The colonists is an adorable strategy game where you lead a bunch of robot colonists to settle a new world. It features robots, rather than humans as colonizers, which makes it all the more fun. It is developed by Codebyfire (Richard Wallis) and Mode 7 (who worked on Frozen Synapse).

The Colonists is a game where you command robot colonists who have escaped earth to be free from the hegemony of humans. This is unique in theory, because in most games today it is the humans that have escaped Earth or been attacked by treacherous, controlling and hostile beings.

With around thirty resources and thirty-five plus buildings in the game, complete with their chains of production (meaning one resource has to be harvested/mined, a technology researched, or a building built/upgraded before you can move to the next resource), The Colonists has surprising depth and though it is a gaming underdog, it punches way above its weight.

Filled with cute robots it is something to look out for, even though it hasn’t been marketed well enough and there are some bugs.

In The Colonists there are roads and then there are paths. These have to connect every building you build which in the late-game can be a spider’s web of roads.

The roads can only be a particular length (4-6 squares) though. Whenever you create a new road a colonist pops out from the spaceship (at the start of each campaign mission the space ship lands and is available with all the resources you need to start with) and starts transferring resources between each length of road until it reaches its destination. Then it repeats the process. There is an endless army of robots available and you just build a structure and they arrive out of your spaceship to start managing the building or transfer resources along the road.

The Colonists gives you a vast range of options to deal with the late game perplexity. For one you can build storage yards for your resources and choose exactly what resources they store. You can also see exactly how much of a resource you have stored or are producing which simplifies management.

To have enough building space to put new buildings together though, you have to uncover the fog of war. This fog of war can be removed by building towers on the periphery of your line of sight. The maps may seem pretty diminutive initially but grow as you progress from campaign mission to mission. Don’t expect extremely gigantic maps though.

There are different climes too. There are barren deserts, islands and grasslands so you aren’t looking at the same environment all the time.

There is even a tech tree which opens up new construction options and with it new resources to mine, gather or exploit. A lot of new players have complained about the idea of robots having a requirement of food. The way the game works though, is that the food is transformed into energy upon which your robot colonists thrive. However the robots still need human resources like coal, wood and apples which hasn’t been properly explained by the developers.

It would have been better if the common human resources had been replaced by robot tech and resources. I would also have enjoyed a robot building factory rather than your colonists just appearing out of your ship, which looks way too petite to house so many colonists anyway.

Colonists has three levels of energy though and each level requires you to upgrade a residence by providing it with the resources needed for growth. This is pretty much how everything in The Colonists works. It’s a very old concept used in Depraved, Banished and every other such game where resource collection is key, yet it never gets totally stale, provided the setting, theme or race is significantly exotic.

There is also the option to fight off a group of enemy robots on some of the maps, therefore giving us combat in the game. This is a useful addition to the game, added with later patches.

The game is not big on story but the gameplay is pretty fun. Until you run into an error where your roads are blocked with red exclamation marks appearing over your colonists heads. It isn’t clear if this was a design choice (I am more leaning towards it being a bug), but the colonists stop transferring goods between their roads and a bunch of resources lie on the midpoint where the roads meet. The colonists aren’t doing anything at this point. This is the only real problem I faced during forty hours into the game.

The graphics are nothing Battlefield 1 revolutionary, yet soothing and far from outdated. But being an attempt of a small developer however, it speaks volumes about this partnerships (Two different gaming companies designed this game) potential.

Sandbox mode is offered with the latest patches but it features the same maps that are on the campaigns albeit with customizable options and you do not have to unlock them as you do new missions in the campaign.

Though the Colonists boasts exceptional depth for its size, randomly generated maps or more maps to choose from would give this game added replay-ability. And some explanation over why robots demand items like wood and coal is required. However the biggest flaw in this game is the late game problem of blocked roads. Otherwise the anticipation for what building to build next or which technology to research next also keeps you going.

There is slight confusion sometimes, as is normal with such complex games but a little trial and error helps. For example it can be confusing how ships, boatyards and harbors work (you can colonize areas divided by sea. A neat feature.) but some effort left for learning is always required in strategy games. Most of all, this game takes only 1 GB of hard disk drive space.

Review Platform: PC

Rating: 7.4

Pros

  • Exceptional depth for its size. Dozens of buildings to build and dozens of resources to harvest.
  • Good resource management options
  • No one expects 1 GB installation files to carry so many building and resource options.
  • You always have something to do. A new building to unlock, another resource to exploit and another technology to learn. The game keeps you constantly engaged and never lets you feel bored. The building chain and game progression always keeps you striving for more as you unlock new buildings, research tech and uncover more of the map.
  • Pretty world with equally pretty colonists.
  • With multiple strategy games focusing on humans this game features robots. Something new.

Cons

  • Not much of a storyline.
  • No custom generated maps.
  • A confusing problem where bots stop transferring resources along the roads.
  • Doesn’t explain why robots need human resources. No robot tech or resources either for a game about robots.

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