Nothing makes a game easier to sell than a swarm of adorable robots. It worked wonders for Astro’s Playroom and I’m sure the developer of The Colonists is hoping it’ll work for them as well. This is yet another 4x strategy game that aims to be a bit more accessible than titles like the Civilization series. And by being more accessible, I mean stripping out a good portion of gameplay mechanics to make building your own little kingdom a bit too easy.
While I haven’t cared for some of the other simplified 4x games that I’ve reviewed, The Colonists does have the added benefit of its cute little automatons and a campaign that gives you well-defined goals to work towards. It makes for a very relaxing experience, but I doubt this going to replace Civilization as the go-to 4x game any time soon.
The core concept of The Colonists is one that’s easy to get behind. Humanity made a bunch of robots that were meant to simulate human civilizations. They can eat, they can drink, they can lug around large quantities of stone and wood, they can sail around in boats while wearing darling little captain outfits, etc. However, these robots soon realize that being around humans kind of sucks. So they steal a spaceship and set out to colonize their own planet far, far away from us filthy meat bags. It’s a pretty relatable story as I’m sure many of us would jump at the chance to get off this burning trash fire of a planet.
The robots’ design is simple but incredibly effective at being too damn precious. I think the idea behind their design is that they all have trunks like a truck to haul resources around. However, it actually makes them look like a cross between a duck and Wall-E, which is just about perfect when it comes to cute robots. I only wish the rest of the game’s art was as inspired as it’s mostly the typical bland, blocky, polygonal style that you tend to see in a lot of mobile games.
The gameplay works pretty much how you expect it would in a 4x game. When your spaceship drops down you’re on a vacant lot of land to built upon. You then begin setting up your robot society by fabricating buildings. You need to build a house so you build a lumberjack hut to gather wood. Then you build a house that generates batteries for the robot workers. But that house also needs food and water so you need to build a well and a vegetable farm. Then you need to research better buildings so you make a workshop and it goes on and on from there. Soon you’ll expand your little automated empire to the point that you’re sailing multiple boats between harbors to collect iron ore and sheep meat while fending off A.I.-controlled rival societies with arrows and cannon fire.
Controls are pretty simple on the PS4. You hit the right trigger to bring up the menu that lets you put down buildings, create roads and paths, research new technology, and perform other important functions. You select what you want to build and place the structure down on a patch of land where it fits. From there, your little robo-minions will build it as long as they have the proper resources. There are also menus that can determine where goods are imported or exported to, prioritize the production of certain goods or buildings, and so on.
It controls well enough on console, but I had a couple of moments where I instinctually reached for my mouse to select something. It can be a little clunky, especially when you have to move across bodies of water to look after each of your settlements. Like most console ports of strategy games, I have to imagine that this feels better on PC. But if that’s not an option or you just want to play this on your preferred gaming box, this will work just fine.
One thing I liked about The Colonists is that its campaign is broken up into missions. Each one gives you a specific goal to achieve, which usually amounts to building some kind of monument or a combat challenge. Once you complete that objective you can keep building up that little colony or you can move onto the next mission.
Considering that the gameplay mechanics aren’t particularly deep, I thought this allowed the game to feel more focused as you’re constantly working toward something as opposed to just mindlessly creating a fiefdom with no purpose. I feel like some sort of narrative would’ve been nice to have, but I don’t feel like it was hurt by a lack of a story. To go along with the campaign, you have specific challenges you can shoot for, and completing the mission quickly will earn you a gold, silver, or bronze medal. However, there is a sandbox mode if you just want to set up a colony and let your robots run free
Overall, the 4x gameplay of The Colonists is adequate, but it can be a bit of a grind waiting for resources to get to where they need to. Waiting for wood or bricks to arrive can take ages, especially if they have to come by boat from another island. This can lead to you sitting around while you stare at the buildings that have a giant warning sign over them indicating that they desperately need apple juice. On the plus side, you can set the game to run at 4x speed, which helps to expedite things. I just wish there was a better way to make use of that downtime.
There’s some fun to be had with The Colonists, but I don’t think this title is one that strategy fans will be sinking a lot of time into. Once you’ve researched every technology, fought off enemy colonists, and built every building, there doesn’t seem to be much more to do or come back for. After completing the campaign, I was pretty much satisfied with the game and didn’t feel the need to play any further. That’s not really a bad thing as every game doesn’t need to be some massive, sprawling, 90-hour adventure where you watch entire civilizations rise and fall before your eyes. But for some strategy fans, this might feel a little underwhelming.
Still, I enjoyed my time with The Colonists. It’s an easy, breezy game that doesn’t intend to punish you by having Gandhi constantly declare war on you. The fact that it has a decent campaign starring lovable little robo-ducklings is just the icing on top. So if you want to chop down some trees and watch a little robot fisherman provide for his village, The Colonists should make for a delightful bit of strategy fun.
A PS4 copy of The Colonists was provided to TheGamer for this review. The Colonists is available on PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC.
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Jamie Latour is a writer and actor based out of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. From his hyperactive childhood to his….Well, still hyperactive adulthood, he’s been writing and performing in some capacity for practically his entire life. His love for video games goes all the way back to the age of 4, playing Mega Man 3 for the first time on his NES. He’s an avid gamer and can be found nowadays either messing around in Red Dead 2, or being cheap as can be as Reaper in Overwatch. He’s still starting out when it comes to making online content, but aside from his writing he can found on his Twitch page under the handle SpontaneousJames. You can also find him on social media as @SpontaneousJam on Twitter (because Spontaneous James was too long apparently).
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