As I write this, my assembler unit is producing rotors at only 52 percent efficiency, as denoted by the icon on the display. It’s a long process to make just one, and I have to load fifty into my space elevator to unlock the next tier of progress towards my base. The problem is, my screw constructor is producing more than enough to feed the assembler, but my conveyor belts just aren’t fast enough to move them into place before the first piece is finished being built. So I’m waiting, and writing, and hoping the next slew of upgrades will allow me some faster belts. Edit: they did.
Satisfactory, the new game from Goat Simulator developers Coffee Stain Studios, will have a hard time avoiding comparisons to Factorio. Having played enough to upgrade my factory’s infrastructure to a reasonably automated level, I’d like to parse these two games apart. How circular (if at all) is the Venn diagram of Factorio and Satisfactory?
A Change In Perspective
Satisfactory is a first-person game. This massive departure from Factorio’s overhead view means things are reeled in close. You’ll spend more time staring closely at conveyor belts than throwing them down from the heavens hundreds at a time. By no means does this simplify the construction of factories, however. It just means construction of things like observation towers, which let you get a birds-eye view of your spaghetti bowl factory, become necessary.
This also makes everything more… satisfying. Instead of unceremoniously “poofing” buildings into existence, they’re built from the ground up before your eyes, glowing a white-orange as the freshly smelted metal cools. There’s a much more intimate relationship with your factory, and this has its own pros and cons.
On one hand, the fruits of your labors are much more tangible. Existing in 3D space, they can be walked around and admired. On the flipside, tearing down a few smelters to optimize production of a component becomes heartbreaking (and a bit tedious). Needing to traverse not-so-elegantly crafted conveyor belts and eyeball powerlines to figure out where they’ll reconnect makes construction feel both earned and appropriately cumbersome.
Tuned Up Production
Anyone who’s poured a solid amount of time into Factorio knows a singular kind of pain. Your iron plates stopped appearing on the conveyor belt. Is something broken? Did enemies destroy a generator? No, you simply ran out of iron ore to mine, and there’s no easy fix (aside from finding more). Satisfactory’s ore deposits are infinite. Energy is easily produced from plucking flora and mushing it into fuel, or, later, from mining coal. The only thing between you and optimal efficiency is the proper use of space and a little planning – no more worrying about what’s going to happen twenty hours from now if your ore nodes run out.
A Beautiful World
Satisfactory is breathtaking. In a game about belching black smoke into the atmosphere of an alien planet, I didn’t expect it to be so beautiful. From grand spires of stone to bizarre stilt-whale-penguin creatures, there’s always some eye-popping detail to admire.
While I spent most of my time near my humble base, I’m sure exploring the entirety of the expansive, hand-crafted map will be necessary to “finish” the game. Factorio certainly isn’t a slouch in the art-style department (although it isn’t to everyone’s taste), but it’s infinite, procedural worlds can’t compare to something made from scratch. Coming across a deep canyon filled with toxic, flower-like crab enemies or craning back to look up at an enormous gliding alien creature was not what I expected from a factory simulation game.
Quickly constructing some haphazard monstrosity of a factory that will then be torn down and reformed is a Factorio staple. Here, you’ll do the same thing, only much more slowly. Let’s face it – the human brain just can’t keep track of all those ratios, power poles, and conveyor belts. At some point, you’ll be staring down at your factory, planning the inevitable. When the time comes, the process can be maddening. Where did this biofuel burner connect? Which storage box is this again? How did I even get this belt through here?
The rewards, then, are all the sweeter. While slightly streamlined compared to Factorio’s intense science pack production, the road to progress in Satisfactory does call for some scaling. Planning ahead even a little for some extra iron or copper bars will save lots of headaches in the future, and generally, the material requirements are far, far less than those of Factorio. Because of this, you’ll find yourself with only one or two machines producing any one thing at a time for a large portion of the early game. This allows for some exploration while you let your meager factory work, as well as some much-needed resource gathering. This is “boots on the ground” factory simulation, with all the grit and beauty that entails.
I’m just getting started in Satisfactory, out now in early access on the Epic Games Store. While I whittle away at the upgrades I can afford, I look forward to what Coffee Stain add to this massive, deep experience, and I’m consistently in awe of what others have built. Needless to say, that Goat Simulator money has gone to something grand, and if you’re intrigued enough to be reading this article, Satisfactory is well worth your time. Just don’t be afraid to tear down a few of those huge buildings – it only takes a few seconds for them to stir back to life.
This preview is based on the early access version of Satisfactory. A copy was provided by Coffee Stain Studios.