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Occasionally, a game comes calling. While newer, brighter, fancier, and more popular games stand by, you find yourself returning to a game you know all too well. Maybe it’s a title from childhood, from your formative years, or just from a few weeks ago. It could be a game you might need only sink a few hours into, or maybe a few days. No matter what it is, you’re reunited, and you’re Back on your Bullshit.
Factorio strays away from the more popular crafting games of our time. While it adheres to some similar tropes, Factorio pushes beyond them and explores further. When Minecraft sends you deep below to search for rarer and sturdier materials, Factorio pulls the rug from beneath you, adds its own layer of complication, and leaves you in a dizzying industrial maze of your own design.
If you haven’t touched Factorio, it may appear a bit intimidating. Where Minecraft has a simplistic style, and Fortnite has a colorful one, Factorio is a bit drab and drained. You’re tasked with gathering resources from a planet you’ve crashed on to create a rocket ship and get back home. Despite the Pikmin-esque plot, it’s not as simple as ordering a hoard of local plant things to do your bidding. You’ll need to create factories that mine, smelt, move, collect, power, pump, and otherwise transfer the natural resources of the planet around in order to best accomplish your next task. That can be as simple as a conveyor belt passing coal to a self-fueling robotic arm, or as complicated as a fleet of trains,moving large amounts of material around the map on a tight schedule. The key word here is “logistics.”
Factorio can get complicated. As in, ’building, coordinating, automating, and programming flying robots to cut down forests” complicated. That’s dozens of hours into a single playthrough and at a level of perseverance I’ve yet to find with the game. I’ve probably repeated the same opening five to six hours nearly a dozen times now. Unlike Minecraft, or games like it, there’s a distinct, different reason why Factorio draws me in nearly every time. Or maybe it’s a feeling. An eventual deep feeling of contentment. As if all if right with the world. Every game starts with a scattershot of drills and smelters, altering raw materials into more useful goods, before moving onto automating the entire process. After slowly collecting each piece of smelted iron, and refueling every drill by hand, suddenly everything is being done for you. Iron is taken straight from the mine, smelted, then stored. Your hard work and frustration pays off.
This is where Factorio gets real good, and why it’s constantly calling me to come back to my bullshit. After you’ve created your own mini-factory in the wilderness, you realize you need another item made from the same set of resources you’re working with. The level of automation and complication has increased, and will keep increasing over and over again. With each new layer is another potential problem in your build. Perhaps you build too close together, and don’t have the room to properly place everything. Perhaps your resource pools begin to dry up too quickly, and you’ll have to completely replace all of your iron mines. What makes it all wonderful is every problem has a solution. Usually a genuinely satisfying one too.
Automated trains, flying robots, oil refineries, nuclear power, power armor, tanks, and laser turrets. I’m still unsure about the end of the game, having only seen it in a handful of Youtube clips. It’s all linked to a skill level I’m afraid I may be unable to reach. Yet even then, I walk up to my video game Everest and still feel the need to climb. I might be unable, unwilling, or uninterested in reaching the top. I’m more curious about how deep I can go, how complicated and convoluted it can all get before I lose the thread. Or even better, how complicated it can get while I’m still holding on for the ride.