Opus Magnum whirs out of Early Access


The age of machines has begun. I’m not talking about world conquering, human enslaving robots from the Matrix or what have you, nor the warped logic of paperclip-producing AIs. I’m talking about clunky factory lines producing wizard-viagra (‘stamina’ potions), and cobbled together contraptions that eventually churn out stain-removers. Now that I think about it, those were two unfortunate examples to use next to each other.

What I’m trying to say is that ace puzzler Opus Magnum left early access on Thursday, so you’ve got no excuse not to jump in and start building machines of your own.

As with previous Zachtronics games, Opus Magnum was more or less done when it launched into early access in October. Updates since then have mostly been bug fixes and quality of life improvements, though a whole new element and an additional mini-campaign were added last month.

There are more bug fixes on the way, along with “at least one or two” new issues to the Journal of Alechemical Engineering, which are super-hard puzzles that aren’t part of the main campaign. My experience with them is limited to opening one of them, staring at it for 5 seconds then saying ‘NOPE’ out loud and hitting alt-f4, though maybe you’ll fare better than me. I’ve mainly made it as far as I have in the campaign by adopting a brute force approach to the puzzles, as demonstrated with this mess of a stain-remover:

See how the ‘main’ arm has to awkwardly rotate half a dozen times to fit through that gap and collect the other atoms? There’s probably a near-infinite number of elegant solutions that avoid that faff, but they’re all beyond me. The joy of Opus Magnum is that even though I’m aware of that, I’m still (perhaps misguidedly) proud of my own wonky solutions.

It’s something that lead dev Zach Barth touched on when he sat down for a chat with Brendy:

“The funny thing is that a lot of the GIFs are people playing the game in a very conventional way. And this is the thing that I think is so funny, is that there’s a lot of people – like the subreddit is almost entirely just GIFs – and there’s lots of people posting GIFs and, like, their solutions aren’t that special but they’re unique and they’re theirs, right? And so I think that speaks to the power of these open-ended puzzles. Even people who aren’t, like, fucking breaking the rules or pushing the limits are actually still immensely proud because they really have made something that is their solution to the puzzle. And they’re showing it off. I think in the past people only tended to show off when they did crazy things, but we’ve made it so easy and so accessible that it becomes this thing that everybody can show what they’re working on. So, from my perspective, most of what they’re doing is actually kinda boring but they’re just playing the game as intended, you know? But I think that’s great … and I love that people feel attached to their solutions, even when they’re just kind of playing the game normally.”

Opus Magnum is 10% off until December 14th on Steam and DRM-free on Humble for £13.94/$17.99/€17.99.

Unfortunately you can’t get the game on GOG, for Questionable Reasons:


  1. Culby says:

    F’real, if there’s a mobile version of Opus Magnum, then someone needs to get that in my hands yesterday.

    • Darloth says:

      Just logging in to agree – if I could play this on a tablet or a phone, I would gladly pay full price to do so. Probably quicker than I would on a desktop PC, if the interface was good.

  2. Robmonster says:

    I only ever made it through a few levels of Space Chem before things got too complicated for me. Would I enjoy this game?

    I always like the /idea/ of them but find myself getting SUPER stuck very early.

    • Torabayashi says:

      I’m about halfway through the campaign and I haven’t gotten stuck yet, even though SpaceChem stumped me pretty early. Opus Magnum seems much more forgiving in that you can almost always complete the puzzle, even if your solution isn’t anywhere close to “optimal.”

    • MiniMatt says:

      I hesitate to say Opus is easier as that might seem a negative to some but its challenge is definitely more graduated. Both level to level and within each level.

      You’ll conceive of a solution to each puzzle within a couple of minutes and then spend perhaps ten minutes implementing it. Then you might like to spend an hour or two perfecting it. Then you might realise an entirely different way to approach it and spend an hour or two on that. Then you might try to tune different solutions to cost, space, cycles, or plain aesthetics.

      It’s a good game, and if it doesn’t make an appearance on this year’s RPS Calendar I’ll be sad.

      • H. Vetinari says:

        It’s a good game, and if it doesn’t make an appearance on this year’s RPS Calendar I’ll be sad.

        without doubt it’s my goty and I don’t even like puzzle games; well at least I thought I didn’t like them, but after 8h of Opus Magnum in I’m already looking at Shenzhen I/O :-)

        • MiniMatt says:

          Yep, likely mine too, they’re good games Brent

        • Addie says:

          This! As well.

          I bought a copy of Shenzhen on account of how much I enjoyed OM. OM is a step forward, in that you have unlimited space, money and time to create your solution. Once I’d finished, I was then free to go back and use all that I’d learned to improve on my previous solutions. The feedback is great, too- better solutions move more smoothly and make a better clicky-clack noise as they run. Shenzhen has the same satisfaction of being able to make a ‘better’ solution once you understand more, but as all of the puzzles are area limited (which also limits cost and lines-of-code to what will fit) it’s much easier to hit a wall and get stuck.

          ‘Better’, for Shenzhen, is relative – the dirtier the hacks in your code, and the more bizarrely obfuscated the operation, often the better. And comments take up valuable space. It’s like learning to be good software engineer in reverse.

    • MajorLag says:

      As other’s have mentioned, the big difference between Opus Magnum and Space Chem is that Opus has no space constraint. It sounds like a small thing, but it’s actually pretty profound. You are free to approach the problem in any way you can imagine in Opus, which makes it easy to complete and way more interesting to optimize, any given puzzle.

      The bonus chapter really highlighted the difference in gamefeel, because it returns to a more Space Chem like constrained environment. I found it largely tedious except for the final puzzle.

  3. Movac says:

    Some of GOG’s decisions just baffle. One of the promoted new releases on their front page right now is the new Reigns expandalone. Reigns isn’t just available on mobile devices, it doesn’t just have a mobile-style interface, its whole gimmick is that it uses Tinder’s interface in a different context. Nothing against Reigns, it’s a cool little game, but if you’re going to set standards for your store a little consistency would be nice. I assume Opus Magnum would get right on if it was published by Devolver.

  4. Zarick says:

    I have played and finished the first two chapters of the game and I am enjoying it a lot. I have been having fun trying to solve the puzzles with as little parts as possible but the best feature of the game is the gif maker by far. Me and a friend have been having fun sharing our solutions and there is not one puzzle so far that we solved the same way. Great game!

  5. vorador says:

    The best thing about Opus Magnum is that you have a lot of freedom to tackle problems, so even if its slow or enormous or whatever, its your solution and it works. You can worry later about reducing steps or costs.

  6. aircool says:

    Infinifactory is one of my favourite games of all time. I don’t think this one will be as good, but I’ve put it on my christmas list.