There’s something comforting about Factorio. It could be the many lines of conveyor belts and inserters that I’ve thoughtlessly dumped all over this planet, the smoke and steam billowing from the chimney stacks of the furnaces or the defenses mowing down any wildlife that tries to interrupt the great conveyor lines.
Factorio – as the name implies, is a game about building Factories. The premise is simple, you crash on an alien planet and you need to bring some good ole fashioned Earth to this backwater hellhole. This means immediately mining, burning and deforesting your surrounding area, whilst producing the necessity of life, Pollution.
You start off with nothing but a coal burner, a coal miner, a pat on the ass and a few bars iron. From here you’re on your own, and it’s the most probably the most daunting part of the game. Especially if you’re a muppet like me who avoided the tutorial. So hike up those pants and get your sneakers out as you’re going to be walking back and forth, mining coal from the ground, cutting down trees and crafting simple equipment to help you process the minerals you’ve collected. It’s hard going, virtual back breaking work which I imagine any esteemed crash landing astronaut shouldn’t have to do. The situation is pretty bleak and I assure you that you’ll be wanting to throw your hands up in the air and give up. That is of course until you build the holy (Read: sexy) contraption that is the steam engine.
After about a forty-five minute slog you (should have) reach the modern era – Electricity. All of a sudden the game isn’t as daunting as you thought, this is because the first steps towards being a lazy bastard have been taken. You no longer have to carry around coal to each individual burner and you’re left with an unusual amount of free time. So is that it? Is it over? Are you free from the bonds of having to lift a finger? No.
This is where research comes in, the majority of buildings and items in Factorio are hidden behind the research. This takes time and resources (Namely different coloured Vials) to be achieved, each item requires a set amount of vials and is split into multiple tiers using different colours – you start with red, progress to green then to blue etc. Meaning that each time you want to jump to the next step, you need to see exactly what resources are needed and plan out their production. This is where the beauty of management and logistics comes into play.
The original trifecta of materials (Iron, Copper, Coal) are now simple players at the bottom of the chain. Now you’re in the big boy leagues running around with your fancy steel, processor chips, and plastics. But what does this all mean to you as the player?
Conveyor Belts. Lots and lots of Conveyor Belts.
This is the meat of the game, the bangers and mash if you will. It’s where you’ll spend the next couple of hours creating paths from your furnaces to your assembly plants, all the while cursing your shortsightedness 3 hours ago. Far too often I found myself having to run a pipe assembled on one side of my factory to the other side, just to feed back the finished product from that assembly plant to the original side.
But believe it or not, it’s fun. There’s a sense of satisfaction when everything is either running smoothly spitting out what you want and when all your resources are backed up to the miners. It means you’ve done something right, it means that your factory has succeeded, but it doesn’t mean that you’re done.
Up until now you were probably thinking building Factories is stress-free, well boy are you wrong. As mentioned previously, your glorious polluting factory brings freedom and Earth values to the world you’re on. Sadly the locals don’t quite agree with this and tend to attack your factory from time to time. The local wildlife grew and became more aggressive as I mined and polluted more. Eventually there were giant swarms clawing at my walls hoping to get in and rip me apart. I felt like Johnny Rico the entire time I was defending my factory from the swarm of bugs attacking me.
These challenges don’t have to be faced alone, Factorio can be played with multiple people. Meaning that when you mess up your conveyor belt lines you’re not only messing it up by yourself but with your friends. In its current state, you’ll be lucky to have more than 2 people connecting to you (unless of course you have a server box you can host from) so don’t expect a wild crazy orgy of bugs and friends. Get ready to ask who stole all the iron, and to curse when you see one of your conveyor belts has been swapped to feed elsewhere.
Factorio is a grim game. Slowly the tree line disappears, the colourful minerals are mined, the air is filled with smoke and wildlife is forcibly removed. It’s not pretty and the visuals help convey this grimness, whilst playing the game I couldn’t help but think of Tiberium Sun mixed with industrial revolution England. All the spinning cogs and smoke stacks were charming but ugly. You can see that there is a great amount of detail in the art and that each building is carefully crafted.
All in all for an Early Access game, Factorio offers quite a bit of meat for $24.00 (if that is a bit dear for you then they also offer a demo). I’ve easily spent far more time than I should have as an adult reconfiguring conveyor belt lines and murdering oversized cockroaches.
And I don’t regret it.
- Active Developers
- Consistent Theme
- Scratches that management itch
- Multiplayer netcode needs work
- Lacks end game content