Factorio is one of the best PC games ever made and almost certainly the best PC game you can buy for R170.
This incredibly biased view is based on my love of RTS/base-building games, so if I have insulted or offended any gamers reading this – notably the DOTA 2 and Counter-Strike crews – I do apologise.
The premise of Factorio is simple: you are an engineer who has crash-landed their spaceship on a planet and need to build a “factory” which can produce a rocket to take you back into space.
Even simpler are the game’s graphics and mechanics, and there is no storyline beyond the opening scene containing broken spaceship parts around your lonely character.
This simplicity, however, is key to the game – a game which is going to make you skip sleep, miss work, and put your phone face down on your desk so you cannot see all the missed calls from your concerned family members.
It’s a base-builder – but not an RTS mouse-mover
The main game mode in Factorio is “Free Play”, which is like a sandbox mode where you can select all the parameters of the map you start on.
For my game, I left all the settings on default and got to work. This was after completing the game’s tutorial – which took me eight hours and only teaches you about 30% of what you need to know.
That’s not a typo – the tutorial took me eight hours to finish.
It is good to note that Factorio does have other game modes – including multiplayer – and different challenge maps where you have to complete specific tasks along the lines of “build 1,000 of Item X per hour”.
I have only played the single-player free play mode to date and have put 50 hours into my map so far – and my review is based on this.
Oh, and I have not launched a rocket yet, so I have not finished the game either.
Anyway – the “factory” you need to build in Factorio is not a one-building affair with a bit of automation.
It is more akin to a massive base you would build in an RTS like Age of Empires – and instead of castles or farms, you have automated assembly machines and drills bringing up iron ore.
The map itself is also huge and you view proceedings from the top down, as you would in any good RTS game.
However – and here’s where the game really threw me a curveball when I started – you do not navigate around the map with your mouse cursor.
You get where you need to go, see what you need to see, and build what you need to build by moving your character using the WASD keys.
This means at the start of the game, your little engineer is running around like crazy between stone deposits, forests, and the starter factory under your command.
You are able to zoom your view in and out using the mouse wheel and move the cursor around to action tasks and checked the status of items – but this all is based on where your character is positioned on the map.
Later in the game, you can access fleets of flying drones which allow you to build from blueprints from anywhere on the map using classic RTS-style controls, but this luxury takes time to acquire.
Building your base
Everything in Factorio starts with the basic resources around you: wood, stone, iron ore, copper ore, coal, and water. Later in the game, you will also start pumping crude oil and mining uranium from the planet.
These resources are used to build items which help you advance your base over time – and all the items you can build are available through a menu.
The items you can create then expand as you conduct research into new technologies via a technology tree menu, while research itself takes place in labs powered by science pack – which you also have to create.
An example of the initial building mechanics is you running to a stone deposit and mining some stone by hand. This stone is then stored in your inventory.
You take the stone and build a furnace. You then run to a coal deposit and mine some coal, after which you move to an iron ore deposit and mine some iron.
It’s then back to the stone furnace, where you place the coal (as fuel to burn) and the iron ore (as the material you would like to smelt).
Voila – what comes out is an iron plate, which can be used to make more advanced structures and items.
This process is then repeated, scaled up, and automated over time, until you have something like this:
- Your electric mining drill mines coal and sends it along a conveyor belt.
- The conveyor belt runs past stone furnaces, at which point automated robot inserters take coal off the line and put it in the furnaces.
- At the same time, an electric mining drill mines iron ore and sends it down a different conveyor belt that runs past the stone furnaces.
- Inserter arms take iron ore off this line and place it in the furnaces.
- Inserters, facing the opposite direction of the ones mentioned earlier, then take the smelted iron plates out of the stone furnace and place them on a conveyor belt – the same one as the iron ore belt or coal belt, or a completely different belt – and send them along.
- These iron plates run on the belt to an assembly machine with its recipe set to “iron gear wheel”.
- Inserter arms take the iron plates and put in in the assembly machine, which makes the iron gears.
- More inserter arms then take the iron gears out of the assembly machine and place them on a conveyor belt.
- At the same time, not all the iron plates being produced are being consumed for the production of iron gears, and the excess product flows along with the iron gears.
- The iron plate and iron gears travel along the conveyor belt to another assembly machine.
- Inserter arms take the iron gears and iron plates off the conveyer belt and put them in this assembly machine, which has its recipe set to make – you guessed it – more conveyor belts.
This is the basis of Factorio and what makes it damn fun and damn difficult at the same time.
Additionally, the process described above is one of the simplest production lines you can set up in the game.
I also left out the part of how you actually get electricity, assembly machines, and inserter arms.
And the part where the conveyor belts get clogged up because there is too much stuff on it and production subsequently halts.
Everything you need in Factorio must be made in this manner – from the bullets in your gun to the microchips in your flying drones.
Please note: your starter base will look nothing like the image above when you first play. It will be much more rubbish and stuff will not work.
The bugs are coming
So, you are now asking yourself: This game sounds lame, it is basically a big sandbox and you build a factory to make stuff?
But wait, there’s more.
The world you have crashed on is inhabited by bugs which attack you and your base if you get too close to their nests.
As your base grows it also produces pollution. If the pollution reaches a bug nest, they will attack the source of the pollution, i.e. you.
Pollution also causes the bug population to evolve, meaning more bugs which are harder to kill as time goes by and your base grows.
The enemy bugs make Factorio a great balance of building a base, defending it from attacks, and planning expansions to reach the resources – and land – you require to get your rocket into the sky.
Easy on your PC
Factorio is a beautiful game, although it is simple in art style and design.
This means it is easy on your PC, and the recommended requirements are below:
- Windows 7, 8, 10
- Quad-core 3.0GHz CPU
- 8GB RAM
- GeForce GTX 750 Ti / Radeon R7 360 GPU (2GB VRAM and DirectX 11).
- 3GB storage
In summary: fun to play, challenging, easy on your PC, and R170 on Steam.
Go forth and play, my friends.
This is an opinion piece.