Factorio

Every now and then, a game catches your eye on Steam, and on the wishlist it goes. Factorio grabbed my attention, and it was gifted me by a good friend. It is currently Early Access, and as I understand it, the developer plans to increase the price on release. And based on what I’ve experienced so far, they’re totally entitled to do so.

Frantic activity as science packs flow towards my labs.

Frantic activity as science packs flow towards my labs.

This game gave me the same joy as learning to code (I’m a geek, not a Doctor, damn it!) – or Lego. Lego! That’s an ideal example! Wait, sorry – I’m getting ahead of myself. Even writing about the game is a joy. Okay, calm, chill.

Kicking off the game with the tutorial is highly recommended. It slowly introduces the basic game mechanics in such a way that you don’t run away screaming – there is so much to this game. It plays as an overhead shooter / RTS / tower defence crossover, but… screw it, going to go play it some more, brb.

<silly amount of time passes>

And back. The aim of the game is simple: You crash-land on a planet, starting the game off with an axe. The goal of the game is to build a rocket, and get off the planet. Simple. The trick to surviving is through researching and building an infrastructure capable of mining and manufacturing the resources necessary to build the rocket. And defences, to protect you and your factory from the hostile inhabitants of the planet.

So you quickly throw up a coal-powered forge, and a coal-powered mining machine to get to some iron, coal and copper. With the basic resources coming in, you can expand your network – and bring in electricity! At which point, you’ll need running water to power the steam generator, coal, a network of pylons – and you can consider upgrading some of the coal powered systems with electrical-powered systems. But night time’s here – and the aliens come at night… so you’ll need to make sure you have enough ammo to survive. Maybe get some armour? Is that the sun rising? Oh thank God – I was just about to run out of supplies.

Now I need to set up some research labs – and provide it with science packs (the resource used to conduct research) – which means I need to combine various recipes together. And we need to increase our copper production. Shit – now I’ve not got enough electricity! I need to expand the power network. At this point, my factory is a massive collection of conveyor belts, moving ore to smelters, circuit boards, copper wires, bricks and more from A to B. From B to C. From C to D via E, F and G. So now’s the time to start building engine blocks, railway systems, cars, tanks, turrets, walls, gates…

Behold! My factory taking shape.

Behold! My factory taking shape.

I started with an axe. I’ve now got something like a mashup between the hardware from Aliens, and the Amazon Warehouse. And so this goes on; expanding, refining, refactoring important bottlenecks in the network. And all of this is before we introduce automated flying robots that move resources from location to location, swarms of defensive robots, power armour…

All this time, my factory has been pumping out pollution into the environment; you can see the impact on the environment, as the green grass and trees gradually become a wasteland. It seems the aliens love their planet; they become increasingly aggressive and mutate into more dangerous forms as the pollution spreads. So now, it’s a race against time – to get your base upgraded and keep it repaired,  to enable you to get your research complete, whilst fending off the aliens before they overpower you.

It can get tense. And the complexity of sitting there, attempting to identify why your blue science packs have stopped flowing – where is the flaw in your system? What component is not being produced at the rate required to meet demand? Is it a flaw in the design of your network, or do you need to source additional raw material?

It also offers a multi-player mode. Sadly I haven’t had the chance to test this yet – but it appears to work on the basis of having a dedicated server, and multiple players can connect and work towards a common goal of launching the rocket. Having said that, the game has a rich mod community, and PvP scenarios are available to download if you look around.

It’s a cliche – but there are two kind of people in the world. There are those people who will listen to what I’ve described, and mutter “How the hell is that fun? It sounds like I’m going to work!”.

And then – my beloved second group – you know who you are. You are the people who love Infinifactory. Or RoboCode. Or Portal. You have a deep, burning need to take a solution, and make it better. You need to refine.

Find a good cache of resources, and build.

Find a good cache of resources, and build.

To you, my dear second group – this game will be catnip to… well, cats. You will want to roll around in it, cover yourself in its scent, and lay in a hazy confused content state of post-refactoring bliss.

Pros: I wanna build a rocket ship!

  • A very simple game on the face of it – but with complexity that goes all the way to the core.
  • Tweak. Optimise. Tweak some more. Research. Fight. Tweak. Tweak. Tweak again.
  • That’s a wasted square-mile of land. It would look better with oil wells, several chemical plants, a rail service, laser turrets and a tank.
  • There is always ‘something’ to do.

Cons: It is all-consuming.

  • My first “all the way to rocket-launch play-through took 35 hours. The best speedrun I’ve seen is 2 hours, and that is knowing all the shortcuts.
  • The graphics suit it well – but I’m not going to try and convince you they set the world alight.

Conclusion

I think it’s going to be a Marmite game. Those who love it, will adore it. Those who don’t love it, will never love it. It’s either your thing – or it’s not. Yes, I know this applies to a multitude of genres – but it’s possible to appreciate a game – even if it’s “not your thing”. I don’t think Factorio is one of those games. To understand its beauty, you have got to “get it”.

It pulls in bits and pieces from various other base-building, resource management games. But I don’t recall every coming across anything exactly like Factorio. It’s part tower defence (with the turrets and planning), part top down shooter (albeit probably the weakest element), and part puzzle game. I have had hours, and hours of fun with it – and the developer is still adding new resources.

As it’s a Marmite game – and I love a bit of Marmite:

4.5 out of 5

4.5 out of 5

 

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