Satisfactory

I like Satisfactory. There are a lot of other things I could say about it, but I spent days playing shapez.io, and Satisfactory is Shapez.io in 3D. That is to say, it’s a game about automation and factory construction, and the optimization of those systems.

The story of Satisfactory is that you are [EMPLOYEE#7190] for some gigantic space megacorporation called Ficsit, pronounced Fix-It, and you’ve been dumped onto some lush untouched wilderness to turn it into a giant factory. The reality is that it doesn’t matter that there’s a story, because there might as well not be one.

In any case, after being dropped down onto a planet, there’s an opening segment that amounts to a tutorial. After being introduced to the ability to construct buildings and craft parts, the player is free to do things at their own pace. There’s no real time pressure to get anything done. There is some hostile enemy wildlife, but even those are pretty non-threatening. Let’s talk about those for a minute, because Satisfactory is a game about building things, specifically giant factories, and everything that doesn’t contribute to that feels fairly vestigial and pointless.

Sure, there’s some hostile wildlife, and trees, and rocks, and whatnot, but they only matter to the extent that they get in the way of building. The AI for this wildlife is laughably stupid. The primary enemy, a sort of dog/armadillo thing, has constantly gotten stuck on loops trying to charge me, and then running in endless circles. It’s ineffectual enough to be forgettable, and annoying on the few instances when they actually do manage to connect a hit. The weird murder bumblebees are frustrating, but mostly pointless. Combat is just not very good.

Exploration is a somewhat similar boat. You can select from 4 different worlds to spawn into when you start the game, but they’re all fixed, not random. There are a few things that you can pick up as you venture around the world, and some crashed ships to find, but even those crashed ships are only interesting because they can give you access to hard drives, which give you research. Research lets you pick between various sidegrades/unlockable recipes.

Research is the game’s primary internal motivation. Most additional buildings, structures and tools are unlocked by research. The game itself consists of tiers, and completing the previous tier’s mission unlocks the next two tiers or so, and those tier’s associated missions. All of these missions involve feeding resources into something, usually your space elevator or remote dispatch drone.

Research serves a sort of tutorial gate, forcing the player to get familiar with what they currently have unlocked before they get access to more complex buildings. Let’s look at how the game handles electricity as an example.

Almost every building in the game requires electricity to actually do anything, from auto-miners to assemblers, to constructors. At the start of the game, after building the HUB, it comes equipped with two biomass burners. These can be powered by stuffing them full of leaves, and wiring them up to whatever needs power. Additional power requires building more biomass burners, which will also need to be kept supplied.

When you get far enough along the tech tree though, coal becomes available. Coal-powered generators can be set up to have coal routed directly into them with conveyors, so manual refills are no longer necessary, but in addition to coal, they also need water. This means pipes, and potentially, pumps or a pump system to make sure that water is getting where it needs to be fast enough.

Getting the most out of your power setup with coal can be a bit more involved than biomass burners. It requires at least 3 building types, a miner to dig up the coal, a coal burner, and a pump to supply the water. You might find after building your first set of generators that you need more power, and end up setting up a few more, only to realize that you’ve underestimated the amount of coal to keep things stable. Or maybe you redesign things, and forget to connect your pumps to the rest of the grid, causing a network wide outage, and forcing you to restart the coal plants semi-manually with an attached biomass burner. Maybe you’re burning too little coal, so you set up more burners, only to realize you’re now behind on water.

At its heart, Satisfactory is a game about optimizing systems. Optimize your inputs and outputs, remove bottlenecks, and try to make sure you have enough power throughout it all. While the exploration and combat feels rather week, the building gameplay is incredibly enjoyable. The game is still technically in Early Access, with a fair amount of “WIP” content, but nothing to make me hate it. You can find a link to the game’s site here, and I heavily encourage you to check it out.

P.S. When I started Gametrodon, I did so with the intention of not wanting the site to turn into the game equivalent of those baking websites that open with 3 paragraphs about how this recipe was the last surviving thing they have from their great grandmother, who got it from a mysterious shop next door that disappeared the day after they purchased it. But Satisfactory really makes me want to do one of those writeups, because it has a lot of things you could write about related to the game that aren’t really related to the game.

You could cover the fact that the game had timed Epic Store exclusivity when it first came out about 5 years, still requires some sort of weird ghostly cross-play solution to play online, and that switching that behavior requires you to contact customer support for some reason. You could point out how it’s kind of weird for a game to still be in “Early Access” after 5 years of development and patches, and the weird things that exist in the game because of that, such as the creepy fucking alien artifacts that will speak to you, and make scary noises, but have been a work in progress for over 3 years. Or maybe you could cover the sort of weird tone the game takes around construction and its theming. “Here’s a perfectly vibrant planet, full of unfucked nature, get down there in the space suit you’re renting from us [VALUED EMPLOYEE#3719] and fuck it up.” I’m not sure that the lyrics “Paved Paradise, Put up a Parking Spot” was supposed to be a How To guide. It’s vaguely uncomfortable, much like any worker placement board game where you realize that the “workers” you’re placing, based on the game’s setting and historical context, would have all been enslaved Africans. Not uncomfortable enough to make you stop playing immediately, but it does make you pause the next time you’re about to pull it out at family game night.

In short, there’s a lot of interesting hot takes you could make about Satisfactory. Fortunately the preceding paragraph of extended one-liners has gotten my desire to be Yahtzee Crosshaw off my chest. I don’t need fame and fortune from writing snarky hot takes about video games.