Factorio Joins Early Access Assembly Line, Has Demo

Hypothetically speaking, if you were to crash land on a remote foreign planet, how do you reckon you’d survive? Would you forage for food, build shelter and eventually draw a face on a discarded volleyball? Or would you mine resources, create machines and build your own multi-functioning warehouses, championing your own pseudo industrial revolution? Factorio [official site] is a game about designing and building factories that suggests you try the latter. After years selling alpha access directly themselves, developers Wube Software have now launched Factorio onto Steam Early Access.

Chris Livingston was quite taken with the version he played in 2014. It wasn’t the first game he’d played to plop players on an alien planet to harvest resources and build structures, but it was certainly something new:

“It immediately feels different, though, because so much of the game is focused on creating automation systems. You build machines, production lines, and factories to do your work for you. Unlike Minecraft, where the early game requires you to manually chip away at resources for ages before you’re able to build anything of real use, in Factorio the automation begins almost immediately. There’s still plenty of work to do, but most of the work involves building machines to do your work, and then building machines to build those machines.”

What starts off fairly crude quickly becomes decidedly complex as you expand and grow, and discover the means to produce advanced machinery and more efficient production lines. Although not the game’s main focus, enemies are eventually introduced to the fold by way of unhappy natives who seek to reclaim their land, thus it’s on you to turn your technological prowess to weapons manufacturing. It all looks fantastic, however I’m most interested to see if Factorio offers non-conflict solutions to these particular confrontations. Perhaps if you’ve dived in already, you can let me know.

Factorio currently lives on Steam Early Access, where it plans to be for the next eight to 12 months, and costs £15. Folks who’ve bought it before can claim a Steam key. Factorio has a demo if you fancy trying it first.


  1. aleander says:

    There is no non-conflict solution, really, though the angry fauna gets more actively angry if you put a smokestack in their backyard. They also seem to hate radars a lot. The game actually has solar power and really big batteries, so it is possible to be a slightly less terrible neighbour. On the other hand, I think some resources can only be achieved by means of smashing a bug house.

    I’ve last played Factorio ages ago, and were terrible at it, so things may have changed somewhat, but as far as I remember the main goal is to buy a rocket and bugger of, leaving the bugs with an automated military-industrial complex and vague memory of a human smashing their stuff. Nothing bad could ever come out of that.

    • roothorick says:

      I think the game would be hollow without an adversary that’s not a trivial pushover. The game is heavily inspired by the likes of Buildcraft and IndustrialCraft, which added a great deal of overpowered technology to Minecraft without stronger mobs to answer that firepower. Your primary opponent quickly became scarcity of resources, which was quite dull. I think Factorio’s evolution factor system is a rather brilliant answer to that problem.

      The endgame is HEAVILY dependent on collecting alien artifacts, which can only be acquired by destroying nests. So if you just turtle, you will hit a wall. There is a serious problem in the current game balance where it doesn’t really explain the evolution factor system, so you never catch that maybe turtling down indefinitely is a bad idea without spoiling yourself on the wiki or similar. So, in your first few attempts you’ll often build yourself into a corner where the nests are too strong for you to assault, and the increasing evolution factor means your defenses — which you can’t improve without alien artifacts — will eventually be overwhelmed.

  2. re5et says:

    Yes there is a non-conflict solution. You can either reduce the amount of enemies (or increase it) when creating a new map, or enable the “Enemies never attack first” option (not sure how it’s called exactly)

  3. BluePencil says:

    A YouTuber I follow has long had a series on this game. I think I can see the initial attraction but not the long term one. It seems like almost endless, repetitive laying out of similar modules all over the shop. A lot of fetching and carrying.

    Even with a highly developed manufacturing set-up there always seems to be two lines of ten modules and having to update each one with the same multi-click process or having to get resources from point A to point B (when you haven’t or for some reason can’t build a conveyor to do it for you – although I have a vague idea you can fly things around in automated fashion as well).

    • Zankman says:

      Who is the YouTuber, per say?

