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Review: Aven Colony (PlayStation 4)By ringlord71 At 07.03.2018 00:00

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Aven Colony features nine campaigns to play through, but don't be fooled as these are lengthy campaigns that get longer towards the back end of the campaign. Playing as an unseen Governor, the aim of each is generally to expand the colony that is being set up in a new locale on the planet of Aven Prime. The key to expansion is that of the nanites, which act as a currency of sorts, and need to be spent to build, upgrade, or repair the buildings. These can be generated upon building a Nano Processor, whereupon any iron that is mined will be turned into nanites.

Various assistants are introduced through the intercom system, as they pop-in during campaigns to fill in the context of the story and are the sole narrative drivers throughout. They then bring up a series of tasks, split into two types. There are the main mission tasks, which lead to the end of the stage and are vital in progressing and unlocking new locales; and then there are the optional missions, which are aimed at expanding the colony, and quickly devolve into farming new ingredients and then trading them off-planet for imported goods.

The story itself is quite weak, and the game struggles to keep its pace, especially as the campaigns get lengthier. However, the story is not the main focal point, and it rather exists just to establish a generic science-fiction context. Completing the objectives is meant to offer various sorts of rewards, with the most common being more nanites. However, various bugs can occur, such as not adding the rewarded nanites into the stockpile, which can be frustrating. There will be times when the coffers are quite low, and completing that mission was a means to an end, only to be left with the same quantity of bots upon accepting the mission complete message.

Apart from that inconsistency, there is a weird addiction with receiving pop-in messages with various alerts to the goings-on in the colony. Whether it's a warning about the dropping air quality and lack of oxygen from the colonists, or the alarmingly high crime rates that have besieged parts of the colony, there will always be notifications for something that needs immediate attention. It is not annoying, thankfully, and using these warnings as guides to prioritise what gets built or upgraded helps to establish the city. Overlays are visual indicators that further assist with what sections of the colony need focusing on, and different filters can be applied from crime rates, to oxygen levels.

Build fans and air purifiers to aid the colonists, while habitats and skyscrapers are residential properties that house the many colonists who will soon flesh out the workforce. Immigration centres need to be established early on in each campaign to begin generating new immigrants by ferrying a spaceship to and from the mother ship orbiting the planet. Establishing farms and greenhouses is important, as well, to grow plants and food, as well as inedible plants that can be used to create more advanced consumables for the populace.

What makes Aven Colony special is how intricate everything seems to be. Every decision made will always have a ripple effect, whether positive or negative, and learning how to balance the needs of the many for the greater good is a skill that takes a while to learn. While sometimes the game can get a bit overwhelming, for the most part everything is manageable thanks to an easy-to-follow tutorial that is broken into two parts. Mostly everything needed to play the game is within that tutorial, but it does leave some key components out to be discovered.

While the colonies are being established, hidden dangers are lurking just out of sight. At random moments during the city-building, various natural disasters, such as lightning strikes and shard storms, threaten to destroy buildings and tunnels. Plague spores can infect the denizens with their infectious disease, while creatures will latch themselves onto buildings with their tentacles. While combatting all these elements is straightforward, the spores can be bothersome due to not knowing how to prevent the issue. Building a hospital is the outlet to help rid the colony of the disease, but without creating the required medicine, the disease will remain. Again, it's frustrating, but enough trial and error will help to figure it out.

Create an exploration centre to establish a crew to survey the surrounding area and discover new things; and establish police drones to maintain order and stability, while initiating social policies and governing laws that can reach different results, surely upsetting the colonists. Toxic emissions can also cause pollution, so building thermal generators can stop them, while solar panels work wonders during the day in generating power for the city.

All this is happening while trying to keep the colony under a 300-building limit. As impressive as all of this sounds, though, building close to 300 buildings can cause the game to slow down, as the animations all struggle to play out. While these lags and bumps in frame-rate are distracting, the action is still playable in those sections. Luckily, though, these issues don't occur until well-past the 280-building mark or so.

The entire game is played within a series of menus, however, unlike some other versions of city-building titles, Aven Colony is basic in terms of what is on-screen. Everything is well explained and is there on the main dashboard for a reason. Generally, because they are vital, and fixing their issues are easy. If water per resident is down, build more water pumps. Increase storage capacity with storage buildings and build more farms to keep the food output high. Social policies are hidden, and notifications pop-in when there's a new mission, a completed mission, or an emergency within the colony.

Aside from the main campaign, the only other mode on offer is Sandbox mode, where any of the locales can be played in a free-style game. With no main missions, city-building missions can be toggled on or off prior to beginning the Sandbox, and then it's completely up to the discretion of the Governor. Referendums can be turned off, also, so that unhappy civilians get no say in terms of governance, and the colony can be built to the heart's desire. Turning off the spores and creeps further means that the focus can purely be on growth and expansion, without having to worry about defensive units.

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[i]Aven Colony[/i] is an addictive city-building game set on a planet called Aven Prime, with a science-fiction twist. Growing a small colony into a massively sprawling cityscape is a very fulfilling experience, with plenty of hazards and obstacles along the way. Whether dealing with the internal struggles of governing a wide population, or dealing with spores and creeps, there is always something that needs to be attended to. It is not without inconsistent bugs and slowdown issues, but ensuring the majority is kept happy is still possible to attain a re-election. It is the key to further living out the fantasy of growing human civilisation on a vastly unexplored and mysterious planet.

7

/10

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