Factorio Header

(Based on Alpha ver­sion 0.12.29 of the game. Purchased though Factorio Website. Factorio is exclu­sive to the PC.)

I love Factorio. Maybe it’s my love for 2D top down games, or may­be it’s my love for the resource man­age­ment gen­re, but some­thing about Factorio real­ly ticks all the right box­es for me.

Factorio is also a play expe­ri­ence I some­times strug­gle to describe to my fel­low games. Some peo­ple have likened it to Minecraft, but that’s a very poor com­par­ison in my view. Any game where you have to mine raw resources is com­pared to Mojang’s jug­ger­naut, whether that com­par­ison is apt or not. Factorio actu­al­ly has a lot more in com­mon with old iso­met­ric city or base build­ing games such as Sierra clas­sics like the Caesar series and Pharaoh. A lot of its logis­ti­cal ele­ments, such as rail­way build­ing, invoke Transport Tycoon games such as OpenTTD. I guess the clos­est touch­stone in recent mem­o­ry are Minecraft mods like Tekkit, or the var­i­ous Techni-packs that are geared towards automa­tion and pro­duc­ing large fac­to­ries.

Building fac­to­ry pro­duc­tion lines is what Factorio is real­ly all about. You start out with sim­ple coal-powered machin­ery and grad­u­al­ly work your way into estab­lish­ing a self-sustaining elec­tri­cal grid, and work­ing to auto­mate the pro­duc­tion of many of the games items and research­ing new tech­nolo­gies. Research is prob­a­bly the activ­i­ty that will take up most of your mid-game resources. It feels like you can nev­er pro­duce enough of the game’s sci­ence vials that unlock more and more advanced ways to process resources, auto­mate your fac­to­ry, or com­bat the game’s hos­tile aliens.

Factorio warns you that “you are not alone,” and this is cer­tain­ly true. The premise of the game is you’ve crashed on an alien world and have to gath­er resources, but through­out all of this you will find your­self under attack by the native pop­u­la­tion who are under­stand­ably angry you’re pil­lag­ing and pol­lut­ing their home. The more you pol­lute, the more the aliens respond to your hos­tile pro­duc­tion meth­ods.

Launching a satel­lite from a rock­et is now the “endgame” of Factorio, but it’s designed more as a cut-off point for play­ers who need an end goal to work towards rather than the be all and end all of the game play. Factorio fea­tures a lot emer­gent game play, and its sto­ry mode real­ly just func­tions as a tuto­ri­al. As you destroy nests of giant alien bugs, and watch raid­ing par­ties crash like waves again­st your heav­i­ly armed pol­lut­ing fortress, you can’t help but feel you might be the vil­lain of this tale. Factorio has no heavy hand­ed envi­ron­men­tal mes­sage though, as all of this is told through the games basic sys­tems. Which is very impres­sive all said.

Due to this alien threat, a good chunk of the research tree is ded­i­cat­ed to more and more effi­cient ways to kill aliens and defend your­self. The com­bat in the game is sur­pris­ing­ly sat­is­fy­ing, and adds a very basic RTS ele­ment to base defence — laser tur­rets espe­cial­ly chew through aliens as a dis­turbing rate. Factorio also allows you to build dri­ve­able armoured bug­gies, and even even­tu­al­ly a tank. You can equip your char­ac­ter with  pow­er armor, and weapons such as a flamethrow­er, auto­mat­ic shot­gun, and defen­sive drones.

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You’ll spend the rest of your time in Factorio build­ing fac­to­ries to more effi­cient­ly make oth­er fac­to­ries and invest­ing in research­ing new tech­nolo­gies. Creating new and more effi­cient pro­duc­tion lines is much bet­ter than hard-headedly try­ing to keep an old sys­tem as it is. Production increas­es on some­what of an expo­nen­tial curve; hav­ing bet­ter fac­to­ries makes it eas­ier to get more machi­nes to gath­er more resources to make more fac­to­ries, etc, etc. This instills a very reward­ing pos­i­tive feed­back loop where some smart plan­ning will make some­thing that would have tak­en you hours fur­ther down the tech tree now take mere min­utes.

Some of the late game heavy lift­ing is done by robot­ic drones, and your fac­to­ry will be abuzz with the­se lit­tle guys trans­port­ing mate­ri­als to where they are need­ed. They can even copy and paste sec­tions of your fac­to­ry if you give them a schemat­ic and enough resources, but doing this is almost as resource inten­sive as build­ing the rock­et Silo. Automation and defence hap­pen to be very well fleshed out in this build of the game.

