City building games on console is hard. The most obvious hurdle is the controls. There have been some solid attempts, but for the most part these games seem to thrive better on PC. Lately there has been an uprising of attempts to bring the genre back to controllers. Mothership Entertainment’s Aven Colony just so happens to be one of them. This alien city builder brings some unique flavor to the genre, while also delivering a control scheme that works well on console. The end result is an experience console players are certainly not accustomed to.
Aven Colony jumps right in. The opening tutorial is extensive. I recommend everyone go through it. It breaks down every facet of the game. This includes the voting system, economy, and so much more. It showcases every scenario players will face, and believe me there are plenty.
Platforms: XB1 (reviewed), PS4, PC
Price I’d Pay: $29.99
As with most games of this type, players start off with a minimal area and just a few buildings. The idea is to grow and expand that. Sections are cobbled together with the same ideas as other in the genre. Tubes serve as roads, and power is distributed using various types of energy. Everything has a cause and effect. Using cleaner power requires more structures and citizens are not happy when they don’t have power. The reverse is also true when using dirtier power. It feels like Sim City aliens.
One of the coolest aspects of Aven Colony is the political system. Very similar to the Tropico series, inhabitants of my colony will have approval ratings for how I was managing the area. At a set time a vote will commence to decide if they wanted me out of office. I rarely lost as long as I kept the happiness meter high, but it was neat all the same. There is a deep meta buried in this game for those that really want to dig into it.
The longer my city went on, the more I had to expand. Areas require currency. Farms are a big part of the economy. Residents need hospitals, law enforcement, and of course entertainment. Each structure can also be micromanaged for price and coverage. Disasters also play a role. Building lightning towers to absorb the alien weather is a must. These are all things that have to be attended to, but the game does a superb job of explaining each and every outcome.
Controls are always the biggest barrier in a game like this. Using a controller to micromanage so much can be a daunting task. The developers have done an amazing job of making things work. When something major happens it can be accessed by holding down a button. There are heat maps to showcase where problem areas are. Navigating menus is simple and intuitive. There is also a speed meter that lets players move actions at their own pace. It feels like everything is accounted for and it works. Never once did I have issue finding what I needed or getting done what had to be done. That is the sign of a solid control scheme.
The game performs well, but at a cost. The resolution fluctuates as more and more structures are added. This drops the game down to a lower fidelity that can, at times, be pretty jarring. The frame rate keeps up though making the trade off worth it. I will be interested to see if a patch arrives after the Xbox One X launches to keep the resolution at higher levels. Still, it is a solid-looking game.
Aven Colony is a unique take on the genre. It is also one that works surprisingly well on consoles. For those with the itch to build some cities and don’t mind the alien landscape I definitely recommend it.