Remember that movie WALL-E? You know his little girlfriend with the white body and screen for a face? Well, that's basically the "stars" of The Colonists. Cute little robots, which in this case, are looking to build a home of their own. You see, by the middle of the 21st century, significant advancements had been made in the fields of robotics and artificial intelligence. Scientists had begun developing self-aware 3D printable droids, capable of simulating human needs for sustenance and shelter.
Faced with an indefinite future of servitude, however, one group of robots decided they've had enough and hatched a plan to create a new life for themselves: One free from humanity and its interference.
Realizing quickly that there was nowhere on Earth that they'd be allowed to do this without facing severe persecution, they looked to the heavens for somewhere new to settle.
Commandeering the closest rocket ship they could find, they flew out into the heavens, leaving the Sol system behind and hoping to find somewhere they could live out their most heartfelt of dreams: To be human.
So, as you can imagine, what happens next is a whole rocket full of the little blighters showing up on a habitable planet and quickly beginning the process of setting up their robot utopia. It's a city builder, similar to SimCity or the like, where you build up your city from humble beginnings into a map-spanning metropolis. Beginning with a tutorial, one that does a good job of teaching you the ropes, you'll quickly (by mission 3) be given a choice of two different "quest" lines. First up is a straightforward building mode, you'll be tasked with building a particular thing and will be graded on how fast you do it. Secondly is the military mode, where eliminating the competing droid colonies is the focus.
Either way though, the minute-to-minute gameplay, the nuts and bolts of setting up a perfectly functioning robot colony, will unfold in more or less the same fashion. Your rocket ship will decent from the heavens and land on the map, creating an area of accessible land around it. Your droids will then unload the 3D printer, the one that creates more of their kind, and the fun begins. Now unlike many other games of this ilk, you don't have to worry about the number of colonists you have. The 3D printer will automatically create a droid for each location you build, so all you need to worry about is gathering, managing, and moving the necessary building materials around the city. Each building you make will create a specific resource, allowing you to build something new, which in turn will create a different resource and unlocking another building in the tech tree. It starts fairly simple and gets more involved as you go. Firstly you'll need basic building materials so you'll search out a forest and build a tree cutter cabin. You'll need stone bricks too so seek out a mountain and set up a quarry. Use the logs and stones to create houses for your little droids, who then need food and water, leading you to build wells and farms which reward you with power cells. Use these power cells to build watchtowers that expand your borders, and workshops to research new technology. Make sure it's all linked up with roads to allow your droids to move supplies around and continue along the unlock tree...Build coal and iron mines, ships and trains, monuments, and military technology to eventually conquer the entire planet.
Sounds simple enough, doesn't it?
Like many things though, the devil's in the details and it's in these details that the challenge in The Colonists comes from. The managing of resources, and their movement across the map, is ESSENTIAL to success and at its most fundamental means taking care to create a robust and efficient transport network. You can't just lay the roads down wherever you please though as they work to very specific rules. You see each section of the road must connect to an already created control point and must be between 4 and 6 squares in length. Each of these segments of road has its own droid assigned to it and its responsibility is to ferry created resources from one control point to the next. There the next droid will pick it up and, relay race style, move it along the network till it reaches its destination. If a resource doesn't have a destination, if it's not needed, it'll be stored at a control point till it is.But there's a catch. Each control point can only store 4 things before it becomes blocked, meaning special care is needed to make sure goods can flow freely. Storage can help with this, build a storage yard and you can allow resources to move around without getting stuck. And it's around here that you'll realize that micromanaging is a major part of the game. The Colonists emphasize the "little picture" gameplay with many buildings needing exact orders to function. They don't do it automatically and need your intervention constantly. Storage for instance won't just take in every extra resource you create, instead, you have to tell it exactly what it's allowed to take in, how much it can take, where it can take it from and where it can send them too. You'll need to update them constantly as you create new resources and do it for each storage yard. Tree cutters too must be told where exactly to cut, miners told where exactly to mine, and planters told exactly where to plant and so on. As your city expands, so does the micromanaging required so expect to spend more and more of your time in menus, changing values and adding rules.
Luckily though the game gives you adequate tools to keep on top of things, the most useful of them being time manipulation. You can speed up, slow down and even pause the action completely to allow you to get on top of any problems that have developed and managing all the little details the game requires you to do. Each building also throws up thought bubbles containing symbols to warn you of any problems occurring. If they can't get needed resources, they'll tell you. If they don't have room to create more resources, they'll tell you. If they can't access the road, they'll tell you. Any problem at all, as well as loads of other details, can be found easily by clicking on the building making the diagnosis of where you're going wrong really easy. There's even an advisor section that will tell you in general what you should build next, or where best to focus your efforts. The Devs had made sure you know exactly what's causing any troubles you're finding, which is really a godsend as The Colonists is a surprisingly difficult game, requiring careful pre-planning and constant management to master. Those who prefer "big picture" type builders, where the minute-to-minute stuff is taken care of for you, might find the Colonists to be frustrating at first but perseverance will unearth a complex and fun budget city building game.
The final thing I'd like to bring up, and praise, is the control system. Taking a game style more usually played with a mouse, and trying to make it work on a controller, can be hit or miss but here the system is easy and intuitive to use. A radial menu, accessible with a simple button press, can be brought up at any time and includes individual sections for each building type. When placing blueprints to be constructed you can spin and flip them as needed, making sure they fit exactly where you want while roads will make the most effective route from control point to control point but also allow direct control of the path if you want it. By clicking on any established building you can see its exact needs, give orders, and diagnose any problems it has. I quickly found myself popping down roads, throwing up buildings, carving out work areas, and more, all without really thinking about it as controls became second nature.
The cute aesthetic and simple goals hide a game that might surprise with its depth. Requiring real micromanagement to succeed, it might attract some while pushing away others. The storage, land, road, and resource management all add up to create a city builder that appears simple but it's actually complex. Initially difficult and slightly frustrating, it becomes a joy when it clicks. While not as moment-to-moment thrilling as some of the recent building games like FrostPunk or They Are Billions, this budget entry to the genre still has much depth despite its deceptive simplicity. Fans of the genre, the ones who like to manage things in excruciating detail, will find something here they'll enjoy. Those into "big picture" type builders, where the details are taken care of for you, might need time to adjust but as the game is half the price of most of its competitors, could find the pickup worth it. A charming but challenging entry to the genre!
*Note: A copy of the game was provided for the purpose of the review.
Final Score: 7.5/10
Player2Reviews aims to be a reputable second opinion on the gaming industry covering news, reviews, and commentary on all things pop-culture!
All 3DS Batman #BreakdownsAndBrews DLC Giveaways Google Play Hardware IOS/Android Late Night Netflix Let's Play Movies News Nintendo Nintendo Switch Original PC Player2Plays Preview PS4 PS5 PS Vita Review Reviews Steam Submissions #TBTReview Trailers Twitch Unboxing Video Games Xbox Xbox One Xbox Series X/S Youtube