Satisfactory Initial Thoughts

I’ve completed the large majority of Dyson Sphere project tasks. I’ve got all the cubes to finish the last quest, about 3/4 of the tech upgrades complete (like more construction drones), and the actual Dyson Sphere is more about waiting for solar sails (took about 17,000 rockets to make the structure, so maybe 300,000 sails to fill in all the holes?) to do their job. The roadmap includes adding some combat/NPCs, and I have to assume some sort of technology bridge to make the waiting portion of the game more progressive. The blueprint addition is a massive boon, so perhaps I can go back and optimize even more in a few weeks. But for now, time to try something a little different.

I did look at Satisfactory when it was announced nearly a year ago. The concept seemed really interesting, but it was always missing some pretty big pieces to make any sense of it all. I won’t shy away, a game needs to have an early and mid-game to even be worth looking at, and the bar that Factorio has set is ultra dang high. Satisfactory was conceptually a good idea (multiplayer, FPS factory game) but the actual game had a lot of rough edges. Patch 3 came out this winter 2020 and brought pipes (for liquid transport), and patch 4 was in March with aerial movement/transport (essential in any 3D game) and then some late game content balance/changes. In terms of functional content before the 1.0 release, there’s some balancing and a signalling system for trains – so pretty much what’s there now is what’ll be there til the end. Might as well take a good stab now, right? These are thoughts up until the Coal unlock phase.

Starting Information

DSP doesn’t give much insight to a starting planet, and frankly, Satisfactory doesn’t do anything on that front either. There’s no RNG in Satisfactory though so the starting location is simply where you land on the big overland map… nothing preventing you from physically moving elsewhere.

I will say that it’s quite jarring to have to build buildings that dwarf your character. A smelter is 4 times bigger than you, and the ability to place things bigger than you in first person mode is not a pleasant one. Worse when you’re trying to connect things, as you’re never quite sure if they line up or not. I do miss the concept of a locked grid here… though that’s quickly (1hr or so) fixed when you unlock foundations.

The flow from base material to more complex stuff is pretty simple to grasp. Not a terribly large fan of only being able to manually construct in a single location (you could build another crafting location, but then that takes material rather than the actual building – so you’re likely to run out of mats). Reminds me a lot of the concept of a crafting table in Valheim, but extra not-portable. The ratio to craft stuff is well structured.

Power management is not pleasant. There’s never enough power to run what you need, and then you have maximum outputs per generator that need to be respected or you blow a literal fuse. It’s unpleasant minutiae that really should take a cue from other games. Focus on production, not the logistics of power – especially when you need to worry about a spaghetti layout for a factory. I will say that the need for biomass (leaves and wood) forces exploration, which is a super pleasant experience. The hostile NPCs can go jump off a cliff (knockback here is crazy), but the idea of finding new locations and stuff is really cool. The interface for power usage/consumption is really good. Not sure how relevant that becomes at the larger scale, but since stuff either works or doesn’t, it’s super good to know how much is missing.

I am looking forward to using the Z axis in the 3D world. Early game puts vertical as a hurdle that is almost impossible to surmount. Mutli-story factories are a thing I am looking forward to using.

I dislike the UI to build stuff. Clicking a menu, then scrolling, then clicking is way too long. You can add things to the hotbar, which is frankly mandatory and I don’t quite understand why it’s not default.

Progress Information

Where I think DSP really hits this well is that it tells you well ahead of time what’s possible. The research tree is open from the start, which in 2021 is like having the wiki page just built into the game. Satisfactory obscures nearly everything, which makes creating goals painful. I desperately wanted to know how to automate power generation… I had to randomly pick progression paths to figure out that was even possible. Not sure why you wouldn’t want to let people know that Coal production is eventually possible.

Which gets me to the larger point of progression targets. Satisfactory has tiers and sub-tiers. Tiers are relegated to upgrading the Space Elevator (which looks frikkin’ cool as beans), and the sub-tiers are related to upgrading the hub. You need material to upgrade the former, things that you may not be able to do until you upgrade the latter – but no real explanation of their relationships. It’s cool that there are no bad choices.

Speed & Scale

I wish I could do a better job explaining this, but it feels like trying to move an iceberg. Production rates are extremely slow and the buildings you are using are massive. You end up with a massive (relatively) factory that is just producing 6 things, and at a rate of 10 per minute. The construction part is a challenge because lining things up is not automatic, you can (and will) mess it up because things slide while placing them.

A pet peeve is that creating new factories requires that you have the resources on hand. It’s not like it’s 2 clicks to stock up again, or that you can “pre-fab” the items. If you are short on Rotors, well you need to walk to the Rotors storage, pick out a pile, and then run for a few minutes to the location you want to build. It’s infuriating busywork.

Factory games are great when the progression of automation is the goal. It should snowball into the logistics of competing demands. Your time is spent on thinking of new ways to automate the recent construction bits. It’s not RNG – your focus should be on managing outputs and demands so that the math works. Satisfactory does not focus on any of this right now. Placement is finicky, production rates are atrocious (limited severely by power constraints), and progress feels stymied. Perhaps I should reframe this to say that standard progress in a factory game is about making more complex things.

So far, So Good

I need to reset some expectations here and move back from the 100hrs invested in DSP (and I don’t know how many in Factorio). This game takes a much different approach to the early game as compared to those. Exploration is way more important here than automation, which is a weird twist. As I move to progress into more complex tiers (and frankly, I am drooling at the idea of coal power), I’m certain it will shift into more familiar territory.

It’s not a bad game, it’s just not what I came in expecting (a 3D factorio).

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