The Colonists is a fun and relaxing city builder with surprisingly robust gameplay.
Artificial intelligence is a vast digital frontier. If there were a sentient race of self-replicating machines then what kinds of scrutiny would they face? Is mankind capable of seeing an inorganic intelligence as its peer, or are we doomed to carry our inhibitions into the future of space and technology? After years of travel amongst the stars, one race of intelligent robots has reached a new place to call home with hopes of starting a new life. The Colonists is a city building simulator featuring an adorable race of printable AI robots.
After the discovery of a new habitable environment they begin to colonize with dreams of building their own civilization that could mirror humanity on earth. They will have to manage resources like food, water, fuel, and various minerals based on the technological innovations of their budding society. With a charming race of robots, serene soundtrack, and intelligent atmosphere to enjoy once the colony ship drops the fun starts fast.
Introduction to playing The Colonists features two stages that break down the basics of controls and starting buildings. Acclimation is fairly simple as the interface is easy to read and interpret quickly. All the resources used and their immediate demand are displayed via on-screen menu. The input needs and output requirements for each building are readily available as well. The controls do a wonderful job of localizing mouse and keyboard style by assigning most of the heavy movements onto the dual sticks and triggers. While the finer details found later in the technology tree are left somewhat of a mystery, useful feedback data is presented next to each building describing what resources are lacking for production. Menus for selected buildings will also reveal production issues and upgrade requirements. The radial style menu also features an advisor section that always has quick and useful tips and helps lead you toward making the best decisions for your colony.
While the traffic management and city building can sometimes seem like a complex chore, gameplay is calm yet addictive as the intuitive controls and layout lead into fluid and subconscious decision making. After learning the basics of supplies, production, and road building you’ll find yourself quickly building your habitat to explore the technology tree, even if that means ignoring the primary objective. The technology has three tiers to climb with a variety of buildings that provide the colony with resources. New resources must be researched and provided to supply the next tier of technological advances. Like similar city builders and strategy games, time is a crucial asset that must be managed carefully by pausing and speeding up the colony’s work while making decisions.
The single player campaign then splits into two paths. One direction follows time based colony building objectives while the other path is based on competing against a rival race of A.I. colonists. While it remains a mystery as to why the robots battle, the domination quests are an all ages blast. The outcome of the skirmish is decided by who controls land and resources via watchtowers that protects allied colonists. Whoever captures the other players’ colony ship wins. While quickly advancing technology needed to attack using watchtowers, their placement adds the tension of competitive tower defense to gameplay which is for the most part relaxing and simple to enjoy. There aren’t necessarily armies with a variety of units to assemble but there is a fast paced arms race to develop the arrows needed to attack first. Opposing buildings caught within enemy watch tower range are fired on and burst into flames as the two sides battle to reach control each other’s colony ship.
The songs and sounds featured are tranquil and reflect the calming atmosphere as well. Ambient but catchy chip melodies are served over soft electronic percussion you might find yourself dancing to independently. Zooming in on your habitat reveals the satisfying sound effects of your colonists specific jobs, but their productive squeaks while lifting resources is a particularly adorable trait. While sounds may not be too complex, their simplicity compliments the life that the colonists seek and adds an overall depth to the nature of the game.
There really isn’t much standing in the way of enjoying The Colonists. While reading a short explanation is a great way to jump right into the action, there’s minimal plot that leaves us a story without much detail in the world or setting. The simple nature of getting into the game without much buildup of introduction makes the game easy to pick up if you’re impatient, but there is a missed opportunity for more subtle interactions with the robot citizens that could benefit from a little humor or deeper characterization beyond their individual job tasks.
While the amount of stages and challenges isn’t overwhelming, the skills and strategies needed to succeed take time to execute and offer a fulfilling experience that doesn’t feel light with playable content. Paths for advancing technologies also offer a bit too much freedom as there are opportunities to move too quickly into the second and thirds tiers without realizing the resources needed to power upgraded buildings are not yet available. There is however enough information available in the advisor menu, updates, and other visual feedback that can help avoid such pitfalls.
The overarching theme presented is about going back to the basics. The robust mechanics of urban development are presented in a delightful and easy to digest package. Both graphics, sound. and overall design presents a cohesive environment, enlightening atmosphere, and unique arena for sandbox style play. The entire experience is a smooth and delightful ride full of challenging surprises and colony ship full of new friends.
-Intuitive control scheme.
-Easy to understand menus and feedback
-Cute robots, soundtrack, and atmosphere
-Surprisingly intense tower defense style PvE mode
-Not a robust story or detailed setting
-Stage and scenario variety is limited
-Small tech tree with a risky upgrade process
4 out of 5
PS4 Review code courtesy of Auroch Digital. The Colonists is out now!