Gaming - Factorio

The Defective Inspector avoids using pie charts as he researches his latest Case File: Factorio...

[Ed's note: -You can WATCH the Defective Inspector's own 30 minute Playthrough video of this game tomorrow!]

Fun fact: I’ve written this review 4 times now and this is the 5th attempt. Why has it taken me so many attempts? Simple really! I keep finding more and more things to fiddle around with, to toy with, to break and to eventually research. So I am going to throw myself in for the FINAL TIME as this is a game that needs to be spread across the digital world like silky Nutella on toast.

What is Factorio? It’s a micromanagement wet dream, a conveyor belt cacophony and downright enjoyable game. The story behind this game is short, sweet but satisfying. You are a lone official of a large factory focused company who has crashed onto a planet of fairly unknown origins. Using your technical knowhow and logistic prowess you must mine, create, automate and streamline the world around you to escape in a rocket ship. While doing this pint sized industrial revolution you must fight off a hoard of fairly uncertain alien creatures who don’t enjoy you taking a steaming dump on their ecosystem.

It’s difficult to describe a logistic management game without becoming a THAT GUY in a meeting who loves graphs and pie charts. So it’s probably better I just talk about things I love about this game. What’s important to remember is this game is officially in the Early Access period of development, while this may seem like a downside for most games Factorio actually holds itself together very well and I’ve yet to come across a bug. The company (Wube Software Ltd) clearly took the time to make this game from the ground up and thus it runs like a well-oiled machine. Which is good really because the game is basically you making a giant well-oiled machine.

One thing I truly loved about this game is the level of complexity without being overwhelming. If you look at the image above this paragraph you’re probably thinking “WOAH! This is way too complicated for me” and you’d be wrong. While I had similar fears when first tackling the game it seems to know we might have an issue or two. I was wise enough to try out the tutorial and campaign before dipping my foot into the open world mode, this was a god send! Without this bit of hand holding (something I traditionally discourage when playing a new game) things can go south really quickly and not in a cool sexual way.

You see the game works under the premise that you must grow your great mechanical empire at the expense of the world around you like the Tycoon team in Anno 2070 but unlike Rufus Thorne you have some rather massive complications from your growth. The aliens themselves are driven by your growing greed and the more pollution you produce the more powerful they become. This isn’t completely unavoidable as, no matter how powerful and clever you become, there is always an element of pollution (Yes even with the solar panels…). I actually appreciated this as it creates a constant challenge which is very important when playing something so open ended. While I enjoyed the campaign I felt the real meat and bones of this game came from the open world levels and thus having a constant threat if alien invasion made the whole thing more enjoyable in an exciting sort of way. There is an end goal of course, which in this case is to build a giant rocket ship and get the hell out before the world eats you whole. This end goal however is rather optional, you don’t NEED to make a rocket silo and you can just enjoy the fun of being a King of the cranks. Personally I’ve yet to find a good reason to build the rocket silo, that being said I’ve never had the chance…

What’s also really fun about this game is the fact you can play it YOUR way. My first base I ever built had a fairly well operating system of cranes moving object A to be processed into refined mineral C and so on. I had fairly sturdy walls, pretty good conveyor belt systems and a good solid defences of laser turrets around my little factory fort. On my second game (started fresh as I made some mistakes) I changed my tactic for defences, using a system of automated gun turrets which were loaded with ammunition via a rotating belting recycling itself like a sushi bar. I was actually really proud of this setup as it mean I never really worried about my base and could continue working without freaks of nature knocking on my walls. By the third game I completely abandoned the gun turret system and instead went invading the alien bases! While none of these are remarkably complex it’s a good example of where you can do your own thing without being battered, bruised or berated. How you play is up to you and your creativity is the only true limitation.

This is the part of the review where I’d usually talk about multiplayer, sadly I’ve yet to find someone to share the experience with but I can say without a shadow of a doubt it would be an excellent bit of fun! The map you build on is a self-generating theoretical infinite slice of space and so the limit of how insane a multiplayer game is depend completely on your social circle. I could name 5 people on my Facebook friends list who would be excellent people to play with, I also appreciate my friend would operate in a different way to me and we’d watch and learn from each other. This is the sign of an excellent game, where you feel compelled to share what you’re doing!

So what about the future? Where is the game going? I looked onto the game’s website and found some rather ambitious goals of underground operations, alien factions and space age conquering. While these are lofty goals Wube Software Ltd are wise enough to set these as possible goals, some might survive into the future and others may prove to be too problematic. Regardless of what the future holds for Factorio it is fair to say its present is looking pretty bright.

So my final view on the game? It’s a well organised well-oiled machine about making well organised well-oiled machines. It has taken the logistic management genre to a new level of enjoyment and complexity and frankly has wowed me with its streamline function at Early Access level. It keeps you interesting with a foreboding alien threats and let’s your imagination run wild in every convoluted direction your heart desires! I cannot wait for this game to be fully completed as I think things can only get better.

Images from Steam