This Week I Played Colony Survival (and Learned about Motion Sickness)

Have you ever played Minecraft? I certainly have. I always wanted more out of the village mechanic. It seemed like if you found a village in Minecraft best thing to do was build far away from it so the villagers didn’t get killed by the hordes of zombies your mere presence causes. Colony Survival takes this approach to a whole new level. What if instead of hiding from the villagers you had to build their village, and defend it from the hordes of undead that result from your mere presence? This is the question Colony Survival asks of you.

Like Minecraft, Colony Survival is a game about one-meter cubes and carefully organizing them. Unlike Minecraft, the goal of your organization is to create a thriving colony rather than amassing a huge number of resources for a limited number of people. The cubes in Colony Survival go for a more realistic texture approach than Minecraft, as much as everything being cubes allows for that is. Although this falls a little flat. At first, the cubes are cute, in a novel way. Sadly this novelty does not last long. The cubes have seemingly computer-generated texturing that up close looks like a weird distorted mess. This mess quickly becomes off-putting.

The lighting is a little harsh.

At the time of writing, I would like to note that Colony Survival is in Early Access. My experience is certainly not meant to be taken as what the final game will be. When learning about Colony Survival it sounded like an ambitious game. In practice, it needs a lot of work, even for an early access game.

The biggest issue with Colony Survival is that your biggest threat is Zombies. The solution is of course building walls that funnel them into kill boxes, which is fine but don’t expect your builds to make any sense since you’ll need to use those same routes to leave your colony. Fundamentally this is a bit of a game-breaker. Your colony is expected to be more or less self-sufficient within its walls. The zombies aren’t a huge threat. The two ideas seem disjointed. Colony Survival is neither a colony management game, nor is it a zombie survival game.

In colony management games (I’m thinking of the Anno series or Banished) most of the game is balancing the gathering of resources with their consumption. Some resources require careful planning as they are somewhat limited or contested by other players. Colony Survival has no other players, and all resources are seemingly infinite.

Zombie survival games work because the player can’t be safe. You need to go out into the dangerous world (I’m thinking of games like Dying Light). In Colony Survival, nobody leaves the Colony. The idea of a city builder that is also a zombie survival game only works if the city needs something they have to fight the zombies for. In the time I played the game that never happened.

Attention colonists: strict neck rationing is now in effect.

I must confess, I did not play the game long. I try to play the games in review here multiple times throughout the week before writing about them. Colony Survival is the first game to give me motion sickness. I had to stop playing after merely a few hours, and can’t stomach looking at the game since.

Video game induced motion sickness was something I had never experienced before playing Colony Survival. Unable to play more of it, I decided to research video game induced motion sickness. I learned a few neat things. First, it has to do with your eyes viewing motion that would indicate your body should be moving, but without your sense of equilibrium engaged this can be confusing to the game. Games with multiple types of motion exacerbate this.

In video games when the perspective of the player moves this is one type of movement. When the second type of movement, such as head or weapon bobbing is added this can create a disorienting effect. This is why many games with head bob allow it to be enabled or disabled. Field of view can also be expanded to allow for smoother transitions at the edge of the player’s vision. Personally, I wonder if screen size has something to do with it as well. While movement and vision are the cause of motion sickness, why does it exist? As always the answer is in the brain.

There are a few theories as to why the brain causes a person to become nauseous when perceived motion does not match experienced motion. As I am not a medical expert I don’t know which theories hold up to scrutiny or not. I will say that my favorite theory is that the brain interprets the movement as a hallucination and tries to induce vomiting to expel and consumed hallucinogens. Which is kind of awesome if you think about it. If you want to learn more about video game motion sickness I found this article on Lifewire to be very informative.

My eyes do not like this. This image is not a crop that mess is me climbing a hill while walking past a tree.

For Colony Survival, my motion sickness may be due to the choppy nature of the world and weird light reflection of all the surfaces. This is even more jarring to the brain than Minecraft because of how unnatural and fuzzy all the textures are.

Motion sickness aside though, Colony Survival was not fun for me. I could not get into it. I found its mechanics too disjointed and the early game too slow. In building games, I need to be able to make visible progress in modest amounts of time. I was not able to do this in Colony Survival. That being said, the friend who I played with managed to pump 20 hours into the game over a few days. So maybe it is just me. In any case, I will not be going back to my little colony. They will only have the pile of sick I left on the road to remember me by.

I received Colony Survival as part of the Jingle Jam charity pack. I would highly recommend this pack as a way to pick up a lot of games for a reasonable price while supporting several deserving charities.

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