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Colony Survival: With Kids!

Red Thomas Posted:
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My nephew had a recent birthday and when I asked him what he’d like from me, he immediately told me that he wanted a copy of Colony Survival, and he wanted a whole day for me play to it with him.  I was initially a little skeptical because I’d played the game a few years ago and didn’t really think it was suitable for the now-one-year-older youth.  Mostly, I just thought it was a little clunky and didn’t seem like the sort of game a kid would like.

My nephew had been watching a number of videos online, along with a few streams with various people playing the game, and assured me that he wanted Colony Survival along with some of my time.  Thus, I bought an extra copy of Colony Survival and sent it to the kid through Steam as I reinstalled the title on my own system.  I had about an hour the day before we were supposed to play, so I watched a few videos and fired the game up.

I found a game that was far better than I’d remembered.  Pipliz has clearly continued to actively develop Colony Survival and have made significant progress in key areas.  Also, I figured out a few easy ways to make the game more fun for myself and my nephew.  If you find yourself like me and looking for good games to play with nieces, nephews, or your own children, then I’d be recommending Colony Survival, and I hope this article helps you out a bit.  Otherwise, you might still find it worthwhile to learn a few of the reasons I enjoyed the game and would recommend it in general.

Bread is 3 food, and wheat is 0.4, but wheat is spent first when buying new colonists. Purchase new ones the morning after a harvest when most of the wheat has been ground into flour to maximize your food.

It’s Better

I seem to remember something like the early tips that now popup in the game I played several years ago, but I don’t remember them being as clear and helpful as they are now.  There’s also no reason not to take your time reading through the tips, which you can bring up and down easily by hitting the F1 key.  Since the zombies don’t spawn until you start spawning in your own villagers, you have plenty of time to rough out your initial settlement and learn the gist of the controls.  Take your time getting started and don’t rush to spawn villagers. 

The UI also seems to be much improved and easier to use, which was one of the things I worried about when it came to playing the game with the kids.  When I’d first looked into Colony Survival, it was difficult to figure out what to do.  In part that was an issue of the tutorial and lack of early tooltips, but the UI has been significantly improved and is much easier to use now.

I also don’t remember the research function existing, or it’s possible I just never played the game enough to get there.  Now, it’s a feature that definitely exists and one I think adds a lot to the game by establishing a tech tree.  Though, I recently read that the team is looking to update it and make the mechanic more interesting.  What’s there now is a progression system that I don’t remember from before, and it’s actually a pretty solid balance of effort and timing.

I haven’t gotten to it in the game yet, but while reading through the patch notes, I found some really cool updates that I’m excited to check out.   The map is much larger with diverse climates and a number of unique regions with research and jobs distinct to those regions.  Also, there’s a trading mechanic and a mechanic for multiple colonies.

Walking down the hallway of my underground bunker and spotted a light cast on the floor from the sun shining through the staircase above… and it moved overtime with the sun. Wasn’t expecting that from this game.

There was a time where I might have compared Colony Survival to Minecraft, but definitely not now.  The only similarities between the two is in the terrain generation and some general aesthetic choices, but otherwise Colony Survival is far more complex and has a great deal for depth to it.  I’m actually finding that I really like this game for myself, and not just as something that I can share with my nephew.

Tips for Kids

If you do play with kiddos of your own, there are a few things you can do to help enhance the experience.   While I’m really enjoying the game’s depth as an adult and am very interested to explore it in more detail, I did start the game to play with my nephew.   I’m also really glad of the chance to share a game that’s age appropriate and that he enjoys as much as I do.

One of the first things you’ll want to focus on either way is food.  It’s very easy to expand past your food production capacity and colonists will starve and die without food.  I usually push for wheat production quickly and then spend a little time ramping up the agricultural production before expanding again.  I like to try to lay in a stock of bread crates before making the next jump.

Build your walls a little apart so that defenders on both sides and protect the entrances.

Each box is fifty bread, which comes out to 150 food.  Early in the game, five or six boxes of bread will allow you to completely die off, buy back your basic run of villagers to get wheat production going again, and still have enough food to get the harvest in, even if you started with none.  This is important because if you rent a server, it continues to run while you’re not on.  You’ll want to be able to jump start your settlement from scratch in case you starve to death while you’re offline.

Also, the boxes of bread can be given to other players, which is a good way cover for kids who go a little crazy hiring new villagers sometimes.  My nephew starved himself out a handful of times and food crates allowed me to help him out easily and keep him enjoying the game.  It’s really easy to starve yourself out in this game, so expect younger kids to do it pretty regularly.

Another tip for playing with kids is to build your bases right next to each other.  Hit the number 2 to place your banner and try to position it so that there’s about two blocks gap between the edge of your zone and the edge of the kid’s zone.  If you wall in your base and both of you position your gates so that they’re facing each other, your defenses will compliment each other.  This helps a lot, and especially after the fore-mentioned hiring sprees.  More villagers not only eat your food faster, they also cause more and harder zombies to spawn and you’ll probably need to help in defending both bases.  …not to mention when someone’s defenders start dying off due to starvation, you’re in a position to cover down a bit.

The last tip is really just observation.  The server requirements for Colony Survival is relatively light, so it’s a cheap server to rent.  I had been setting one up on my own, which is very do-able, but was going to have to reinstall a system I was already using for something else.  I ended up checking online to see how expensive it would be to just rent a server, and it ended up being roughly a dollar per player-slot.  It was less, but with fees and such, it came out to about $7/month for the server.  That really makes it even easier to have a server that you can share with kids over a prolonged period, I think.  Especially if you’re playing with kids spread across the country like I am.

My nephew had a blast designing and building his duck-base. The giggles when he showed me the mineshaft under the tail had me smiling, too.

Red’s Thoughts

Bottom line is that I’m stoked about this game.   I’d really written it off and while I’d planned to come back to it later and give it another go, the early interface was so rough that I just never really got excited enough to do so.   Luckily, my nephew is getting into gamer culture and watching streamers, which led him to discovering the game.

Looking through the patch notes for the game, I see very consistent progress by what I think is just a team of maybe three developers.  I’m incredibly impressed to see progress at that pace for such a tiny team, and they definitely have my attention going forward.

As much as the developers are doing, the community is really stepping up to add interesting mods for the game.  There are a number of mods featuring the gambit of texture improvements, mechanics changes, and even just pre-built worlds to explore.   Pretty much the typical sort of mods you’d expect, but the activity in the modding community is one of those things that tells me this game will likely be around for a while and will always have something new to try.  That extra mileage will help the single game appeal to different preferences of the different kids, which I also appreciate.

Since reinstalling the game to play with my nephew, I’ve bought and gifted several copies around my friends list on Steam.   I find it incredibly easy to recommend Colony Survival, even as just a fun solo experience, but it’s a riot with friends.  It also helps that it’s so easy to play with younger kids and still provides enough interest for the adults.  That’s actually a really hard target to hit, and I think these guys nailed it dead center.

If you picked it up early and put it back down as quickly as I did, try reinstalling.  I would recommend a couple videos just to get over that initial learning curve or expect to start several new games while you figure it out.  Remember to focus on food early, and you should be fine.  Of course, if you do give it a shot, I’d really enjoy hearing about your experience below, so let me know!


Red Thomas

A veteran of the US Army, raging geek, and avid gamer, Red Thomas is that cool uncle all the kids in the family like to spend their summers with. Red lives in San Antonio with his wife where he runs his company and works with the city government to promote geek culture.