If you asked me what is my favorite sub-genre is when it comes to video games, I would tell you that I’m obsessed with management, colony sims, and city builders. I love creating cities and tweaking things to make a city, or something along those lines run at high efficiency as well as be something spectacular to behold. There is something very rewarding to me about getting a project at its very beginning to turn it into something beyond your wildest dreams. I don’t always find games like this in the genres I review and discuss for this blog. There has been more available in the last 5+ years but its certainly limited, even the sub-genre itself is still very niche.
Then I found Aven Colony.
What is the Game About and how does it Work?
Aven Colony is a colony/city builder set on a distant planet called Aven Prime set 500 years in the future. You’re in charge of building the colony as the human race decided to begin settling on a distant, alien planet. Your task is to keep resources flowing, maintain a high level of happiness and moral with your people, explore the vast landscape of the new world, maintain trade routes, and have all buildings functioning with enough water, electricity, food, etc. Finally, as you might expect with unfamiliar terrain and a sort of frontier environment, you had to cope with violent storms, the bitter winter months, and unforeseen issues with alien creatures that may try to destroy your base.
The game offers several modes of play including the campaign itself which provides a tutorial. A sandbox mode to build the colony how you want to from scratch, and lastly challenge modes where resources can be limited and other obstacles can occur to hinder your progress.
There is an impressive amount of maps available to players, 14 to be exact, all with unique environments and its own set of challenges including what crops can be grown (some biomes can’t handle earth grown plants at all) and alien hazards such as giant, space worms.
You start the game in any of the modes you wish and you’re given the option of a perk. These perks can slightly improve one aspect of your colony. For example, the Farmer perk allows your farming buildings to be 6% more productive and cost less nanites (or currency) then its default settings. After you pick one, the game will start with a few pre-made buildings and drones to start your colony.
If you remember games like SimCity 2013, Aven uses a similar system of transporting power and resources where the enclosed roads connect everything. This is a nice feature as it means your colony is not bogged down by having to build power lines or underground water pipes or any additional infrastructure just to get the power working. They also serve as pathways where colonialists can breath filtered air and walk safely throughout the city.
You generally have to start by creating mining drills, farms, a nanite processor (the currency basically), water pumps, air filtration, electric power with solar or geothermal energy, and eventually homes and services to keep your colonists happy. As you increase the size of your colony, you can build more advanced buildings and upgrade current ones. These include factories to produce goods for trading purposes and decorative parks to make your home much more pleasant and increase the moral of your colonists.
Drones build your colony up and have a range limit as shown when you click on their facility and overtime you have to add more drone facilities in order to expand your base as they also can repair and build the pathways necessary for expansion.
This is one of those games where every building has an effect radius so you do have to plan your city accordingly so drones can build and repair parts of the city as well as your colonists being within easy access to whatever they need. This also plays a role in the policing drones, defense against alien creatures and storm protection where anything outside of these will suffer damage or decrease moral if crime gets too high.
The core of the game is to keep building up your colony and make sure everything is running perfectly as well as building a robust trade system to male more money. This will all lead to you being reelected as governor of the colony time and time again. If your city kicks you out or you fail a major objective in the challenge maps you lose the game.
Would I recommend it?
I would recommend it. Its fun and a relaxing city building with great music, wonderfully colorful visuals and and plays well (no bugs during my playthrough). I also have to commend that its a solid city builder as it covers all the important aspects (the resource production line and power/water systems) and also doesn’t make it difficult to make your city functional. The production line for base goods is easy to implement thanks to the tunnel system. The entire experience for me was that its a relaxing city building and light-ish colony management game.
However, I do have some flaws I would like to point out in terms of gameplay, features, and progression.
The first issue is there is no “Wow” moment in the game. In most city builders, you build up your city or civilization up into a grand monument, almost like a something the world has never seen before. One thing that people within the genre like to do is make their city feel like its their own. Their own creation based on designs they feel work best or just an experiment to see if their idea works at all.
In Aven Colony that never really happens. You do have some interesting builds here and there but nothing to make the colony feel unique or truly dynamic. Each colony feels the same every time you start a new one and there is very little you can do to change your strategy because there is none. I really wish they added an option for a special building like a mega trade hub or the ability to make districts (shopping, research/medical, etc.). It makes the city building aspect feel much more shallow after you play the game for a while.
