have been sent a free copy for the purpose of writing this review, I would have bought it sooner rather than later anyway.
I give it a solid rating of 8/10. There are a few niggles which stop me giving it a higher rating, but at the same time, these are things that you do start to get used to when playing it. I can definitely say this is the best builder game I have played since the good old days of Sim City. So many have tried and have fallen short of the mark; not Mothership Games and Team17.
Go out and buy it... you won't be disappointed.
Available now on PS4, Xbox One and PC