When Aven Colony was launched by Mothership Entertainment, I did an early review of my first impressions of the game. Even at that stage, I knew the game was great and what I could expect from the rest of it. I gave myself more time to play the rest of the game, and can now present to you my final findings.
When I presented my initial review, I felt that there wasn't really a story as there were missions that help you progress through each stage towards completion towards the next stage. As I progressed through the game, the campaign narrative become much more interesting, and I would be highly critical if I continued to state there is no story. There are some events linked in each campaign that progressed through each stage, and this was very well thought out and written. The creativity taken has kept me intrigued. There is even a Leviathan ship that you can use on a map to send outside your base on special side missions to save people, discover new locations or investigate large dead worm corpses.
While I still maintain that the missions are aligned to the strategy elements of the game, which I will cover later, much kudos is given to the team for wanting me to finish stages as quickly as possible so I can find out what happens next.
Now that I have gotten used to the controls and what each button does, I can effortlessly glide through the menus and get things done quickly without having to pause the game. I've now learnt that you can access side menus to determine the happiness levels of all citizens and what exactly they are unhappy with. I feel this element was done in a much better fashion than any other city builder I have ever played, including the Tropico series. Meeting the citizens' demands is key to this game, but the menus make it so easy to determine what is wrong and what needs to be taken care of.
What I also rather enjoyed about the gameplay is the 'memory' of the game as it pertains to your last actions. If you went into a building and switched to the Repair tab and then clicked to repair it, when you select a new building the game assumes you want to do the same thing, and you are automatically sent to the Repair tab. Of course, if you have enough resources flowing in every hour, you can just set your Drone Policy to auto repair, but this 'memory' really comes in handy when things get tough and the weather destroys multiple buildings at once.
As a final word on Gameplay, one of the most helpful tools are the message notifications. If one of your building's maintenance levels has escaped your or your drone's notice, you will be informed that it is near destruction. If spores or aliens or toxic emissions are befalling your colony, you will be warned immediately so that you can take preventative measures if you have enough resources. The message pod is my best friend at times.
As the game progressed, I was just presented with a plethora of beauty. I congratulated these guys before, but the graphics team really did do a great job. Even the citizen happiness icons are pleasant to look at, and easily identifies where the rising concerns are. There were times when my colony became so huge that I struggled to select certain buildings hidden amongst others, but then I remembered I could turn the screen on its axis and change my view.
STRATEGY IS KEY
Since I pretty much covered just how replayable this game is in my previous review, I want to expound on just how important strategy is in this game. Yes, I know this is a strategy game, but I don't think you realize at what level this game is. The missions in campaign mode really help you survive, but I've had to leave the missions alone for some time to develop more resources before I could continue. If you go hurtling straight into missions in each campaign, you will soon realize you have inadequate resources or defences and will inevitably reach your doom. I was far in a campaign, following the missions carefully, but one sector was not adequately defended by turrets. Some spores moved in, infected my people and buildings, and no amount of hospitals or drones were enough to stop the spreading infection.
The sandbox mode is far more difficult. Missions are as simple as "Reach 100 population". How you get there is your problem. I've restarted sandbox stages so many times that I may as well invest in some kitty litter. There is always one element that I forget, and when I do remember it next time round, I've missed another one. You have to be the Ace in the game to get this just right, and even when you've spent days building your colony to the fullest, there is always something that will go wrong.
And that is in no way a rant of any sort. I am loving the challenge and will continue to keep playing sandbox until I get it right. Going back to the campaign stage for a certain location helps a lot, as it helps you work out in which order you need to do things. Each stage has different challenges and resource limitations and therefore affects how you handle the strategy. It isn't as easy as 1...2...3... BUILD! And that's why I love it.
There is immense joy in starting this game up everytime, and no amount of failure or defeat on my part is enough to put me off. I loved that you can go back to a previous campaign stage and continue building that colony. They are never forgotten, but the story had me so captivated that I was urged to continue as quickly as possible. I really doubt in my heartest of hearts that any city builder will surpass my joy and love for this game anytime in the near future. Mothership Entertainment, you guys are legendary and I cannot wait to see what you develop next.
Aven Colony is still by far the best city builder and sci fi game I have ever played.