I do love me a decent sim game. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I used to be a big fan of Command & Conquer: Red Alert on my Dad’s PC when I was a kid. I’ve been addicted to Football Manager for over a decade now, and I once dabbled in Rollercoaster Tycoon, but thankfully I was able to go clean during the summer of ’08, until I relapsed and once again recovered after rediscovering Theme Park World for PS One.
Now here we stand in 2017 and I’m using again. Hi, my name’s Chris and I’m addicted to sim games. The new taste on the street comes via Mothership Entertainment’s Aven Colony. At first glance you’d be forgiven for thinking this was just Sim City in a space setting. Heck, that’s what I first thought when I went hands-on last month for our preview here on Pure PlayStation. Thankfully, that’s not the case. In fact, I think it’s a little unfair on Aven Colony to make such a sweeping statement.
The story goes that mankind needs to find some new digs to call home. It’s your job to get colonies set up, expanded, and ready to bring humanity into a new era. Alright, it’s not quite as inspiring as that, but you get the point.
Sim games like Aven Colony are something of a rarity on consoles; they’re normally confined to the PC space where the keyboard and mouse combo works far better than clumsy console controllers. I’m happy to say that Aven Colony does a pretty good job in the controls department. Building commands and all the other interactions are easily accessed within a couple of button clicks/flicks of the analogue sticks. Sweeping across your lovingly built colony is nice and easy with zoom in/zoom out controls to let you have a good gander at your wonderful creations. In short, the controls and user interface work really, really well. It’s hard to lose track of what you’re doing, what you need to do, and what disaster is currently rampaging through your colony. Kudos to Mothership Entertainment on that one, then.
Aven Colony features a full single-player campaign as well as a sandbox mode. I’ve done my time with the campaign and, despite enjoying it, it’s not all that great. There’s not much of a challenge with the game’s default difficulty and I rarely came anywhere near failure. Heck, I didn’t even realise I was up for election until I started clearing out old notifications! To be fair, this is a little on me for being a lazy git and not bothering to read my messages, but on the other hand, you’d think that an election – something that can insta-end your game if you lose – would be a little more prominent. To really get the most out of Aven Colony’s campaign, you’re going to want to crank up the difficulty a little and then see how well you fare.
It helps that the game isn’t overly complicated like other city-builders. Sure, you need to build, expand, and manager crime-rates and the like, but a lot of the erroneous crap has been chucked away. You don’t need to spend hours meticulously building sewage systems and roads. Instead you just build your tunnels. Tunnels are the main form of transportation for colonists, but they also serve the purpose of transferring power and water. Handy, no? It means you’ll save a ton of time, but you’ll also end up with a large colony sooner than you think which means you’re going to need more of everything.
The key to everything in Aven Colony is Nanites. These valuable minerals are harvested from the planet and used for just about everything. But you need to watch out: The bigger your colony, the bigger your needs become, not to mention the risks of catastrophe. Immigration brings new colonists, but that could lead to an increase in crime, disease, or even a food shortage. It’s important to keep an eye on every situation, lest you leave it too long and watch your colony fall from grace.
Sometimes there’s not a lot you can do when disaster strikes. Farms struggling over the biting winter? No worries, we’ve got loads of food stocked up. Crime on the rise? Sound, we’ll just deploy more cop-drones. Meteor showers raining fiery hell on your lovely little colony? Take a screenshot and remember it fondly, because there’s precisely shit all you can do when nature wants to throw a tantrum. Most of the time you’ll get lucky and just have to work on rebuilding what was lost, but other times it can be so catastrophic that you’ll want to give up and start over. If that’s the case, I’d recommend getting stuck into Aven Colony’s sandbox mode.
While the campaign isn’t anything to write home about, it’s at least a good place to learn the ins-and-outs of the game. You’ll get your hand held along the way with a few tutorials, and then you’re free to experiment. Personally, I found myself having more of a lark in the sandbox mode. There’s no real challenge here and it’s more for one’s own fun. No goals to meet, no deadlines, and no risk of cocking it up and having to start again. However, it’s not all rosy in Chris’ Colony. For one, the performance of the game leaves a lot to be desired. It’s all good when you’ve got yourself a small colony that’s still in its infancy, but once the population explodes and you’re reaching further afield and building more and more structures, the game does suffer from some slow-downs – even straight-up freezes sometimes. It’s not a killer, but it’s definitely a pain in the arse.
Aside from the questionable performance issues, Aven Colony is still a rather nice looking game, all things considered. We don’t go into these sims to gawp at magical graphics – we go in for the numbers and stats, because we’re nerds and we love that stuff.
Aven Colony PS4 Review
Overall - Good - 6.9/10
Aven Colony bravely attempts to bring a PC-style sim to consoles and, for the most part, it succeeds. Controls and user-interface can make or break such a game, but while the controls are on-point, the performance isn’t. The campaign isn’t all that interesting from a story stand-point, and you’ll need to up the difficulty to get a challenge out of it, but if you’re a fan of city building sims then you’ll find something to enjoy here.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a digital copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Reviewed using PS4 Slim.