Aven Colony is one of a type of game I’ve dealt with a few times in the last year. It’s a situation where something was almost certainly developed for the PC first, but was given the port to consoles for the sake of the pure, golden ichor we in the biz call “accessibility.” Often, they’re not great. Last year’s console port of Kerbal Space Program was borderline unplayable; trust me, I reviewed it. There’s a reason the Civilization games that come out on PC don’t get direct ports. These things are hard to translate. From what I’ve played of Aven Colony at this, point, a few weeks from launch, it seems like we might have something at least a mote or two above the rest.
Aven Prime is a pretty nice planet. You’ve got your grasses, your trees, your geothermal vents of hot air you can use to power that bar and grill you want to buy to keep your citizens happy. Y’know; the usual. I spent my preview time with Aven Colony building a civilization in the first of the game’s many biomes and scenarios, with quite a few prompts pretty immediately thrown my way. The prompts came, and then missions, and then more missions. In fact, almost everything I did throughout my time with Aven Colony was tied to missions.
The colonies on the planet of Aven Prime consist of buildings connected by tube-paths, forming bubbled roadways. There was a very distinct path from the outset, which made sense. Early missions carried the general spirit of “look, you shit, you don’t have this thing. You need this thing to have water/food/whatever in your colony so people won’t die.” Simple enough. I built colonist housing, found places in the terrain that would make good farms, and even found just the right spot to do some geothermal power mining. I built production sites for the little nanobots that I commanded to zip around and build what I wanted them to build. Eventually I built a trade hub, and began receiving missions from off-world humans who wanted me to grow a certain amount of a certain crop to trade with them. Oftentimes, these basic crops growing in surplus were traded for more complex stuff like soda, which I couldn’t yet manufacture and which was well-coveted by my colonists.
Aven Colony tosses a lot of assets at you, with a lot of overlays to plan them through. When I decided to build a new farm, for example, I was given a whole gridmap of soil quality across my surrounding areas. I could toggle it to show me optimal soil for different crop types, including everything from corn to alien plants used in bioengineering. There’s overlays for power distribution, water and air quality, and basically anything else you can think of. It’s a good way of manifesting detail per request, and I found it fairly easy to speak the game’s language.
On that note, probably my favorite thing about the time I spent with Aven Colony is the surprisingly decent job the game does being on console. It’s still a game with a complicated-enough interface to make me pine for a mouse and keyboard, but less so than could have been the case. Menus are well-organized, and the game doesn’t try to cram too much info onto the screen all at once. I can recline in my chair and play this on a TV, and not feel like I’m playing a stretched-out version of something designed for me to enjoy while hunched over my computer.
My biggest concern with Aven Colony was that I would find myself bored, waiting for a building to get built or a bar to fill up. I walk away from this beta preview fairly well-assured that the game’s continuous mission loop, while sometimes more dense than needed, does more to help the game than hurt it.
Aven Colony comes out on July 25, on PC, Xbox One, and Playstation 4.