Two, you do the same thing over and over again which gets old fast. When it comes to any city builder you start with the basics and build a production line of resources. The basics for survival such as water, food, building materials, etc. and then you move on from there. Other games have done various things within the progression to keep the gameplay interesting. For example, in the game Frostpunk by 11 but Studios, the survival aspect is extreme, a lot of things can kill your citizens as well as resources being limited not to mention the high chance of illness thanks to the extreme cold within the game. You never get that kind of urgency with Aven Colony of survival or real fear that your colonists can die. Another way a city builder made the progression more interesting was by expanding the needs of the citizens as time goes on.
In a game called CivCity: Rome (its a bit old from 2006) the city has to expand in order to gain more tax revenue to you have to attract wealthier individuals but those people require an intense amount of services like exotic food markets, servants they can get to do their grocery shopping for, enough temples to pray too, and entertainment like taverns and arenas. This means more complex productions lines and intense neighborhood and district management.
Nothing in Aven Colony seems to change as you move on. The colonists stay the same and the threats are not that bad once you have a strong enough defense system. When you have turrets lining the city and the lightening tower to protect your buildings from lighting storms, you’rte pretty much good to go. Besides that there is nothing really to worry about and nothing to shake the game up a little.
Three, the game seems to hit a wall which links with the problem of doing the same thing over and over. I would build and build until all my production is in place and everyone is happy. Then I ask myself, what do I do now. You get missions yes but they are pretty straight forward, complete a trade mission or shipping enough fruit to get more of whatever material they are giving you or more nanites. Or build a laboratory to make more goods for trade or to make your people happy. You basically keep grouping the city so there is enough basics to keep the flowing number of people happy but there is no sudden events or major plot points to keep you invested. For me, it just felt too repetitive in city builds you have the regular chores yes but there was always something to make me come back. The problem with Aven Colony is that every game starts and ends the same pretty much so it becomes more of a chore to play after playing for a certain amount of time and maps.
Finally, it feels a little bare in terms of depth of features and the simulation aspects. When I think of a colony sims with people living on a distant planet, I think of things like researching alien lifeforms, terraforming, politics within the colony itself, preventing illness that can develop by living on a strange planet and so on.
I am going to draw another comparison here with a game in an almost completed different genre, but Sid Meier’s Civilizations Beyond Earth still has some key things I love in any alien-planet/off world colonization sim. As you play that game, your choices influence how your colonists change and adapt to the world. Do you decide to embrace alien genetics to become one with the planet so you can breath the air and live among the new species or are you a hard line purist fighting against the planet to terraform it into a familiar human setting and habitat? It adds to the flavor of your own story within the game as you are playing as their colonist governor.
The police drones is another example of how shallow the features are. Apparently there is a crime system but its almost nonexistent. They give you police drones but they don’t really do anything and you never see any crime in your colony plus there are no random events. No smuggling rings or organized crime within your city ever occurred. So why even have a crime system at all if you don’t do much with it?
I think if they made the voting system for staying as the leader a bit more robust by adding in more challenging opponents or sabotage maybe that could have also made the game feel more dynamic. Again nothing truly felt fleshed out or differentiates itself to make Aven Colony feel unique or give its its own flare when comparing it to other city builders or even alien-themed civilization/colony games.
Again it needs more to make the feel like your running a city where anything can happen on a distant, strange planet. Not to mention the internal issues that can cause.
More about the Developers and Background of the Game
Mothership Entertainment is a team of four developers based in Austin, Texas. Who by their website have worked on numerous titles including Fable 2, Star Wars: the Old Republic, and MechWarriors 4: Vengeance.
These people includes the founder of the company Paul Tozour, Russell Chamier, Niel Griffiths, and Sasha Nodia.
Niel Griffiths from what I was able to find, worked on Fable 2 as a programmer including another game called Delta Force: Black Hawk Down in 2005 as well as several other smaller titles. The last game he was credited for was Aven Colony. After Aven there is no other information is out there, I tried looking up a website or a LinkedIn profile but I wasn’t able to find anything else.