      • Tidzor says:

        I would guess Arumba, he tends to be prolific when it comes to that type of game.

    • Xerophyte says:

      You can play the game with a lot of manual fetching like some sort of RTS Minecraft but the entire point of Factorio is to not do that. Instead you should go “wow, manual labor is annoying” and build massive complexes of conveyor belts, robots and trains that ferry your increasing myriad of stuff to different places where it becomes other, better stuff. At the start of the game you’re laboriously moving iron ore to the smelter, at the middle of the game you manually construct an automated mining-and-smelting facility, at the end of the game you’re ordering your legion of construction robots to construct yet an arbitrary number of mining-and-smelting centers all over the map after your own personal blueprint.

      For me it primarily scratches the city builder “Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”-itch, where you start with an empty slab of rock and slowly carve out a buzzing hive of activity that’s just mesmerizing to observe. For Factorio you additionally get to do so as a Captain Planet villain, which is quite satisfying. Suck it, nature!

      • wisnoskij says:

        But unfortunately that is also appears to be its downfall. The entire point is that you get to progressive automate away the tedium (cool, awesome, why I am looking forwards to trying it), but to do that, the game has to first be based around tedium. So in the end either you have a game full of tedium, or you have a game that you have automated everything and there is nothing left to do (again boring). Maybe the game is actually a philosophical statement on the evils of technology.

        • Xerophyte says:

          I’ll cheerfully admit that the first 15 minutes of Factorio are a bit humdrum, at least on repeat plays, but you can mod them away in sandbox mode so that’s alright. It’s also not a problem on the later campaign maps where you start with basic automation already running.

          I’ve never really had the problem where there’s nothing to do, however. There’s always a mine running out, or I need to expand the railway network, or I want to double the production of some widget type, or the biters are encroaching on my power stations, and so on. I guess once the rocket is complete and all my storage chests are full so the factory is no longer producing anything then fine, not much to do, but “there’s not much to do in the game after you’ve won the game” feels like a complaint common to a lot of games.

        • roothorick says:

          The primary drive to the gameplay is that your factory doesn’t stay sufficient for long. More powerful technologies require large amounts of more advanced items that require larger crafting chains and more time to make, necessitating exponentially larger assembly lines to get what you want done in a reasonable amount of time. This makes expanding and refining your factory a perpetual need that easily occupies you throughout the game and continually demands innovation and increasing complexity in your designs.

        • Jools says:

          You’re just being way too reductionist here.

          Factorio is a game about building a factory. The core is all about streamlining processes and then, for one blissful moment before you realize the whole thing is inadequate, sitting back and enjoying your work. If that doesn’t work sound fun, then it’s probably just not your cup of tea. The automation isn’t boring, it’s the whole point.

          It’s not a perfect game, but it is really damn good at what it’s trying to be.

        • GepardenK says:

          The moment to moment gameplay feels very much like the good old “The Incredible Machine” and the overall strategic gameplay with the production pipeline plays like the “Anno” series except much more in-depth. Both those games are absolute classics yet they offer less than Factorio in terms of features and replay value, so I don’t really see the issue here…

          Interestingly Factorio has surprisingly little in common with the Minecraft-esque builder/survival-game crowd outside it’s controls and some GUI elements

    • roothorick says:

      The core of the gameplay is to escalate, build larger and larger assembly lines that produce more items, faster, so as to climb the increasingly costly tech tree in a reasonable amount of time, and solve the logistics issues inherent to feeding your rapidly growing beast. Meanwhile, your carbon footprint is growing exponentially, causing the local wildlife to bring to bear more and bigger nasties that require progressively higher weapons on the tech tree to kill.

      There’s replay value in trying different factory designs, using more difficult map generation settings, or trying to work within certain restrictions. Which may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s there.

  4. Zankman says:

    This game is so mysterious to me, given the weird concept and purpose of the game.

    Granted, I haven’t really watched gameplay of it, but, like, I’m kinda unwilling to even watch it… I mean… You basically make a factory? Make machinery and modules?

