Maybe not 100 hrs of pure gameplay here, which I’ll get into, but enough to see pretty much every aspect of the game.
The best factory games have a sort of research/progress tree that requires specific material to move forward. DSP has that as well, where you create Matrix Cubes from base material. That effectively breaks the game into 6 phases (1 per cube type). The pace of progress between cubes works relatively well, with some weird bits near the end.
It’s something else too, since late game production rates are simply massive compared to the start. The most basic material, Iron Ingots, is running full pin to keep my inventory at 10,000 units. This means 200 factories set up to make it work – a far cry from harvesting 1 at a time at the start.
By the time you start working on the 2rd cubes, you need to build outposts on another planet – the material simply doesn’t exist on yours. It’s also the start of the very weird oil phase. Not sure if this was a poke at the real world or not, but regardless of what you do, you will never have enough oil. Even with multiple planets all extracting, that’s the one material for which you’ll need 400-600 factories to get the basic materials for the end game.
A small pet peeve here, is the ability to find stuff in other systems. There are some ultra rare nodes you can mine, that can dramatically bypass the oil issue – but the game really doesn’t do a good job of explaining where they are. You need to invest in a specific upgrade to see that information, and it took me a heck of a while to figure that part out. Which I think falls into the idea that the game eventually reaches a level of complexity that the in-game tools are not yet equipped to explain. Pretty much everything related to the Dyson Sphere is crazy obtuse.
There’s also the challenge of logistics that are solved with a sort of sledgehammer. There’s just so much stuff to create and move around, that by the 4th cube, your belts moving stuff around is just too complex. The solution is logistics towers, both local and interplanetary. They can store or transport a pile of material almost anywhere, and it’s a real snowball effect once you start your “factory planet”. You reach a point where every single every item will have a tower, and there are over 100 different things to build. Don’t get me wrong, it’s really cool to see it all run, but it’s not as impressive as Factorio where you have 4-5 different things all on the same chain of production. Here, I make 10,000 Iron Ingots, then ship those to a half dozen other towers for the next steps. 8 steps later, I have rocket ships to build a Dyson Sphere.
Then there’s the actual act of building the sphere. The plan itself only works if you have a specific level of research unlocked. You build a structure, shoot rockets to build it, then generate massive power output. Once the structure is solid, then you try to fill it with sails. All solid, but the mechanics to actually build everything means that you need thousands of items, and then shoot them at the sky with dozens of buildings. You pretty much need a planet that is covered with these things, and even then, you’re probably 10 hrs of waiting for it to all complete. There isn’t much after the Dyson Sphere right now – an artificial star which helps with power in other star systems I guess, but wind turbines are more than enough.
For a complex game in early access, these are minor wrinkles. There are ample YouTube videos to explain these concepts, and an amazing Steam guide on the sphere itself. The orchestration required to plan these massive chain factories is substantial and super fulfilling when it works. The addition of a blueprint system is all about saving sanity. I’m sure it’s 20+ hrs in there that I could have had back. The last patch was a huge QoL improvement for anyone entering the final bit of the game.