Satisfactory is the brainchild of Coffee Stain Studios, the team probably most well known for their Goat Simulator franchise alongside their first-person-cum-tower defence title Sanctum. With titles like these under their belt, it’s clear that the team at Coffee Stain know how to make a satisfying game with a good dose of humour, but is Satisfactory shaping up to be, well... satisfactory?
In short, Satisfactory is a resource management and factory building game, whereby you pluck the planet of its natural resources, and fashion them into more and more complex items as you go. The guise of this is that you’re an employee of the FICSIT corporation that has been sent to this alien planet in order to assist with the “Save the Day” program. This has you working on something known as “Project Assembly”, which effectively has you sending resources off to another planet under the notion of “research”. It’s all very hush-hush as to why, so let’s assume it’s downright nefarious and we need not know better.
If you've played other resource management and automation games before, such as Factorio or Space Engineers, you’ll largely know what to expect from Satisfactory. You start small, with a nice little hub and a crafting bench - working your way up automating the process where you can, so that you’re not spending your time staring at the screen manually crafting iron rods - instead, you can go out and explore the rich, lush world that Satisfactory places you in. Given that the usual fare for this type of game is a procedurally generated world I initially held a reservation on whether a single map would stymie the repeatability of game play. However, after a few hours with the world, and only scarcely scratching the surface area of the planet, it was clear that there were many hours of discovery available within. Adding to that, is the consideration that this is still early access, and additional maps could quite easily be a thing down the line. For now though, you get the option of dropping in on one of three unique locations in the world at which to start your factory building.
On building a factory, it's inevitable to start with a spaghetti mess of transport conveyors hauling goods left, right and centre. "That will do for now - I'll come back and tidy it up later" will become your default resolve for things that work now but look like the factory equivalent of the box of wires that you hold onto for one day "they may be useful". Except, you'll never come back and fix those things up, because something newer and shinier will forever be on the horizon. New research will give you new toys to play with, at which point you'll spend your time working out how to best utilise it when you fix up your old stuff. But then you'll find out about overclocking (and underclocking) your machines to make them all run at near 100% efficiency as possible.
Before long, it'll be 4am in the morning, and you need to be up at 7am for work the next day. You won't sleep though, for the factory has consumed you. You'll be seeing conveyors when you close your eyes. Given a moment of rest at any point and your mind will be calculating percentages needed to work out the exact ratio of items you need as an input to your assembly machines to ensure you're not feeding them too much - or too little for maximum efficiency.
And that’s how it grips you. Pulls you under the veil of its lush environment into a whirlwind of calculations and factory design considerations. To answer the question of whether Satisfactory is shaping up to be satisfactory, I’d have to go with yes. It’s the 3D factory building game to be reckoned with. Now, where did I leave those reinforced iron plates? I need to send some things to space...