Sasha Nodia has a little more to go on. He is an environmental artist and I found his ArtStation bio where he shows how he worked on the environments and such. His designed are really well made and even today hold up very well with his landscapes he created within Aven Colony.
According to his bio, he is now working at Retro Studios which is also located in Texas and is actually a subsidiary of Nintendo. Their current project from what I can find is Metroid Prime 4 for the Nintendo Switch that has no release date yet. I can not determine conclusiveness if he is in fact working on that project but my assumption is that its very possible Sasha is, if he’s still at the studio and from what I found the company has no other games but Metroid Prime 4 in the works that we know of. Unless they have an unannounced game in the pipeline.
Finally we have Paul Tozuar the founder of the Mothership entertainment. His bio is by far the most extensive of the group. He has been in the industry for over a decade and was involved in many projects such as Metroid Prime 2 and Thief: Deadly Shadows
The original announcement of Aven Colony occurred in August 2016 and then appeared on itch.io as a beta for people to try a month later. In fact this was the first place I saw the game back in September 2016. Before then, according to Tozuar, the game was kept under wraps for about three years as the small team worked on the project.
On January 30th 2017, the company published an update that their partnered with Team17 in order to publish the game. The game took almost three years to complete and the full version was released on July 25th 2017.
What is the future of Avon Colony?
There were a few things that happened after the release of the game.
On August 22nd 2017, they released their first and only DLC, Cerulean Vale. This added an additional sandbox map called the Cerulean Vale, hence the DLC title. The biome was a dried up seabed that is covered in blue crystals so most crops cannot grow on it accept those native to the alien planet. Its an interesting map and its a pretty inexpensive for $2.99 USD but there was some complaints about charging an extra 3 dollars for basically another map and that’s its.
They also did release their soundtrack for the game for download which honestly is very well done. Rightfully so as the music was composed by Alexander Brandon. He has worked on dozens of games over the years in providing music and other audio related to support. These games including Deus Ex and The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim. I think the music is actually fantastic. It’s ideal ambient music for a semi-relaxing, city builder set in a science fiction setting. Its a good tone setter and if your into music like that. I recommend buying the soundtrack if it fits your musical tastes.
The last major content update was on May 31st 2018 where the developers added their last new map, the Crystal Forest, as well as other updates to the UI and a few other fixes.
There have been no further updates to the game. I found no information of a sequel, remake or remastering.
In one interview by user DJPAULTJED on KeenGamer.com in 2016, the developers spoke about a sequel:
“Q: Should people out there expect another game like Aven Colony? Mothership Entertainment: We’d love to grow Aven Colony into a long-running franchise. We’ll almost certainly do expansions and DLC at some point, and if the game does well, we absolutely expect there will be an Aven Colony 2.” (Aven Colony: Developer Interview, DJPAULTJED, October 2016, https://www.keengamer.com/article/14656_aven-colony-developer-interview)
Based on this statement, there is a possibility that a sequel is in the works but no news on such a project as of yet or like with the first game, they could be keeping hidden from media until they are ready to beta test again. Only time will tell.
Aven Colony was an interesting endeavor by a group of talented individuals.
According to SteamSpy (an online too dedicated to tracking the player base and other data related to games available on steam), the game sold somewhere between 50,000 to 100,000 copies (so making around, at max, around $3 million if each copy sold was at $29.99 per its retail price and before the fee Steam takes which is somewhere around 5% when I looked it up). As of today around 30-40 players currently playing the game on average. For an indie game that’s pretty good so the game was moderately successful in its heyday. It still has fans but its not like a major cult game or anything along those lines.
Aven Colony fits well into the niche genre of city builders and is a fairly relaxing and enjoyable experience. I do have some issues with it as yes it does hit a brick wall with the progression as everything seems to stop improving after a certain point. Also I think the game could have done with a few more features and more content.
The game has great potential for a sequel I believe and if they added more features the next time around I can see it catching on even more. I would be 100% on board with playing the next iteration if they decide to start or are currently working on the next game.
The game now its in current state is in the mixed bag category for me personally because of the progression flaws but I can see why a lot of people would like this game. Go check it out on steam or itch.io. The game still costs around $29.99 USD. I would say wait for a sale and give it a try.