Factorio Review: A Factory Sandbox on a Far-flung Rock

After a lengthy development period of over eight years, with 18000+ bug reports, 5,000+ mods, and probably thousands of man-hours, Factorio was finally released for Microsoft Windows, macOS, and Linux in August this year. Meaning we can finally fully review the indie sweetheart.

The game was announced via an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign back in 2013, and man did the game come a long way. Let’s say it was a lump of promising coal that has become a spectacular diamond, thanks to all the things mentioned above.

What is Factorio?

This game is all about constructing and managing an increasingly more automated factory. It starts like all great works of fiction do, with a huge explosion. That would be your spaceship crash landing on an alien planet. You are trying to survive on that far-flung rock and eventually return home by building yourself a whole new rocket. So, how will you achieve this? Well, fortunately, you happen to be the handiest person in the entire galaxy, able to fashion almost anything with little more than spit and elbow grease. You will be mining, smelting, crafting, producing, manufacturing, and otherwise creating ingredients, which will then be subsequently turned into components, that will then be turned into items that can be combined into bigger and better items.

As mentioned above, your end goal is to build yourself a whole new rocket to take you off that far-flung rock, don’t expect it to be easy. As you mine and consume coal, iron, copper, and other such natural resources, you pollute the planet, which might rile the local insect-like population, who will then start to fight back.

Factorio review

From wood to space sci-fi fluids

As mentioned above, this game is all about constructing and managing an increasingly more automated factory. You only manually mine a minimal number of resources at the beginning of the game, and then the real fun starts. The first thing that you’ll have to automate is the mining, and then you’ll have to do the same with the feeding of fuel, the output & the transportation of items, the production of science packs, perimeter defense, and so forth. You begin with chopping some wood, but it wouldn’t take you long to get to the point where you’re slamming sci-fi space fluids into a building that makes buzzing sounds while researching advanced robotics, lazer guns, and nukes.

I am sure you would enjoy yourself a lot in this fun process. Most of the games out there lack real progression or disguise it as story elements. In this game, it is the central gameplay mechanic. In fact, there is barely any story. One can say Factorio features progression in its rawest form; you input Y 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

I don’t think there would be anyone who would not find himself/herself lost in the almost mathematical factory building. Because making a semi-functional production line (called a bus) is one thing. But making it fully efficient is a whole different ball game altogether. And with over sixty logistical machines, sixty resources and items, twenty-plus production buildings, and a boatload of weapons and defenses, that can get a little overwhelming for almost anyone.

Fortunately, there are many different tech trees that kind of visualizes what basic function something has. But, don’t think that’ll be enough as you’ll still have to do lots of reading (a very helpful wiki exists) to figure out stats and features of items. As mentioned above, you’ll enjoy yourself a lot in this process, and all this fun comes from figuring out how to do something as good as possible yourself.

Make Factorio great again

Now, most of your focus should be on optimizing your production lines, but remember not to get too lost in the process. There is also a possibility that you might get devoured while doing all the optimizations. Now, the question is, who will devour you? Well, as mentioned above, the alien planet that you have crash-landed on is full of creepy looking creatures that will get really pissed off when you start polluting their beautiful planet. They form hives and periodically attack your base in waves. There’s really no way of parlaying with them; you’ll either have to kill them or else they will kill you.

So, to keep your factory and yourself safe, you’ll have to take some powerful countermeasures. You could take all sorts of measures to counter the enemies. You can take out a pistol or shotgun, build automated (and even self-reloading) turrets, or build high walls to keep the enemies out. Now, killing those creepy looking creatures or any other enemies isn’t the game’s focus, but it sure makes the game a lot more fun. I mean, let’s be honest, constructing an automated, highly efficient factory from nothing is all great and cool. But doing so while killing hoards of creepy creatures makes it even more awesome. It also plays into the production and tech side of the game. You’ll always research new ways of defending your factory and yourself. Or preemptively nuking them, if that’s how you roll.

Functionality over aesthetics

Ok, so we are approaching the end of the article. If all of the things that I have mentioned above haven’t got you excited (not even a little), then chances are this indie game isn’t for you. As mentioned many times above, this game is all about management, construction, and above all, production chains. That’s not necessarily a mainstream gameplay loop. Now, there’s nothing wrong with being niche, but it is something to take into account. Luckily, there’s an extensive, all-encompassing demo available through Steam.

Coming back to the review, one of the things that really prevent this game from getting mainstream appeal is the way it looks. I mean, it looks has improved a lot during its long development period of 8.5 years, but it still looks like a fairly good looking early 2000’s browser game. Its slightly muddy indie look makes it very hard to keep track of what’s going on sometimes, especially when you are hundreds of hours into a playthrough, with thousands of power lines, buildings, conveyors, turrets, and insect-like creatures corpses covering most of the map.

To sum up this section, I’ll say this game is all about the gameplay, not the graphics.

Wrapping Up…

In the end, I’ll say that this is one of those indie games that does what it does almost perfectly while not bothering with stuff it doesn’t find important. From new resources to tech trees, and from destructive toys to nifty new ways to automate, this is a game that keeps giving. But with a splash of exploration, ever-growing waves of insect-like creatures, aka enemies, and that constant drive to improve and upgrade, you’re always going to have more stuff to do.

So, if you love games that involve calculating ratios, timings, and surpluses for the ultimate efficiency, then this is the game for you as it really excels at what it’s trying to do. But don’t just take my word for it. Check out the thousands of positive reviews on Steam.

Thank you for reading!