Satisfactory is a factory-building game. Which means that, by its nature, it has been fighting an uphill battle. Why? Because Factorio exists.
And yet you have to congratulate Coffee Stain on what they’ve accomplished against these odds. They’ve put together a surprisingly robust and extremely fun factory-builder in a 3D environment, which in itself is enough to prove wrong my predictions when I first heard about the game. But more than that: they’ve given us a factory-builder where the overwhelming feeling is one of possibility and hope, rather than – in Factorio’s case – bleak and uninviting.
I say this as someone with 1000 hours in Factorio: it really does leave you feeling like the enemy. And rightfully so. After all, you’re an outsider on this planet, and you’ve seen fit to industrialise and pollute it to the detriment of those who were there before you. And Satisfactory is built upon the same premise. You crash-land, you mine ores and craft them into things which allow you to mine ores faster, and then you automate the mining and the smelting, and then expand to the next ore patches, and automate them, and so on ad infinitum.
But despite being a near-exact replica of Factorio’s core loop of expanding your factory at the expense of the planet, somehow you don’t come away from Satisfactory feeling like the enemy. And that actually counts for a lot when you’re looking at a sub-genre with a reputation for 8-hour-long play sessions. Most of us don’t want to feel like the enemy for such a large portion of our day.
It might just be because I haven’t played Satisfactory through to the mega-factory stage, and I haven’t yet reached the point where I look down upon the remains of the world and dramatically proclaim “what have I done?” like Magneto at the end of that X-Men film people don’t like to talk about. It might also be because of the differences between the soundtracks of Satisfactory and Factorio. While Factorio’s is cerebral and sombre, Satisfactory’s is significantly more bouncy. It’s filled with an energy and optimism that drives the player forward.
But I reckon even without that positive energy, I’d still play Satisfactory for hundreds of hours. It has captured much of the addictive, endless allure of automating things that I’ve known and loved in Factorio for so long – and the fact that it’s set in a three-dimensional environment not only gives players a vertical axis they can leverage when planning and expanding their factories, but it also makes it much easier to be taken in by the beauty of the world around them. In Factorio, I’ve always looked at the world from the perspective of an exploiter. In Satisfactory, I only ever view the world as an explorer.