Satisfactory belongs to a genre of games that I like to call “comfy crafters”. That is, as you spend a long weekend building a sprawling industrial plant that grows ever out of control, you take a moment to step back and look at what you have created. Standing on a planet all alone with no other life forms to share this world with but the native flora and fauna, you breathe deeply and stare off like Shrek at the beginning of his first film, gazing at his swamp as the first bars of ‘All Star’ play. It feels like home.
In this early access stage, the familiar elements of factory building games are mostly all here. You have resource hubs, automatic mining drills, conveyor belts, vehicles, power plants, electric poles, and assembly buildings that automatically manufacture products from components delivered through entry points.
There are storage units, foundations and ramps, weapons and body gear such as jetpacks which are unlocked through gameplay. Until a full narrative for Satisfactory is produced, the objective is to “tech up”, unlocking as many different buildings and upgrades as possible, and posting your land-devouring assembly plants and conveyor belt spaghetti dishes on social media to inspire and disgust your fellow extraplanetary colonists across webspace.
Consumers of crafting games will often fall into a certain motion when playing a game like Minecraft or Factorio; thrown into a hostile environment, we find the nearest resource hub and bunker down; building walls, placing turrets, and boxing ourselves in. It’s the safest way to play, and often integral to strategies that carry players into the end game.
In Satisfactory, this is discouraged through many elements that encourage exploration. Single machine upgrades are locked inside of denizen “power slugs”, which must be captured, wrung, and juiced for the progress of mankind. High-end (for the early access) technology uses minerals that are only found in one-time nodes scattered around the world.
In addition, the further you progress along Satisfactory’s tech tree, the further out our brave colonist must venture to secure the resources required to build the next stage of technology.
Satisfactory presents a very immersive experience of planetary exploration. Very little is predictable, and while enemies and hazards are not altogether difficult to overcome, they are extremely dangerous to the unfamiliar. Until you understand the attack patterns of creatures such as the Spitter, even one enemy can hunt you to death. Until you know what flowers are safe to approach and which ones have defence mechanisms, a walk in the woods is figuratively playing with fire. As your only default weapon is a shock prod and the most impressive firearm you can unlock so far is the space-age equivalent of a crossbow, caution must be exercised any time you leave the safety of your base.
But of course, you will want to explore. Satisfactory’s maps are extraordinarily beautiful. My favourite is the first map, with its breathtaking waterfalls, serene lakes, beaches, and mountain formations. Building an assembly plant in the middle of all this natural beauty feels somewhat sinful, but stepping outside the door of your utilitarian colonist base at verdant green and orange skies gives my heart joy.
What I would like to see in the future is a revamp of Satisfactory’s narrative. So far, the storyteller seems to passively belittle you as worker grunt of the galactic-scale FicSit corporation, and remind you that your efforts on the planet are in service to your corporate overlords. Once the storyteller’s stiff supervisor-to-grunt message is over, you can return to bouncing on jump pads and landing into green space jelly, flying across alien landscapes with your jetpack, and riding turbo fast conveyor belt highways.
The general feel of Satisfactory from the wilderness exploration to the futuristic amusement park contraptions you can build, is just so much fun in its overall tone that the corporate narrative as it stands feels out of place. It is possible to have a corporate body belittling you and still have fun with futuristic gadgets; it was so endearing in the narrative of the game Portal. However, the science fiction fun and the corporate overtones need more work to synchronize.
With 50 hours clocked in the early access of Satisfactory, I can definitely say I am hooked, and look forward to the future patch releases to hit in the future. Until then, I will be in my base, trying to figure out which electric poles I can delete without cutting power to two square kilometers of my assembly plant.
Learn more about Satisfactory at: https://www.satisfactorygame.com/.