There is some­thing incred­i­bly com­pelling about play­ing Factorio. I’m not one of those peo­ple who describes games as “addict­ing” — I find the prac­tice annoy­ing and unhelp­ful — but Factorio is a game that is dif­fi­cult to put down. And it accom­plish­es this with­out any tricks or gim­micks. You sim­ply get caught up in the game play and think “one more improve­ment. One more opti­mi­sa­tion. I’ll just add anoth­er line to this fac­to­ry,” then you look up and it’s been two days and your friends and fam­i­ly have report­ed you miss­ing.

Okay that’s an exag­ger­a­tion (I don’t have friends), but I did ded­i­cate two whole days of my down­time to Factorio, and it did eat the hours up with­out me real­ly notic­ing. Time files when you’re hav­ing fun I sup­pose, and for those with an engi­neer­ing bend to their brain Factorio is like choco­late coat­ed crack. Fellow site con­trib­u­tor Mike called this game an “Autism sim­u­la­tor,” and if you take plea­sure in obses­sive­ly focus­ing on a sin­gle activ­i­ty boy will you have a good time here. Factorio’s brand of very involved man­age­ment isn’t for all play­ers, as this is a game that real­ly requires you to think about how you play it with no hand­hold­ing. You die? That’s it, reload your save because you don’t respawn. There is gra­cious­ly the option to make aliens nev­er attack first, but if you don’t under­stand the game’s sys­tems you will be stuck in the equiv­a­lent of the stone age for eter­ni­ty.

Factorio insert 1

The game, whist offer­ing a very well made expe­ri­ence even in this Alpha build, does fea­ture some lim­i­ta­tions. The most appar­ent of the­se is pow­er gen­er­a­tion, which you stop gain­ing options for pret­ty ear­ly on. You either have steam-engines or solar pan­els. That’s it. Factorio mer­ci­ful­ly does offer a way to store pow­er with the accu­mu­la­tor, but this is most­ly to get around the prob­lem of your solar gen­er­a­tion not work­ing at night.  With the late game requir­ing ludi­crous amounts of pow­er, this lack of options can lead to com­i­cal­ly over-sized solar farms, banks of accu­mu­la­tors, and lines and lines of coal con­sum­ing steam engi­nes.

It feels weird that you can build an Iron Man style portable fusion reac­tor for your pow­er armour, but not a sta­t­ic one for your base. With all the futur­is­tic robot­ics and mil­i­tary ele­ments, the pow­er sys­tems are firm­ly stuck in the 20th cen­tu­ry. Future builds of the game are in need of more advanced pow­er options, as well as wire­less ways to trans­port pow­er. But, as I said, this is an ear­ly access game and as an ear­ly access game it is remark­ably expan­sive and sta­ble. The game hasn’t crashed on me once, and han­dles a lot of busy ele­ments with­out chug­ging or stut­ter­ing. The screen can be filled with a ludi­crous amount of stuff and the game engine sim­ply shrugs.

So what’s the main take­away from my time with Factorio? It’s already more com­pelling, more com­plete, and gives the play­er a lot more cred­it than most oth­er games on the mar­ket. If the devel­op­ers con­tin­ue on the tra­jec­to­ry they’ve set (and don’t fuck the game up some­how) I can see Factorio becom­ing a beloved clas­sic for enthu­si­asts of this gen­re.

https://supernerdland.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Factorio-Header.jpghttps://supernerdland.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Factorio-Header-150x150.jpgJohn SweeneyPCPC ImpressionsEarly Access,Factorio,Preview(Based on Alpha ver­sion 0.12.29 of the game. Purchased though Factorio Website. Factorio is exclu­sive to the PC.) I love Factorio. Maybe it’s my love for 2D top down games, or may­be it’s my love for the resource man­age­ment gen­re, but some­thing about Factorio real­ly ticks all the right box­es for…
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John Sweeney
John Sweeney is a ter­ri­bly British man with a back­ground in engi­neer­ing. He writes long-form edi­to­ri­al con­tent with analy­sis of gam­ing, games media and inter­net cul­ture. He also does the occa­sion­al video game ret­ro­spec­tive with a week­ly column about Magic the Gathering thrown in for good mea­sure. He also does most of our inter­views for some rea­son, we have no idea why. A staunch sup­port­er of free speech and con­sumer rights; skep­ti­cal of agen­da dri­ven media and sus­pi­cious of unac­cou­table author­i­ty but always hope­ful for change.