    So… Hm, just kinda weird.

    • eightohnine says:

      By your logic no one could ever be interested in a game like SimCity (build a city?), Prison Architect (built a prison?) or Transport Tycoon (move cargo around?).

      Factorio does the core tycoon gameplay so damn well – build a simple system and iteratively keep optimising it. The system grows in complexity by your very own additions. You only need to funnel in a new line of coal and suddenly the setup you just spent two hours to perfect is overloaded and needs a reworking. The “factory lines” are in a constant state of flux, where’s there always a few optimisation points to be gained through tweaks and refactors.

      Or… you’re just might not be into tycoon games. (Which is more than fine in my book).

      I say give it a shot. The demo is free, after all.

      • Zankman says:

        I am into Tycoon games.

        This one just looks so… Different and weird.

        I can’t even *get* what it actually is.

        • eightohnine says:

          Basically it’s a production line builder. The “weird” thing about it is that all machinery is outdoors, no roof to be seen. You start off picking manually at a patch of coal, stone and other resources. With stone you build a furnace, with coal you power the furnace, with it you smelt iron ore, you get metal plates, you use those to you build a mining device, you power the device with coal, so now you no longer manually need to mine coal. Simple steps leat to automation. And this is just the beginning. Water/Steam/Electricity, Oil/Chemicals/Plastics, research, defense against pissed off local fauna (optional), robotic automation, trains and cars and spaceships. It escalates from humple beginnings to severely complex setups.

          It’s not everyones cup of tea, but again, the demo shows far better what I can only barely explain. I know it convinced me to buy the game. :)

          • Zankman says:

            Thanks for explaining.

            Yeah, the fact that it is a “production line builder” is the weird part, haha.

            But although I like some Tycoon games, others like Transport Tycoon seem totally “weird” to me as well, so, I guess this subgenre is not for me.

  5. nofare says:

    I want to play as the planet and get rid of those awful destroyers.

  6. Cipherpunk says:

    The alien life is responding to the pollution you’re generating and they will typically attack the most heavily offending structures. You can reduce your pollution levels strategically to reduce escalation but ultimately, the alien nests have resources needed for advanced research.

    There are mods however that do add peaceful alternatives for dealing with the natives. Alternatively, you could install Peace Mod and do away with enemies all together. Personally, I think the game loses something without the tension of defending your base.

  7. DantronLesotho says:

    I loved loved loved Factorio when they released the alpha. It’s an incredible game. I played through it three times in a row. There is an immense satisfaction in setting up effective production lines, and it’s something that few games do well. I’ll definitely be getting the steam key for that.

  8. ishumar says:

    They game don’t interest me too much, but I love the aesthetics – Tiberian Sun comes to mind. Very much hoping for a renaissance for strategy games employing dull colors, low-res sprites and square geography.

  9. brucethemoose says:

    I’m a sucker for factory games like this (think heavily modded Minecraft, FortressCraft, and Starmade to some extent), and this is a good one.

    Heck, the Alpha was great years ago… So by now, this is probably one of the most fleshed out “early access” games you’ll find on Steam.

  10. Haggoid says:

    Play the free demo. By the end of it you should know if this is the type of game you’ll love playing.

    I’ve but in more than a few hundred hours over the past year after I played the demo (and then hastened to find my cc so I could purchase the full game).

  11. SomeDuder says:

    One of the scant few success stories to come from Kickstarter. I played the everliving crap out of this during development (Never quite reaching the end-game item tho (Rocket defense then, satellite launching facility now)), must have sunk more than 300 hours into it. Then I decided to stop and let it get some more development time before I gave up on it.

    It’s hard to explain – watch the trailer, and if you immediately get a feeling of “I NEED THIS”, then you NEED it and will play nothing else for a good while. If you don’t “get” it, then don’t bother, it’s not for you.

    Anyway, it’s still being fully developed, with weekly updates by a very dedicated development team (Their “Friday Facts” are a fun read) and despite being an Early Access thing, it’s extremely and very playable.