The city building genre, or city sim if you would prefer, has been on something of a revival. After a good few years in the wilderness, the re-emergence, and subsequent success of Sim City a few years back has ensured a steady trickle of games from the same genre have emerged to compete for the attention of gamers. Cities Skylines is quite possibly the most well known console release of recent times, giving gamers the chance to build the city of their dreams.
But if the basic Earth based scenarios it brings aren’t enough to take your fancy, or test your planning skills, there is now a much more exciting proposition… heading off to the stars to help both build, and establish, a colony on a planet found in the furthest reaches of space.
Aven Prime is an alien planet full of mystery. It is up to you to harness that mystery so you can build and expand small preset colonies into sprawling cities, in order to keep the citizens happy, well fed and above all else, safe. Oh, and you’ll have to prove your worth as a colony planner and space explorer to your elders at the same time.
With deserts, tundras, jungles and more all present across different areas of Aven Prime, you’ll need to utilise and protect your infrastructures from the harsh, dangerous realities that come from being light years from Earth.
Days, weeks, months and years have been replaced by Sols, and it is these with which you’ll need to work with in order for your success to be proven. For whilst Aven Prime is, well, primed, with fertile land, geothermal vents, plenty of water and enough opportunity for you to build your dream space base, as each Sol comes to an end, the harsh winter weather rolls in, stopping much of your good intentions in their tracks.
You’ll see your power stations – whether they be solar, wind or geothermal – halving in capacity, your farms full of vital food sources freezing over and even your greenhouses struggling to create any food substances worthy of your citizens’ time.
The winter also brings lightning storms, shard showers and more, destroying your precious structures should you not have bothered to take precautions. But even when the coldest of winters has passed, you’ll need to ensure your new found home is safe from other hazards that Aven Prime brings – most notably deadly plague spores and fungal diseases which infect your people and the giant sandworms which inhabit the world!
It’s all well and good just slamming defensive structures every few yards in the hope that these will see off any hostility, but in order to build them, or indeed anything pleasurable, you’ll need drones and Nanites. The former of these can be created, but the latter needs to be made slowly, by harnessing the world which you find yourself in, with mines, mills, chemical plants and research facilities proving invaluable. The scope for research and creation is huge, with a massive number of projects just sitting and waiting for you to spend a little time and resources on.
But you’ll need to think about each and every placement of your structures, and every single action and reaction you make, as those Nanites – and the drones which you use for creation purposes – are a rare resource. You’ll seldom be able to push your colony expansion on willy nilly without thinking about the consequences, but thankfully, being able to speed up and slow down time as you see fit is an included option, never letting Aven Colony push you into periods of boredom.
In fact, there is always something to do in ensuring your citizens are happy; whether it be creating new tunnels so they can get from their homes to their jobs easier, cleaning up pollution by installing air vents or just scouring the landscape for prime farming spots.
New structures and activities open up at a brilliant rate, always putting you on the verge of new unlocks, teasing you to keep playing and to keep you going back even when you think you have had enough. Aven Colony really is one of those games which see the hours turn to days and the days to weeks, as you easily lose track of real world time, instead involving yourself in the new Sols. There is real pleasure to be had too, especially as you first open up new trade routes with orbiting ships, or when you send your worshippers off on long distance expeditions to the deepest darkest corners of space. It is only by spending time with Aven Colony in which you’ll really discover everything it has to throw at you.
I have to admit to being pretty wowed by what the world of Aven Prime delivers. Its very nature means that it won’t be for all – especially if you can’t think of anything worse than managing a city – but even though it’s a relatively simple process to see you creating an established colony full of diversity, it’ll take you much much longer to really reap the benefits of what you sow. Thankfully the campaign based side of the game walks you through things brilliantly, never confusing or pushing you beyond your capabilities and instead delivering just enough action and tense moments when they are needed. Of course, if you wish to go mad and really put your own stamp on things, even when the overall campaign objectives have been met, you can keep your colonisation going forever more – if only in the hope you’ll discover something magical from the depths of space.
Alternatively, should you feel that following objectives and missions is all you need in life, then claiming victory and moving on to the next scenario will ensure your planning of cities never gets old. But there is just as much fun available should you wish to keep your civilisation alive and kicking… especially if you wish to jump back in at a later date to mop up some achievements.
Aside from the lengthy campaign and the well defined story that comes with it, a full on Sandbox mode is also in place, opening up every one of the included maps from the get go. What you do in Sandbox is pretty much up to you, with no missions and objectives to worry about if you prefer, giving you free rein on how to best create your dream alien city. You’ll not need to worry too much about how many Nanites you have, or whether your locals are getting sick because you failed to keep the Creep Spores under control, but it’ll still be fun nevertheless, particularly if you ever feel restricted by the constant harassment from those who control you in the campaign.
Personally, I prefer structure and predefined objectives in order to get my kicks and that has meant much of my pleasure with Aven Colony has come from the joys of the Campaign. Obviously this may be different for others, but no matter what your preference, you’ll be sure of a great time ahead.
Further DLC is however an absolute must in order to really keep Aven Colony alive as the included content that is currently in place may only last a few weeks before completion. The early campaign levels are pretty quick affairs, and whilst the latter ones most definitely require much more time invested, once they are over, you’ll find little reason to drop back in – unless like I previously mentioned you fancy exploring and grabbing achievements.
I would also love to see some form of online cooperation being implemented, allowing friends to work together in order to create their ultimate colonies, or giving the chance to share their creations with others. Without it, Aven Prime is still great, and is still quite possibly the best city builder currently on the market, but a cooperative mode could well have pushed it to another level again.
But that’s not to say you shouldn’t be playing Aven Colony. You really, really should, particularly if you’re a city sim fan who is looking for something just a little different.
The problem we all no doubt have with city sims is that they can sometimes become a little well boring. That is never the case with Aven Colony. Not at least whilst you have the campaign to run through. You see, what Mothership Entertainment and Team17 have created is a delight to play and look at. From the most simplest of colonies to the largest sprawling metropolises, it’s a cinch to jump from building to building, utilizing the notification centre, multiple layers and tons of statistic screens in order to see exactly where you should be focusing your efforts. The controls are super tight – although occasionally zooming and the thumbstick controlled radial menu seem to get stuck for a second or two – the visuals for each and every structure you build are stunning, and the opportunity to delve even deeper, targeting individual citizens and their own needs is spot on. Sound-wise it more than delivers the goods too, with a good solid audio board helping things tick along.
There really isn’t much to dislike about the wonderful world of Aven Prime, so if you are in need of a new city sim, then there will quite possibly be nothing better than heading to Aven Colony for a brand new space travelling adventure… all as you prepare to build a new home for humanity!