The Cover of The Colonists game

The Colonists released without much fanfare and no hype train which is understandable as it has been developed by an indie developer Codebyfire.

What is surprising about this is that Codebyfire is one man by the name of Richard Wallis from my home town of Bristol in the UK. What is even more surprising is just how good this game is.

Snow scene showing a robot mining gold in The Colonists

As the game began I was instantly delighted by the charming little bots and the fantastic sounds that accompanied them. The music is relaxing and is soon just background noise as you dive into managing your expanding hubs of activity.

The Colonists consist of a group of robots who decided that serving humans was dull and decided to break away and create their own civilisation. To do this they will need a variety of resources which includes food and water! That’s right, these robots eat, well actually they don’t but I assume they mush up the animals and water to make the energy that keeps them all going in the form of batteries. Not so cute now is it, mushing animals up?

The tutorial is first class and explains everything to you in a simple if a little slow way but once complete you will quickly find that whilst this is not a hard core city builder, the creativity of the game mechanics are certainly challenging enough to get your grey matter spinning.

A scene from The Colonists on PC which shows a village and the landing rocket with sheep and lots of fishing huts on the shore

The Colonist campaign centres around several different scenarios that are either combat based or not and there is even a sandbox mode for when you want to kick back and create. Whilst the initial 2 scenarios are really just an extension of the tutorial and extremely simple to complete the third scenario is far more engaging and as you progress you will unlock more buildings and tech levels.

The way the resources are moved around the map, using nodes for the main highway with paths splintering off to intersect with your production buildings, means that you will need to plan ahead not just for the buildings you have now but for the buildings, you will need in the future. More on the way the gameplay loop affects that later.

I briefly mentioned the highway and the path/node system earlier but I have not seen anything like this in a game before and it really makes a difference to your planning particularly that you are not able to easily change the layout of your town at a later date without rearranging almost all parts of your infrastruction.

There are two types of road, there is the main road which is patrolled by a solitary Carry Bot who works between the start and finish points of a section, the sections can be a maximum of 6 tiles in length but no less than 4 and the only way to add more road is to attach it to an existing section. This means that you will have a network of Carry bots bringing goods to main hubs, the hubs can themselves only hold a limited amount of items and so you must plan carefully to avoid a traffic jam.

These restrictive roads can be added to with Paths. Paths are far less restrictive but are slower to traverse. Balancing the logistics is an important part of your success which forces you to plan ahead far more than I have ever done in a game before. As you progress you can upgrade the road network to cobblestone and on even to rail tracks, this will speed things up but by this time I have usually set a good network in place.

Watchtower from the Colonists robot management game

What makes planning harder initially is that you have a restricted area to expand into. To move into a new area to unlock a resource you will need to place a Watchtower. These watchtowers not only allow you to expand your territory but they also serve as a turret to attack enemy troops. The combat scenarios feel at odds with the rest of the game and are the area I have spent the least amount of time but suffice to say that positioning a watchtower is as much about strategy as it is expansion.

The interface is functional if a little clunky but I could forgive most of this as whilst I was playing and having a very good time I was only mildly put off by it initially and after a few hours I had forgotten what was bothering me. I would like to have seen a far more intuitive interface and something that was at least customisable so that I could pin what I thought was important to the screen but its by no means a deal breaker.

I have very little to say regarding the games negative points. The fact that one person coded this game is astounding as things are so well thought out that I would have assumed an army of play testers were involved in balancing the game already.

an early stage village from the colonists

Let me take you through one gameplay loop so you can see the complexity of the tasks but also so that you can see how intuitive it is. Lets assume you have your road network laid out and you want to power an underground mine, first you will need wood, the wood is used to build a residence, you need to build the residence to generate the power cell, so you build a lumber yard. The lumber yard starts producing logs, you then build the residence, from there you will need to build a well so that you can produce water, you will also need food, sheep or fish are fine as they will get blended I assume anyway. You build a fishing hut or sheep farm to provide the food. This allows you to build level one energy, you need level 2. Next then you need to upgrade your residence and will need stone and planks, so you build a surface mine near a stone deposit and a sawmill. The Sawmill takes the logs from the lumber yard and creates planks, this alone can cause a backlog on the road network so plan carefully. Then you take the planks and stone and upgrade the residence which now requires water, animal stuff and alcohol to produce level 2 energy. So you create an orchard to grow apples and then you need to transport the apples on the road network to the brewery you just built. The brewery takes apples and water and creates cider, the cider needs to be taken back to a level 2 residence and once you have all of those you can create the level 2 energy cells which will power the underground mine which took planks to build. Why not stick with a surface mine you ask, well surface mines have a finite amount of resources, mine shafts do not but you will need both.

The colonists early village showing a watchtower and windmill with green grass and sea in the background

As you can see from that one loop there is a lot to plan for, you have to be thinking about the road networks needs at the start of the game when you are building your first lumber yard or residence. It’s a truly deep and wonderful game that will bring you joy.

The first two scenarios don’t have a combat option but from Scenario 3 onwards you can choose to battle other factions. It is a fine addition but for me, the nature of the game is far more suited to a peaceful brain taxing management simulator. The music is gentle and reminds me of 80’s synth tracks with a modern twist, the sound of the water lapping against the shores and the little chirpy noises coming from your bots all come together with the gameplay to make for an incredibly enjoyable experience.

Currently, the game is under £20 on Steam and if you like any time of management game then you will really enjoy The Colonists. It is an incredible game all the more impressive for the fact that one human being created it. I will be playing for many years to come and will certainly be on the lookout for games from Codebyfire.

An incredible game that should be in your collection
  • 94%
    Gameplay - 94%
  • 90%
    Graphics - 90%
  • 94%
    Sound - 94%
  • 86%
    Longevity - 86%
  • 92%
    Value - 92%
91.2%

Summary

I love this game and you will too. Its a gentle but incredibly taxing game that will only beat through careful planning.

MinkiSan
I am a dad to two small children, I am tired, really tired.

1 thought on “The Colonists by Codebyfire”

  1. I bought this because of your review and I want to say thanks, its brilliant like you said. Did you know though that you can mine in underground mines for ever so you don’t run out.

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