Not every title out there has a benefit of featuring a concise and coherent story, in order to appeal to a wider consumer base. And titles such as these, have to rely on other features in order to ensure that any and all potential customers will find them to be engaging, and captivating. Turn based strategy games such as the Civilization Series, rely on historical figures and periods in order to keep one interested in their content, whereas city building sims such as the Tropico franchise refer to vague concepts rather than specific figureheads.
Every single one of the Tropico games, revolves around the concept of dictatorship over a nondescript, South American Banana Republic, of which one has the complete control of. And the appeal of the series stems from the fact that whoever plays it, gets to be his/her own version of Fidel Castro, or Hugo Chavez. And ultimately, one is not playing the title for its city building features, but for the story, which unravels itself in front of one’s very eyes. And it is not captivating because it is surreal, but because it is the exact opposite.
The appeal of series such as Tropico cannot be denied, as it is a great example of how titles with no core narrative should be crafted. But while many have acknowledged that fact with the release of the original, many, including the developers of the recently released Aven Colony haven’t – and such fact is apparent from the start all the way until the very end.
Unlike Tropico, Aven Colony is a futuristic, Sci-fi city-building sim, which is all about building earth-like colonies on alien planets. And while the core concept of the title may seem interesting at first, it is ultimately title’s largest downside, as it disallows one from assimilating within the world which the developers have crafted. And that’s a real shame, because Aven Colony is clearly a meticulously built experience, which has clearly consumed a tremendous amount of time and money.
Aven Colony is as sci-fi as it gets. The world, the buildings, and even the people, seem foreign and out-of-time. Farms, sky-scrapers, and storage facilities all resemble Star Trek’esque fortifications, whereas all the inhabitants feel, and look more like droids rather than actual human beings. And once one steps out of the early in-game tutorial, and dives into the deep water of the sand-box mode, or the campaign, he/she will come to a realisation that the world – or rather worlds – of Aven Colony are ultimately soulless, and are not really worth caring about.
Within the numerous hours which I’ve spent with the title, I found myself constantly drifting away. Whether I was checking Twitter, listening to music, or watching a film which was playing in the background, I always found myself doing everything but concentrating on the title. And that’s simply because Aven Colony is not as interesting as one would expect it to be. It’s not as chilling as Stanley Kubrick’s Space Odyssey 2001, neither is it as entertaining as George Lucas’ Star Wars; and that’s simply because Aven Colony is a drab, and monotone, cliché filled package, which does nothing to keep one interested, let alone engaged.
It’s a real shame that the world of Aven Colony is in such state, because it is a great title on the mechanical level. It does everything, that a city building sim should. It gives one a multitude of problems, and many more ways to solve them, and at all times, one has to constantly keep moving forward, while ensuring the perfect balance is maintained. Whether one is fulfilling trade contracts, or researching new alien technologies, he/she has to be looking out for the inhabitants at all times. They all have to be well nourished and happy in order to ensure that the city is working in perfect harmony. But as it was stated earlier, there’s nothing to keep one doing so for any prolonged period of time, and that’s because one will stop caring about the people minutes from starting a game.
Aven Colony does so many things well, that one will ultimately look at with pity rather than disgust. As it is saddening that a title as mechanically accomplished as this, has been packed within such an incredibly boring setting. Aven Colony feels like one of the old Fiat 126’s with a 1100cc engine – it is surely fast and impressive, but ultimately no one would really want to drive it on every day basis, simply because it is incredibly dull on the outside.
Ultimately Aven Colony is a title which tries its best at establishing itself as one of the top city building sims on the market. And while it does a lot of things correctly, it is simply not enough to compete with the previously mentioned Tropico series, or City Skylines, which has also launched recently on console. It’s a solid simulator, but nothing more than that. It is as entertaining as and thrilling, as all the German Forklift or Farming Simulators. And just like those, it will surely find its audience, but one which will be as insignificant as its position on the market.
I walked away from Aven Colony both satisfied and disappointed. I was satisfied with the fact that titles such as this are finally becoming a norm on consoles, after years of widespread absence; but at the same time, I was also disappointed as despite of its mechanical greatness, I simply couldn’t continue playing it, as boredom would creep-in within an instant. And in combination with a surprisingly unstable framerate, and a selection of low-quality textures, it was enough to put me off. And if not for the fact that I had to stick with it in order to write a review, I would have probably stopped playing it for good after the first hour.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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