After 8,5 years of development, indie sweetheart Factorio version 1.0 is finally out. That means we can finally fully review Factorio. But it all started with this IndieGoGo campaign, and man did the game come a long way..
Let’s just say, Factorio has always been a diamond in the rough. Or more like just a lump of promising coal. And after 8.5 years, 18,855 bug reports, 5,603 mods, and probably thousands of man hours, we can finally conclude that Factorio has become a spectacular diamond. Albeit, a diamond for gamers with a highly specific acquired taste.
What we loved
- Seemingly endless Progression
- Mowing down ‘aliens’
- Great for co-op
What needs work
- Huge learning curve
- If it isn’t for you, it REALLY isn’t for you
What is Factorio?
Factorio is a game all about building and managing an increasingly more automated factory. After crash landing on an alien planet, you are trying to survive and eventually return home. Essentially, you do this by mining, smelting, crafting, producing, manufacturing, and otherwise creating ingredients. Those ingredients are subsequently turned into components, that are turned into items, that can be combined into bigger and better items.
But it’s not easy to reach the end goal of building a rocket (a.k.a your ticket out of there). As you mine and consume natural resources like coal, iron, and water, you pollute the planet. And the local population of insect-like aliens (or natives, rather, as you are technically the alien) might get a bit angry and start to fight back.
From wood to space sci-fi fluids
Factorio is all about building and automating a factory. You only manually mine a handful of resources early game, and then the real fun begins. First, you automate the mining, then do the same with the feeding of fuel, the output of items, the transportation of items, the production of science packs, the research, perimeter defense, and so on. You start off by chopping some wood, but in no time you’re slamming sci-fi space fluids into a building that makes buzzing sounds while researching advanced robotics, lazer guns, and nukes.
And that process is just so much fun. Many games disguise progression as story elements or lack real progression altogether. In Factorio, progression is the central gameplay mechanic. In fact, there is barely any story. You could say the game features progression in it’s rawest form; you input an X amount of research (in the physical form of science packs), it outputs new ways to produce said item, making the process more efficient in the process.
A forest of tech trees
But one could get lost in the almost mathematical factory building quite easily. Because making a semi-functional production line (called bus) is one thing. But making it 100% efficient is something else entirely. And with over 60 logistical machines, 60 resources and items, two dozen production buildings, and a boatload of weapons and defenses, that can get a little overwhelming.
Luckily there are many different tech trees that kind of visualize what basic function something has. Still, you’ll be doing a lot of reading to figure out stats and features of items. There is a really helpful wiki to help you with that, along with an extensive tutorial/campaign. Nevertheless, most of the fun comes from figuring out how to do something as good as possible yourself. Again, progression is both your main goal and the way to achieve it.
Make Factorio great again
But don’t get too lost in optimizing your production lines, because you might get devoured in the process. Factorio’s (randomized) worlds are filled with creepy looking aliens that will get really pissed off when you start polluting their planet. They form hives, and periodically attack your base in waves.There’s really no way of parlaying with them; it’s kill or be killed here.
So, to keep your factory from being destroyed, you have to take some countermeasures. Killing enemies isn’t the focus of the game, but it sure is a lot of fun. You could take out a pistol or shotgun, build automated (and even self-reloading) turrets, or build big ass walls to keep the monsters out. This little tower defense mini-game makes Factorio a lot more exciting than it already is. It also plays into the production and tech side of the game. You’ll always research new ways of defending. Or preemptively nuking them, if that’s your style.
Because let’s be honest, building an automated, highly efficient factory from scratch is cool. But doing so while mowing down hoards of insect-like creatures makes it awesome.
Functionality over aesthetics
If you haven’t been getting a little excited by now, chances are Factorio isn’t for you. The game leans really heavily on efficiency, building and automating. That’s not necessarily a mainstream gameplay loop. Not that there’s anything wrong with being niche, but it is something to take into account. Fortunately, there’s an extensive, all-encompassing demo available through Steam.
Back to the review; what doesn’t help Factorio get mainstream appeal either, is the fact that it looks like a fairly good looking early 2000’s browser game. Don’t get me wrong, Factorio came a long way. It started out as really looking shitty, but after 8,5 years the game can be described as having a distinct, albeit slightly muddy indie look.
This can get especially troublesome when you’re dozens (if not hundreds) of hours into a playthrough. With thousands of power lines, buildings, conveyors, turrets, and alien corpses covering most of the map, it can be quite an assault on the ‘ol eyeballs. Players have affectionately described having belts going all over the place as a ‘spaghetti base’.
But even besides these little quirks, it could make you a bit dizzy juist looking at a not so organized factory. Some textures just don’t really pop, making everything look messy. It’s clearly a deliberate art style, but it makes it hard to keep track of what’s going on sometimes. So yeah, Factorio is obviously all about the gameplay, not the graphics.
Regardless, Factorio ultimately is a one of a kind game and does mostly everything it tries to do perfectly. It’s a hugely satisfactory experience that spawned many games at least slightly based on Factorio’s concept. One is even called Satisfactory… Though even that game cannot reach the superb mix of managing, building, calculating, upgrading, producing and slaughtering of Factorio, though we may have to talk about that in another review.
Anyways, the Factorio experience could even be more gratifying when you play with friends. It’s a great singleplayer experience, but an excellent co-op multiplayer game. Simply put, building a factory is a lot of work. To have someone focus on one thing while you focus on another can make the slightly grindy process of constantly scaling up a bit more appealing to some.
Having said that, the grindy ‘there is always something else to do’ energy of Factorio is what makes it so great. You’re never really feeling like you’re doing chores, which is a frequent pitfall of crafting oriented indie games. If you want to expand, upgrade, improve, you can always do so at your own pace. Again, there’s always something else to do. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why after well over 200 hours into Factorio, I still haven’t built that rocket once. And you know what? I’m totally fine with that. Because the process ís the goal, not the goal itself.
So to wrap this up, Factorio is just one of those indie games that does what it does almost perfectly, while not bothering with stuff it doesn’t find important. It’s a game that keep son giving. Mostly new resources, tech trees, destructive toys and nifty news ways to automate. But with a splash of exploration, ever growing waves of enemies, and that constant drive to improve and upgrade, you’re always going to have more stuff to do.
That is, for the gamers that enjoy it, because we can easily see many players going nuts when they find out they have to calculate ratios, timings, and surpluses for the ultimate efficiency. But when you do, it really works. But don’t just take our word for it, check out one of the over 80,000 positive reviews on Steam. A whopping 98.8 percent of all reviews wholeheartedly recommend this game!
Image credit: Wube Software LTD.