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Which Console Did You Buy/Receive Over The Holidays?

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Game Profile
Xbox One
Mothership Entertainment
Mothership Entertainment
GENRE: Simulation
July 25, 2017
 Written by Stephen Varner  on July 25, 2017

Reviews: Aven Colony has an addictive play loop that can be a lot of fun and hopefully we’ll see some patches to iron out some performance issues.


Mothership Entertainment's debut of Aven Colony provides a competent and addictive city builder that isn't without pitfalls but mostly makes up for them with it's unique setting, easy to understand UI design and a built in narrative thread that gives more flavor than what I'd expect out of a game that's mostly about resource management.

Perhaps the game's greatest strength is in it's ability to provide players that aren't necessarily familiar with the city builder genre an on-ramp that never really feels overwhelming. The campaign missions introduce new concepts gradually before challenging you to use that knowledge in conjunction with everything else you've learned so far. With so many interlocking, yet simple to understand pieces to play with it's easy to lose hours planning out and growing your colony. Everything you do and everything you build affects your population and so every structure you lay down is a tactical decision in how you intend to expand. The UI generally does a good job of letting you know when you've made a mistake and provide the tools you need to see what you can do to fix it. A crisis will slow the game speed and alert you to what's happening. A quick push of a button will give you information on the alert and a quick set of options that will direct you to where the issue is and/or relevant map overlays to further identify what you can do to correct course. In late game building when your colony is spread or clustered in a way that makes it difficult to find the structures you need it's extremely helpful that the game points out the things you need to correct and where you can find them. My only caveat here is that in cases where I wanted to locate all of a specific building type there's no real way to filter or highlight things by function. This made finding things I no longer needed or that I needed to change a bit of a hassle to find. If I wanted to reduce the amount of water my colony was pumping I'd have to go find them within all the other buildings. When some of some of the smaller structures can look kind of similar that can be a bit of a hassle. Luckily most structures have enough of a unique visual profile this wasn't often a problem.

Crisis response and management has often been a staple in this type of game and on that front Aven Colony is kind of a mixed bag. While the odd mishap would derail my plans from time to time most of them are pretty easily mitigated after winning your first referendum. Once you have an understanding of what kinds of problems you stand to face it's pretty easy to build the needed contingencies into your plans around expansion because they don't generally change that much from mission to mission. The last few missions do change this up enough in regards to giving you a sort of pressure objective that might make you rethink how you've been building up to that point. My favorite tasked me with expanding my colony to support 1000 people within a limited number of planetary cycles. It completely changed how I would have otherwise gone about building and added a needed wrinkle of urgency to a formula that might have started getting stale at that point.

Largely my issues with the game stem from its overall performance on console. A game running at 8x speed can really start to chug on the Xbox One once your colony consists of over a hundred structures. As the frames take a nosedive so do the responsiveness of the controls and when I was trying to build or change anything while speeding along the construction or time requirements of something else the radial menus tend to not respond with the sort of snappy immediacy that I would have liked. At normal speed there was still a noticeable choppiness to scanning around a colony that is in the latter stages of being built.


I've lost a number of afternoons (and evenings) to Aven Colony's addictive loop of starting, expanding and maintaining settlements but once I was finished with the campaign there wasn't much else to draw me back in unless I just wanted to up the difficulty. There are certainly some achievements in there with some interesting challenges but the most interesting ones among them are locked away as "secret" which is a shame because they challenged me to make some hard choices to extend out the life of a colony that I would have otherwise considered finished. There's no other in game reward for meeting these requirements other than the achievement but I found some of them worth chasing as an excuse to just extend my play time. There is a sandbox mode if you want to just have a no pressure building session but when the performance issues pop up in a much larger colony it can take some of beauty away from building just for the sake of putting together an elaborate metropolis. It's not without merit but it would have been nice to see a sort of challenge list that tasks you with building with very specific goals in mind.

Aven Colony is a city sim that does a good job of balancing concepts that are easy to understand without sacrificing the depth that makes it an addictive experience of balancing all the things it takes to grow a colony effectively and keep your colonists happy in the process. Its technical issues are a disappointing smudge on a game that is otherwise easy to get lost in for dozens of hours.

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