I’m a simple British man. I see an unspoilt verdant land filled with exotic creatures and boundless untapped resources, and something in my blood whispers…

Shame if something colonial were to happen…

William, get the flag!

First day on the job

On loading, you (and a few corporate lackies if you’ve bought/built some friends) jump into the head of an Exoplanetary Pioneer working for FICSIT Incorporated. Strapped tightly into the branded blue and orange steel of an orbital drop pod, on your way to a woefully unmolested planet, all you can do is watch the void of space through the port window.

No Geneva Convention on the frontier, buckaroo

That is, until a screen descends from the ceiling and shoves a cutesy corporate onboarding video into your helpless face, a cruel and distressingly usual punishment.

A saccharine cartoon company employee runs you through the three stages of xenoexploitation:

  • Construction
  • Explore & Exploit
  • Automate

 

And that’s the game in a beryl nutshell. Pillage the untouched nooks and crannies of this garden world with increasingly elaborate machinery and shoot the filthy proceeds into space to make FICSIT a tidy sum. What you get out of this arrangement is unclear – probably 9.5 Credits an hour and a small pension after 50 years. Yay, capitalism!

That’s the company line, anyway. But if you’re thinking Corporate Wrench Monkey Simulator sounds like a dull concept for a game, you’re as wrong as you are beautiful. X

Interstellar Lego

 Satisfactory combines the wonder of exploring a colossal sandbox with the satisfaction of slowly building up a planet-wide machine that pumps out ever-more elaborate parts. There are 30 km2 of lovingly hand-crafted map to spoil, with diverse biomes, threatening enemies, gorgeous vistas and valuable secrets to stumble upon.

This cave was mostly filled with teeth and terror

Paying your tithe to your corporate overlords and committing material to research will net you more machinery and parts to make, as well as upgrades that help you explore further and faster. A bigger inventory, better weaponry, upgraded movement options… every milestone reached returns valuable knowledge that you can use to meet the increasingly ridiculous demands.

Good Spaghetti™

The result is a juicy and compelling feedback loop of exploration, mining, construction, reward, giving you a reason to care about how optimised your factory is. You’ll tweak, tear-down and build up as your game progresses and you figure out (or invent) better ways of managing your creations, feeding your factory that grows and shifts around as if alive. And eventually you realise from a modest start of a scanner, craft bench and glorified cattle prod, you’ve created a manufactory on an Amazonian scale – both the rainforest and the company.

Rise of the proles

Satisfactory isn’t like Minecraft or Terraria where finding resources is the challenge, bar a few in caves or on top of cliffs. Your scanner tells you precisely where level-appropriate deposits are, and the few notable exceptions aren’t required to progress in the game. Nor is it a game about clever use of rare deposits – every single one has an infinite supply, the only difference being how much ore per minute it’ll grudgingly yield.

Satisfactory is about connection, expansion, and scale.

While you can get away with doing most things at the craft bench early game, the number and complexity of parts swiftly ramps up to the point where doing that would be an unforgivable grind. As if anticipating the absolute mad lad masochists who would try this, milestones are locked behind a special space elevator project – a truly colossal structure which you use to send Project Parts off planet. These parts simply cannot be made at the workbench, forcing you to get to grips with all the possibilities your machinery presents.

Something something penis size

So you throw down a miner on a deposit, placing the first thread of a grand web of powerlines that will wrap around the terrain, juiced your grid. You ride the thicker strand of a conveyor belt back to your hub, attaching your constructors. Churning out some parts, you notice production is slow, so you journey out again… dodging dangerous xenos and tapping into your power network to bring even more ore in from a fresh deposit.

Every milestone this process repeats – getting by with a handful before needing tonnes to get any further.

In their defence, it’s VERY big

Worker co-op

Making planetfall with a few other blue-collar drones is mostly a galaxy-sized bundle of fun, but not without the occasional frustration.

Early game when resources are scarce and every factory add-on is a big deal, new players may feel precious about the direction your shared facility is going in. This isn’t helped by milestones and research being shared per world, so those who want to progress at their own pace under their own steam may feel robbed when someone else presses the big red button to advance.

As your influence and responsibilities expand though, you’ll be glad of the extra hands. There are always multiple things to do at any time, even if that’s just wandering around looking for slugs.

In my experience, people gravitated towards the thing they enjoyed. Sorting out travel networks, setting up outposts, researching… finding more sluggos, the most important job. Sluggo rescuers are really the key part of any team. More slugs means more friends!

Apparently they’re also be used for overclocking machines but whatevs…

Satisfactory is remarkably tolerant of multiple players once you stop knocking elbows around the first crafting bench. Unless someone is actively being a dick, it’s incredibly unlikely whatever you’re doing will negatively impact your friends. Building your own base means another outpost… creating more machines means more resources, and even basic parts never go out of style. Researching and hunting milestones unlocked goodies for everyone…

Whatever you do it’s for the good of the team. Or FICSIT Incorporated. But whichever bastards you’re working for, it’s always your colleagues that make a good job. Ask anyone I used to work with, if they can talk around that smile.

Hostile workplace

One area the game could do much better is the enemies. Though there’s a wide variety of flora and environments, there’s perhaps a handful of enemy mobs (and a few more passive creatures admittedly). Though these come in a few different shapes and sizes they’re essentially split between chargiebois and fireyboies…

That’s not to say they aren’t challenging, though most deaths were due to them hurling me off a cliff rather than beating me up. The bigger lads in particular are frightening to encounter, especially when they have back-up.

Hand over the slug and no one gets hurt…

But I already know how they’re going to act based on their tinier brethren, just like I know the only appreciable difference is bigger damage and a larger health bar. Admittedly there are large areas I’ve yet to explore so perhaps there’s more diversity later, but even if this is limited to the first 20-30 hours it could be much better.

One murder weapon, with cutesy charm

Your combat options to handle these threats are rather limited, even with the upgrades. Satisfactory falls behind games like 7 Days to Die and Terraria when it comes to combat options… and that’s fine. I don’t think it’s trying to do that. But even if fighting isn’t a huge part of the game, I’d appreciate a bit more variety in the things trying to eat me.

Final thoughts

Don’t let the last minute combat whinge put you off, Satisfactory is a more than satisfactory game if you enjoy building in sandboxes. There are some issues with multiplayer performance (which the developers are open about being a problem), but I’m still bloody impressed it doesn’t slow to an absolute crawl when you’ve got three people, a huge map, and hundreds of machines working together. And singleplayer runs like a dream for the most part.

It currently lacks a story, but this is apparently coming. The character of the world and FICSIT Incorporated is revealed in the smallest details, from a wrench-shaped charm to peeling stickers on the machinery, and whimsical and mysterious objects scatted around the landscape. I’m excited to see how the studio weaves all this together in to a larger narrative.

There’s a big update coming March 16th 2021 which I hope starts telling the tale of MASSAGE-2(A-B)b, but if not I will be checking back in to find out.

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