Publisher: Auroch Digital
Developer: Auroch Digital, CodeByFire
Release date: 4th May 2021
Age Rating: PEGI 3
Size : 721 MB
Reviewed on: Xbox Series X
Screenshots: Xbox Series X
The Colonists first appeared on Steam in October 2018 and while it’s not a game I’d heard of prior to the Xbox announcement, it’s built up a pretty good reputation as a relaxed colony management sim, with over 600 reviews on Steam with a “Very Positive” rating.
With home consoles now a more than valid way of experiencing games like Cities Skylines and Mars Horizons let’s take a closer look at The Colonists.
Computers are fantastic machines, I’m pretty certain you’re using one right now even if it’s crammed inside a mobile phone, but have you ever wondered what happens when Artificial intelligence gets too clever.
Well, the answer isn’t a Terminator-style narrative, instead, they blast off into space to create their own colony, 3D printing new robots to establish life beyond the stars.
When you first start to play the Colonists, the home base mothership comes to land and you are greeted with a simple tutorial that explains the basic buildings you’ll need to establish your colony and how they link together
You start off simple, building a well for the food resource, and then a residential building which requires food to operate but creates energy, this energy is then used for a range of other buildings such as a lumberjack yard which will send a robot out to chop down trees and create the wood resource, which can then be used to build more buildings, such as a mine.
Mines need to be placed more specifically, but the stone you’ll initially obtain is an important stepping stone to the more advanced buildings.
These early steps are all explained really well and before you know it, you’ll see your colony starting to take shape.
You’ll need to link all of your buildings by roads and paths, and these follow a simple checkpoint system, each section of road must be between 4 and 6 spaces in length and a checkpoint will be placed either side, new roads can be built from any checkpoint and each area will be patrolled by a robot who will help to carry resources between its two checkpoints.
This system adds the main technical strategy to the game as all resources are moved throughout the map using this method, placing a lumberjack yard on the opposite side of the map to the residential buildings will mean it’s mostly idle until the energy is shipped over to activate the wood cutting robot.
Likewise, many new buildings will require wood, so you’ll probably want to keep the Lumberjack central, then you have the problem of also making sure it’s close to the trees required to produce wood.
All good things must come to an end and sure enough, you’ll find nearby trees and collection of stone start to decline, trees are simpler to resolve as you can make a Forestry that sends a bot out to plant new trees which will mature after a set period of time, ready for the lumberjack to chop down, Stone isn’t quite as easy as minerals found above land eventually deplete, but on every map, you’ll eventually come across an underground stone deposit, rather than the basic surface mine, these require a shaft mine, which needs to be placed precisely on the entrance, but will provide unlimited resources.
By this point, you’ll need to build a workshop to start unlocking a wide range of extra buildings through research.
Research is split into 6 groups, Construction, Mining, Agriculture, Transporation, Military and finally Science & Industry, with each split into three sections, the first are available with the standard workshop but you’ll need to upgrade to level 2 and 3 for the rest.
Upgrading buildings to a higher levels have a higher resource cost, but produce more of their own resources, or in many cases a unique resource, such as residential buildings creating L2 and L3 energy which are required for powering many of these more advanced buildings.
As complicated as I’ve made everything sound so far, it’s honestly nothing to worry about as it’s explained far easier in-game and soon becomes second nature, you can also hit down on the D-pad at any time to view your resources in the bottom left panel, which also clearly explains what resources are required as well as a positive or negative number to show if the product is in demand or surplus.
The overall presentation continues to be a strong point, especially graphically.
Every Robot has a name, it might just be carrying a resource between point A and point B, but Carrybot Lorena was a real workhorse for me, tirelessly patrolling her area right next to some residential buildings, I don’t think she was ever idle, and as my colony started to grow, even with dozens, potentially hundreds of Robot’s each had their own name which made it all feel more personal.
Depending on their purpose each class of Robot also looks distinctly different, Carrybots look like small logistical robots, Farmbot looks like a Combine harvester and Lumberbot has the bulk to carry those logs from the forest to his yard.
Combined with the personality, clear, bright colours and well animated robots throughout, there’s little to complain about. The entire game ran smoothly at all times on the Xbox Series X, even with the map pretty much packed with every building I could find.
I would have liked to see a little customisation, maybe even a custom logo applied to your home base, or your bots to make one game feel different to the next, but the only custom option you have is the main colour when playing outside of Campaign mode.
The audio is pretty good, however, the fairly repetitive music doesn’t really stand out, so more often than not you’re listening to the robot’s working. While clear and well made, these don’t have much variation, but it’s quite a peaceful experience which I found perfect for playing late at night.
You’ll easily pass hours in Sandbox mode building a well-oiled machine of a colony, but the bulk of the gameplay is within the Campaign and challenges.
There are 13 levels in total, starting with two more basic missions before splitting between 5 levels which include combat and 6 that don’t. This means you can avoid having to worry about other colonies and still get a large slice of the game or start exploring competitive games against AI colonies.
In total there are dozens of hours of gameplay, and while there are only 4 challenges, each with an expert, champion and legendary rating, these add some extra difficulty as you try to perform certain tasks.
Overall The Colonists proved a perfect little management sim that suits console gaming perfectly, once you know what you’re doing there’s a simple pick up and play feeling as you can easily build a basic colony in a matter of minutes, but fine-tuning, expanding and getting the most from your robot friends will keep you occupied for hours and hours.
Some might complain that it starts to feel a little repetitive once you’ve figured out the mechanics and where best to place specific buildings in relation to others, but the sandbox mode offers plenty of chance to fine-tune your settings for a refreshing challenge anytime you want.
At £19.99, it’s cheaper than many popular city/colony management games and at under 1gb it’s not going to take up much space either. I found The colonists more entertaining and fun than many similar titles I could mention so It’s surprising the game hasn’t received more of a fanfare over on Steam, but I’m confident it’ll be highly apprecaited on the Xbox and fans of Colony management games will deffinitely want to check out The Colonists.