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Factorio (PC/MAC) First Impressions
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Factorio (PC/MAC) First Impressions

Cory takes the pre-release alpha of the world-building Factorio for a spin and likes what he sees.

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The first five minutes or so of Factorio feel a lot like the million other Minecraft-inspired survival games floating around these days. Punch some trees, mine some stone, yawn a bit. The developers know you’re sick of this crap – they are too. They’re so sick of it that they made an entire game about elevating resource gathering and item production to a science. It’s kind of beautiful, actually.

Mining some ore takes awhile and it gets you a single unit of material. That’s nothing, really, it’s not even worth your time. Instead, you’re better served whipping up a mining drill and popping it onto the ore deposit. When you’ve fed your drill some fuel or powered it via an electrical grid you eventually design and construct, it’ll start handling all that tedious nonsense for you. Who needs to mine? That’s what machines are for.

So you’ve got your ore. You can refine it and use the refined material to make higher-quality goods. For a little while you’ll have to. But that’s so tiring too, isn’t it? Instead, it’s entirely possible to construct a system of conveyor belts and robotic arms to handle refining and crafting for you. You can even have your army of machines stockpile finished goods for easy pickup.

That’s really just the tip of the iceberg, though. Factorio is absurdly, insanely deep. You can program advanced versions those robotic arms to filter between different goods, further complicating your web of production. You can construct hovering drones to deliver goods to you, proving that Amazon’s got the right idea. You can drill for oil and use it to make ammo to fuel your freakin’ flamethrower, because of course you can have one of those too.

And, of course, you’ll want to construct defenses for your industrial nightmare. As you might imagine, you’re not exactly the most eco-friendly space explorer. That’s bound to piss off the locals, who are apparently all members of Space Greenpeace and will kill the crap out of you once you start polluting like a Captain Planet villain. Careful expansion is a great way to deal with them early on; later in the game, lead and fire are vastly more effective at encouraging the natives to embrace progress. Combat itself definitely doesn’t feel like the focus of the game so it’s not going to blow your mind, but it’s entirely possible to just turn it off if you don’t like it so it’s hard to complain too much.

Controlling all of this is going to take a little work. This is a complex game and it’s difficult to explain every little nuance of how everything works to a new player. Some props need to be given, though, for making simple machines very easy to construct. An automated mining system attached to a conveyor belt can be whipped up and set into motion in a matter of seconds with only a few mouse clicks, for instance. Study of how these parts work and interact with one another will provide the foundation needed for more advanced work, such as creating machines that produce refined materials for use by other machines and so on.

So basically there’s a whole lot to do here. I’ve gotten about ten hours of play out of Factorio already and I still feel like I’ve only scratched the surface. There’s always another rig to put together, another resource to exploit and another project to work on. The sort of never-ending wonder that defined Minecraft is still present and accounted for in Factorio. Suffice to say it’s great to sit back sometimes and marvel at what you’ve built and will eventually build.

What’s more, Factorio is still a work in progress, with future work apparently focusing on polish and giving the game a more concrete ending (at the moment you’re just kind of progressing through the tech tree toward an arbitrary “end” building). It feels pretty solid as it stands, though. While I typically urge people to watch out for Early Access and paid alpha titles, I feel confident in recommending Factorio. If you’ve got an interest in engineering, automation or large-scale construction the message here is clear: welcome home.

About the Author: Cory Galliher