Factorio fits so much complexity, gameplay, features, and hundreds of hours playtime into a 2.1d package; with replayability to boot, that it is hard to pin down just what type of game it is, and review each feature in depth, but this will touch on key points. The devs describe it as
“…a game in which you build and maintain factories. .Use your imagination to design your factory…”
but don’t let that simple sentence fool you. Elements of many different genres of game are present; with RPG like research trees and inventory management, real time strategy style building, crafting, trains, procedurally generated worlds, combat, hard logistic management, and it integrates all of them flawlessly. All these features, as well as an endgame goal, all in an Alpha build, with frequent updates.
In Factorio, you play as an explorer on an alien planet, tasked with setting up a factory and defences for a colony of people to land and inhabit this new world. This a daunting task, and like Rome, it cannot be built in a day. The end goal you are working to is constructing rocket defense to protect the soon to be landing colony from any attacks it may face.
However, don’t get ahead of yourself. You land on the planet with only a few iron plates, a smelter, and a small mining machine, both powered by coal. After building you first pickaxe, harvesting just enough stone and coal for your machines to start doing the work for you, the path to automation has begun. Unlike other “Sandbox survival” games that involve mining and crafting, you use machines to do all that dirty work for you. Focus then moves to the upgrade trees, with research being important in the first few hours, so you can protect yourself with something other than the useless pistol you start with, and get more efficient storage, mining, and smelting methods.
With all of your automatic mining, drilling, smelting, and refining, products have to be moved, and that can be accomplished 3 ways. Automatic belts, Trains, or Logistic Robots. Belts, as they seem, carry items at a set speed, placed on them by grabbers. (Which move items into and out of inventories of buildings) Each belt can have 2 items next to each other, so load balancing and splitting lines of resources is key for efficient use. Trains have stations which they stop at for a determined amount of time, with their route from station to station planned. Trains need fuel and water to run, so automatically refilling while loading the trains is a hurdle, but well worth it to be able to move massive amounts of resources across the map with no player intervention. Be carfull though, as a train will not stop for players on the tracks, and death means starting from an earlier load. Lastly, Logistics robots work out of robo-ports, which have a set range of logistics control. Once a grid is set up, logistic robots can place items in your inventory automatically, take items out of special chests, build from blueprints the player designs, and repair damaged buildings. Although cool, Logistic robots are a late game technology, with Trains coming after the first belts have been implemented.
Biters; and later, Spitters, are your worst nightmare. The little blue and purple aliens are drawn to the pollution your machines produce, and will stop at nothing to destroy them. The dynamic nature of Biters is ever present. While you can upgrade defenses to kill the small ones, larger ones will begin to show up from nests, which hold valuable alien artifacts used for endgame research. Not only will they multiply and grow if you leave their nests in tact, other groups will break off, or randomly spawn, and form other nests in other locations. Although this might sound difficult to defend, especially from within, the spawning is such that you will not have to worry about Biters just showing up inside your walls, unless they bit their way through.
Early Access and alpha/beta titles usually come with a stigma of being buggy and unfinished cashgrabs, with no development end in sight. Factorio, however, doesn’t feel like a game in alpha. It has an end, and although some art assets are waiting to be added, and some bugs are present, the game is playable from start to finish, and will bring many hundreds of hours of fun and challenge to those dedicated enough. This cannot be understated: This game is mind blowing, genius, and one of, if not the most content rich “early access” games on the market today. All the features reviewed, and many many more not mentioned are all playable in this Alpha, downloadable on their website, https://www.factorio.com. There is also a free demo of the game that can be downloaded to see if you like it before purchasing it.
- Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux
- Genres: Sim
- Price: 13.50
- Release Date: 03/04/2013
- Publisher: N/A
- Developer: N/A
- Site: https://www.factorio.com/
- Notable Awards: None