Two developers of Wube Software working out of Prague began a campaign on Indiegogo in 2013 to continue work on their game small game Factorio and, within the span of two years, it has found itself featured on Steam’s “Top Sellers.”
Reminiscent of early management games like Simcity and the Tycoon series, Factorio sports flat sprites and a locked isometric top-down camera. You play as a spaceman stranded on a distant planet with plentiful resources and your goal is determined by the scenario you choose on the main menu. Otherwise, you’re dropped in a randomly generated, sandbox world and you can begin your factory empire while fending off the indigenous lifeforms angry with your pollution.
The game has little to no graphics settings, and objects in the world often move at low frames. Because the camera doesn’t rotate—and only some objects do—you’re often confused by overlapping images and angles. But these factors really add to the 90s charm of the game and, given the complexity of the management mechanics, the limited visuals keep you grounded among the clutter.
The standard gameplay loop consists of mining the natural resources of the land and converting them to machinery. You begin with burner equipment that requires coal to function but as you create objects called “science packs,” you can research higher levels of industry to expand your empire. The technology tree is wide, expansive, and you can pursue the path of your choice though the research requirements steepen as time goes on. The main focus of your game will be constantly managing machinery that can get backed up if one machine is out of order. You have to increase your output exponentially as time goes on but very often you run into overwhelming situations where you have to tear down your previous setup and build anew. Monsters attack from all directions the more you pollute the air and can destroy structures and kill your character as well.
I absolutely adore this game. Of course, I’m an outlier who enjoys untangling headphones or sorting jelly beans in my obsession with order and symmetry. Because this game has a multiplayer feature (that runs perfectly on virtual LAN networks), I roped a friend into helping me. Just five minutes into the work, I’m yelling at him for placing steam engines in a non-symmetrical pattern and leaving random items in clearly labeled chests. The game is very balanced around the goals and pace you place on yourself, so there’s no pressure to understand the complex evolution of industry until you’re ready. Though even when you are, because of the limited tool-tip descriptions and complex robotics and circuitry networks, the game can be really confusing. It would be extremely helpful to have the wiki open in the background, and the developers should look into embedding a guide into the game.
Factorio is a great application for those interested in the management niche and despite its seemingly overwhelming mechanics, dated visuals and steep price, it will provide hours upon hours of management for those as obsessed with order as I am. Factorio can be purchased from the developer’s website or Steam for $20.