The Colonists might be a game about adorable Wall-E style robots looking for a new life away from their human creators, but there’s a massive amount of depth to the game and it’s far more complicated than it looks.
Robots have been built by humans but now those robots want to be free to live like the humans do. That’s the simple premise of The Colonists, not that it matters all that much as there’s no real story, just scenarios for you to play through. These are simple enough to begin with as the game tasks you with building monuments, forcing you to explore the build menus thoroughly to put the tutorial training to good use.
The scenarios do get steadily more difficult, and by that measure, they also take much longer. That’s my first complaint with The Colonists: it takes a really long time to do anything. From collecting enough resources to constructing buildings in the settlement, everything takes a long time. You can speed up time, of course, but if your settlement isn’t at full efficiency, you’ll still be sat around twiddling your thumbs while you wait for your robot army to ferry resources around.
Resources are moved around by your robots and they’re fully autonomous, thankfully. However, they’re only as good as the roads you set them on. If your roads are an unorganised mess (as mine often were…) then it’ll take longer for good to be moved around, and that means it’ll take longer to get anything done.
Roads have checkpoints where the workers will drop off supplies for the next robot to pick up and pass along. You can build paths coming off of these roads, linking different buildings to the network, but roads are the main arteries that feed your colony’s heart. If they’re clogged, your colony will suffer and efficiency will drop like a rock. When that happens you need to find the problem and fix it, otherwise you could be sat around for ten minutes waiting for something that will never happen. I know because I actually sat for ten minutes hoping a problem would resolve itself, or that the game would at least tell me “hey, go and fix this thing here” but it never did.
The Colonists doesn’t do much hand-holding outside of the tutorials, so you’ll want to pay attention to them. I did, but I still found myself a little lost at times, and frustrated, and mostly due to the road system. I appreciate the added complexity and the need for some forward-thinking, but it felt a bit too complicated for its own good, and it often got in the way of progress.
As always with these kinds of games, I prospered in the sandbox mode where I could tinker, experiment, fail, and start again, all without the worry of getting a task done by a deadline. It’s still challenging but it’s a lot more fun to play my own way and the campaign scenarios just didn’t grip me as much as I’d hoped they would. They were far too long and if I’m going to invest hours into building a colony for cute robots to live in, I don’t want to throw it away because the game wants me to move onto the next level. That’s just me, though. If you’re an avid trophy hunter, you’ll be ploughing through the campaign no matter what, but know that there is a robust sandbox mode with plenty of customisation if you want to experiment without constraints.
There’s more than enough content to keep you going for at least a couple dozen hours, if not more. I’m split as to whether I’ll see the thing through to the very end though. On one hand, I do love my a city builder/resource management game, no problem there. On the other, The Colonists is excessive with its micro-management. One fault in the chain can bring your entire town to a halt, and while I don’t mind a challenge, the further along you play the more demanding the game becomes and it eventually hits a point where it’s no longer fun to be spinning so many plates for so long.
The Colonists PS5, PS4 Review
The Colonists is a good strategy and management game that’s let down by being a bit too complicated for its own good, and for committing the sin of putting combat where it really isn’t needed. The cutesy robots and the colourful graphics belie a very deep experience that requires meticulous planning and the patience of a saint to appreciate.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Primary version tested: PS4. Reviewed using PS5, PS4 Pro.