Factorio: A review

Factorio Wideshot

Factorio is a game about building and creating automated factories to produce items of increasing complexity, within an infinite 2D world. Use your imagination to design your factory, combine simple elements into ingenious structures, and finally protect it from the creatures who don’t really like you.

Factorio Steam Page

My Rating

Rating Reason

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I’d give it 5 stars, because I barely scratched the surface, didn’t follow any tutorials, tried to learn from trial/error and experimentation, and I still got a solid 110 hours out of it. I have only played a single randomly generated map, haven’t played with any conflict on, and haven’t even unlocked the full potential of most of the features.

Why I like it

This game gave me a sense of control in what is otherwise an uncontrollable time. I enjoy resource management games, but even more so when there can be logic gates and such introduced. I liked the challenge of rudimentary/binary network decisions to try and make the most efficient use of resources possible.

You might like if you’re into:

  • Real-time Strategy games
  • Resource Management games
  • Minecraft redstone circuits
  • Programming
  • Starcraft & alien assaults

A game-play summary

Factorio is a game where you play as this little man, who is apparently stranded on an infinite, procedurally generated world with randomly placed resources. Your goal: to build a rocket and leave the planet.

Factorio Character
Your Character in the game

In order to build that rocket, you have to setup research labs to learn the technology trees necessary to build the components.

Factorio Labs
Research Labs

One of those components are the various Science Packs that are needed for the different technology trees:

  • Red for “Automation” technologies
  • Green for “Logistic” network technologies
  • Blue for “Chemical” processing technologies
  • Black for “Military” technologies (only necessary if bugs, or for some armor upgrades)
  • Purple for “Production” technologies
  • Yellow for “Utility” technologies
  • White for “Space” technologies (only necessary if you don’t end with the rocket launch)
Factorio Lab Resource Clusters
Science Pack Manufacturing Clusters

To generate these Science Packs, you need to setup Assembling Machines, and provide them with the materials each desired item requires. Some of them require simple things like the Copper Plate, which is just once-processed Copper Ore. Some of the items are more complicated, and require multi-stage production chains.

Factorio Manufacturing Clusters
Material Production Clusters

Some Science Packs require varying degrees of processed materials and in varying numbers, and some processed materials also make use of those same materials but in larger numbers. As the research becomes more advanced, additional clusters of manufacturing are needed to keep up with demand.

Factorio Factory Layout
Factory Layout

Keeping up with demand is easy if you don’t have to worry about draining locally source raw materials…but alas, you do – unless you want to scour the map for more.

Factorio Inventory Management
Recapturing excess inventory

Enter a the red/green Circuit Network where signals are used to connect everything from Storage boxes, to the Inserter arms, to the Transport Belts themselves. In the image above you can see that the Red Circuit is showing the numbers of things I have in storage, and the Green Circuit is indicating what things are needed by the manufacturing clusters who are below their cache thresholds.

Factorio Circuit Network
Constant, Arithmetic & Logic Combinators

To setup the Red/Green circuits, I have a couple Constant Combinators, Arithmetic Combinators & Decider Combinators. Each serves the purpose of emitting a single based on: a constant value, the result of a mathematical calculation, or a logical check, respectively.

I use these networks in a couple different ways:

  1. Manufacturing Cluster Cache Inventory: know what all the clusters have, versus what they should have.
  2. In Transit Inventory vs Used Inventory: know what items have gone onto the belt and what items have come off the belt, to prevent overloading the belt after enough items have been added to the stream.
  3. Replenishment of Inventory: know that whether what is in the Inventory Recapture storage bins is below the cache threshold for that item.
Factorio Resource Translation
Material Translation from Processed to raw

In order to keep track of what Raw Materials are needed in the stream, I have to keep track of the count of once-processed materials. If the once-processed materials gets low, their signal is sent out, and a Decider Combinator is used to convert the once-processed into the raw material and pass that signal along instead.

Factorio Raw Material Processing
Raw Material processing stream

This informs the Furnaces to start pulling the Ore/Stone/Plates from the raw material stream and churning out the once-processed materials. In this way I am not burning Ore/Stone (which are sometimes needed in other materials) by generating an excess of Plates…reducing the wasted consumption of Coal or Ores.

Factorio Power Generation
Solar Power Generation with LED indicator, and Steam backup

While reducing the waste of Ore is nice to avoid having to fetch it remotely, the waste of Coal is more important. In the early stages, using coal to power everything is sufficient, but at some point, the power demands can outpace the ability to mine Coal from your local spot.

At that time, you have to decide if it’s easier/sufficient to get more Remote Coal, or go Nuclear with Uranium mines, or Solar with Accumulators and Solar Panels. I chose solar, since the uranium mines were so far, the processing wasn’t worth the effort.

Factorio Railroad Imports
Delivering remote resources via Railroad

I still needed to have material delivered though, as I did eventually run out of Coal locally, as well as Iron and Copper Ores. So a railroad was built, and a rail line was configured to stop at the various deposits where I set up miners and belts, along with inserters to pull from the belt, storage boxes to cache the ore, and strategically placed inserters to load a boxcar when the train stopped. It was also done for Oil Fields and Pumpjacks to start building Chemical Plant items.

This was repeated at the base to unload the Oil with a pump into storage tanks and process it into the various things needed for the more advanced science packs.

Factorio Rocket Silo
The end game: Rocket Silo

And finally the end game: building the Rocket Silo and supplying it with the materials it needs to generate 100 Rocket Parts. In my case, it meant I could shut down all other processing that did not contribute to the supply chain of the Rocket Parts, and focus everything on funding them.

Closing Remarks

In all, I had a great 110 hours getting to the rocket silo and sending it off. I did save the game right beforehand, so I could pick it back up. I particularly enjoyed thinking about how I could improve my manufacturing cluster efficiency, and eventually got to the most compact, no-empty-square implementation I could conceive…but I still think there may be better layouts.

Most nights I couldn’t shake the dreams of transportation belts running, and that really made for restless nights, but this sort of thing happens with city builders as well. It was great fun.

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