According to Steam, over the past week I’ve played Factorio for 31 hours. That may not seem like a lot to gaming diehards, but we’re talking about a guy with three kids who is forced to spend most of his waking hours away from a keyboard. 31 hours in a week on my laptop, playing games, is simply unheard of. Even games like Civ or Cities: Skylines haven’t drawn that kind of devotion from me in the past few years. In fact, I’d have to go back to pre-kid days when I’d spend every night playing World of Warcraft while my wife travelled for her job. Yes, I was a really cool cat back then, too.
The thing with Factorio is that I haven’t even scratched the surface. I suddenly understand why my kids like Minecraft so much.
Factorio’s story is standard survival game fare. You’re crashed on an alien planet and need to survive and find a way back home. Think Don’t Starve, but with conveyor belts. So many conveyor belts.
What separates Factorio from other survival fare is the sheer scope of what you can accomplish. This isn’t about simply unlocking new recipes so you can craft new things, it’s about doing it as efficiently as possible. If you used to spend hours playing SimCity and reworking your traffic system so it would be flawless, Factorio just might be your dream game.
It’s not just my love of city builders that makes it so great, though, Factorio also tickles that part of my brain that falls head-over-heels for Civ and puzzle games. There is a tech tree in Factorio that is so large it will boggle the brain. In fact, in a week I think I’ve only seen about 1/3 of it and that might be too high of an estimate. It’s incredible, and some of those technologies will utterly change the game. I’ve just gotten to the point where I’ve unlocked and started using trains to move resources. I haven’t seen robots, circuits, or a dozen other improvements that promise to make my life easier. On the military side, I’ve seen cars. There are still tanks, missiles, and even nukes still waiting for me to research.
Why military? Because the alien world you’ve landed on isn’t friendly. There are Zerg-like creatures all over the place and if your pollution irritates their lairs, they’ll come looking for you. You can set up base defenses using stronger and stronger turrets and walls, but eventually you’ll have to take the fight to the baddies and blow up where they spawn. In the early game this isn’t too hard, but as the game progresses, the aliens evolve and mutate and become stronger and stronger. Protecting what you’ve built can become an entire game on its own, if you want it to. You can also turn off their aggressive ways when you start a game, meaning they’ll only attack if you attack them first. I played like this, thinking I wanted to focus solely on building my industrial empire but found that I missed the tension of having unwanted visitors, so I’ve been playing with the biters on. I don’t regret it.
I could, honestly, write about Factorio for another 2000-3000 words, but I’d really rather be back playing Factorio. Here’s a sign of how bad my addiction currently is: I’ve been watching YouTube videos of people playing Factorio to learn tips and tricks. I used to mock my children when they did this for Minecraft. Now they’re mocking me for being such a dweeb, which seems fair.
I’ve been playing Factorio in single player mode, but there is a multiplayer mode as well. I have no idea if it’s cooperative or competitive, but I don’t know that I care to find out. Factorio is like a Zachtronics game mixed with a city-builder and sitting contemplatively and quietly is the way I prefer to play games of this ilk. I know the Stately Players [You waited until the end to drop this, you dolt? -ed.] tend to gravitate to multiplayer games, however, so you should know that there’s something there for you too.
Factorio is currently in Early Access for PC/Mac/Linux on Steam, but its been in EA since 2014. In other words, you’re not getting a beta when you buy it. Factorio is still evolving, but it’s a fully realized game with not a bug in sight. Oh, and it’s only $20 which is criminally low for the amount of gameplay you get here. I’ll chip in with some session reports or vids down the road because I need to turn this addiction into something positive. Yes, you are my enablers.