In all my years browsing the Steam Store, I’ve come across a dinky looking little thing called Factorio at least a hundred times. Its description does it no justice, its screenshots and videos look boring as all hell, it looks like it’s a phone game from 2009, and it’s $30 to boot. So why the hell does it have overwhelmingly positive reviews on almost every online platform and ratings site out there? Well…
What Is Factorio About?
The premise is pretty simple: you’re a super engineer whose spaceship crashed on an alien planet that is pretty much a carbon copy of Earth. Except instead of cute animals and folks like you and I, it’s full of these bug-like aliens that basically mind their own business. The planet is riddled with all manner of natural resources the likes of copper, iron, oil, coal, and even uranium. The point is for you to build your way up to a spaceship to take you back home. Simple enough on paper, but open up the crafting menu and gaze at the next few weeks of your life slipping away.
It’s a top-down construction and strategy game with a keen focus on automation. And by automation, I mean that you can build your facilities up to a point where you can literally just stand there and watch as the game plays itself. This sounds kind of boring on paper, but getting to that point is by no means an easy feat.
Factorio Turns One Hour into Twelve
Roughly 40% of my life has been dedicated to video games. I’ve delved in and out of virtual world after virtual world, but absolutely none of them have been as enthralling and addictive as Factorio. You start with enough material to craft a pickaxe, and a fuel-powered extractor to dig up some ore. Where you start can have everything you need, or nothing at all. Your iron deposit can literally be miles away from your coal supply, for example, and you need both to be connected.
So you work your way to a somewhat functional resource line using many conveyor belts, which lead to mechanical arms that move the ore into a coal-powered furnace, which is then connected to another arm that moves the smelted ore onto another conveyor belt. It then goes into an automated assembler to make more complex parts, which is fed by two other conveyor belts full of other materials, all to produce one complex item, which is then taken to another factory ad infinitum. You can imagine how long a simple process like this takes, but throughout the entire everything, I have never been bored for even a second, and neither have the ten or so people I’ve played it with.
Factorio Gives You the Space You Need to Create
You have an entire planet to turn into China’s industrial complex at your disposal, should you be so inclined. And the game never leaves you lacking for options in the way of technology. Opening up the research menu, besides scaring the shit out of you, gives you a complete layout of all the technological paths you can take to make this planet your bitch. Research is essentially the game’s form of progression; you need science packs to research every bit of tech, and as the tech gets more complex, the more science packs it’ll need.
Making these science packs – available in seven types – steadily gets harder. You’ll need tech to create them, and more tech to sustain them. But with each unlocked technology you have, you become a force of industry. Automated trains with smart railways, oil and plastic processing plants, advanced power grid layouts, automated robots for both defense and construction, advanced exoskeletons with specialised building hardware and automated self-defense tech. There is an almost infinite amount of stuff you can build that can push you further towards your goal.
Factorio Can Be Violent
The more factories and energy plants you build, the more you’ll pollute the planet. The more pollution increases, the angrier the planets inhabitants get. The angrier they get, the more at risk your entire dream becomes. These things will start to attack you the more you fuck up their planet, and they’ll start evolving as the carcinogens you release into their atmosphere increase. They’ll group together and form dozens of hives around you, spawning hundreds of their ilk to end you.
Luckily, Factorio gives you enough firepower to split this planet in half. Sure, you start out with a basic pistol, but then you can make yourself a machine gun, then a shotgun, then an armoured car with a turret, then a tank with different types of shells. Want to invest in static defenses? You can build anything from simple gun turrets to rocket and laser turrets all over your base (watch your energy consumption though). Feel like walking? Build yourself an exoskeleton complete with automated laser turrets and attack drones. Sick of things far, far away from you? Build a massive howitzer cannon and load it with nuclear shells. Literally erase things from existence when you’re bored. You’re the dominant and technologically advanced force here, act like it.
Factorio Is for Everyone
Let me tell you something: I’m somebody who went to pharmacy school because I thought it didn’t have too much mathematics involved. I’m somebody who, just two years ago, learned which ways East and West were (I’m 26). I’m a guy who knows as much about their computer as you know about theoretical physics. Logically, I shouldn’t be able to be good at this game, or even enjoy it. But I’ve built seamless, gorgeous, and completely self-sufficient mega-factories in just a matter of days.
I’ve tried this game with a variety of folks, each with different levels of creativity and motivation. Each one of them has built ungodly impressive bases throughout the planet. And for those who weren’t too interested in the industrial aspect, they found themselves proficient in the ancient art of destruction. There is something for everybody here, and with a game whose multiplayer cap goes beyond 150 players in a single server, the possibilities are virtually limitless.
Factorio is one of those games that happens once every ten or so years. It’s a game that makes even the dullest, most vapid individuals turn into artisans of industry. It’s an indie game made with love, for folks who want something new and chill to play after work or over the weekend. It’s a gift to mankind, and it also has no DRM. The devs didn’t put any copyright protection in it; you only need an account to access community modifications to the game (which add even more shit).
If you were ever to buy a game, buy Factorio. Don’t think, don’t hesitate, just buy it. You want a dollar per hour of gameplay? Factorio gives you ten per dollar.