Originally launching on PC in 2018, Codebyfire has finally brought its adorable strategy title The Colonists to consoles. Designed as a simple and easy to understand take on the strategy city-building genre, this delightful title is based around a bunch of hard-working robots who have travelled to a distant world to build a life for their own, a life where they can fulfil their one hope and dream, to be human.
You might be thinking, how does a robot wanting to be human make for an enjoyable city-building game? The robots in The Colonists are simply trying their best to replicate human life. They farm, build houses, mine for resources, and do it all to make their community better and more capable.
Unlike a lot of strategy games, The Colonists does a great job at keeping things straightforward and simple to grasp. Don't be mistaken, there's still plenty of intricacies to explore, but the resource, upgrading, and building systems are all streamlined in such a way that it can be picked up and well understood pretty quickly. There is enough variety in the different materials, buildings, and jobs you can get the bots to engage in that it keeps the game exciting, but at the same time, unlike a lot of strategy games, you don't need to be an expert in the genre to figure out how to complete or unlock them. Everything has been built in such a way that you only need to take a few moments to think of a creative solution for a problem, and you will be good to go.
Take a scenario when your colony is getting a bit too big for its boots. In a game like Civilization, you will be fraught with so many issues, both from your population but also rival neighbours that it can seem impossible to fix and is often a little overwhelming. In The Colonists, everything is at a much faster pace and can be resolved much more easily, thanks to its simple design. Struggling with food supplies? Build a farm or two and resolve that issue. Having issues with lack of space to increase your population and increase your power supplies? Upgrade your houses and support them with the right infrastructure. The point is, issues are easy to resolve, which takes away the stress of the genre and makes the game much more digestible.
Building a colony isn't the only thing you will have to be concerned about in The Colonists. There are rival colonies that can cause you problems, and it is your duty to ensure your colony is well defended and capable of dealing with threats. These rivals will only become an issue if you choose to head down the campaign path against the AI enemy, which is great considering this adorable city-builder excels when you don't have to worry about others and can just play your own game down the non-combat campaign path or in the sandbox mode. These varieties of game modes do keep The Colonists interesting to play, but the main issue with the game is that there isn't a whole lot to do otherwise.
Once you complete the campaign missions, aside from just endlessly building a growing population in sandbox, the only alternative is to complete a few (and I really do mean a few) challenges or to head back into the campaign to best the scenarios in a faster time. The challenges of which there are four currently, basically ask you to do some minor side objectives during a specific campaign mission, and really aren't very exciting. Beating a level in a faster time simply rewards a better medal depending on how fast you complete it, and if you understand the basics of the game, probably won't pose much of a challenge either. Sure, The Colonists' simplicity is one of its highlights, but the lack of challenge is also a double-edged sword as once you have bested the campaign, there isn't all that much pulling you back in.
This leads me to the biggest issue that I experienced when playing The Colonists, which is that it frequently gets in its own way. There are certain mechanics that have very peculiar designs, such as how the roads work. You can't just create a road, it has to be built in intervals of three to four units, which often means you have strangely weaving road systems when trying to connect buildings to your colony, as every building has to be directly attached to a road. It's the sort of system that you question why it is the way it is, because it would be much easier to build and use if you could just create roads like pretty much every other city-building game out there.
But, with all this being said, I really enjoyed my time with The Colonists. This is a strategy city-building game that is designed to be easily appreciated by anyone, whether you are an expert or a beginner to the genre. It's adorable and packed with charm, so despite the fact that it suffers from lack of interesting content to consume once you've bested the campaign, it still provides a satisfying experience for those who've just picked it up.