Factorio Review - Screenshot 1 of 4
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

If you’ve ever wanted to harness the power of industrialisation, Factorio is certainly the game for you. Stranded on a strange alien world, you must find a way to survive and escape this place using the vestiges of technology left behind by whoever came here first, as well as your own innovations. This is a factory sim with a sci-fi aesthetic and just a touch of exploration mixed in. What starts off simple builds into one of the most engrossing management sims we've played.

It has been more than two years since Factorio first landed on the PC and the Switch version offers a very similar experience to the original. There are lots of different machines to build, outputs to consider, and always the danger of deadly aliens to keep you on your toes. It is one of the best balancing acts we’ve come across in the management sim genre, though there are some issues around how the port plays on Nintendo’s console.

There are times when the dialogue is covered up by the cursor’s instructions on the left side of the screen, for example, which caused us to miss key information about our next objective. The problem is less an issue in Docked mode due to the larger screen, but Handheld mode caused us some frustration. The other issue with this console port is the difficulty in picking out a single item in our sometimes-chaotic factory setup. The joystick doesn’t offer the precision of the keyboard and mouse. The touchscreen is supported, though we found it fairly imprecise outside of the menu, partly due to our suboptimal layouts, perhaps. Regardless, we sometimes found it difficult to pinpoint specific items.

Factorio Review - Screenshot 2 of 4
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Undocked)

Other issues, like the initial title screen taking a surprisingly long time to load, are less frequent and don’t get in the way of what is a very solid and engaging game. The open-world nature of Factorio means that you’ll spend the bulk of your time finding the perfect factory layout. Having a goal in mind, which can be as simple as building a defensive perimeter up to creating a rocket ship to allow you to escape the planet, is the key to advancing. However, even the best laid-out systems will need to get upgraded when new technologies become available, so you'll constantly be changing and replacing obsolete systems as you go along.

There are some truly wild technologies available for players to research and build in Factorio. From simple conveyor belts to roving death bots, everything has a purpose. Most items are either for the defence of your industrialised area or intended to speed up the production of parts you need to complete research packs and materials. As you increase your production speed, your factory will produce increasing amounts of pollution, which will cause the local wildlife to evolve faster into something better able to kill you. It quickly becomes a race against time, trying to master your industry quick enough to escape the planet without being wiped out by increasingly powerful and aggressive hordes of monsters at your doorstep.

Factorio Review - Screenshot 3 of 4
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

The Freeplay mode in Factorio simply drops you into a vast, randomly generated map with limited supplies. You have to start building your new home from scratch, generating power and materials while keeping yourself safe. We found that ensuring we could protect ourselves, with plenty of ammo for our turrets and firearms, was the best course of action, but there is no real set way to progress through the game, and it will take you a few dozen hours to complete a playthrough.

If Freeplay feels a little overwhelming or aimless for you, then you can try some of the set challenges the game has to offer. These range from timed missions with a limited amount of space available to build to races against other players to build their first rocket. Some of these felt like extended tutorials but for players who have invested dozens of hours into the game, they could be a fun way to mix up the usual formula.

The multiplayer in Factorio allows you to join their friends’ games that are in progress or to invite random players to join their own game, though we had some issues getting the multiplayer to work during our time with it pre-launch. We got disconnected from servers frequently when joining public games, but once we found an online game that was stable enough to join we had a lot of fun getting caught up with their progress. The fact that there is crossplay with PC users means that some of these players' games have been going for hundreds of hours, with complex systems set about to help them escape the world. The cooperative focus of the multiplayer means that everyone is working toward the same goal, passing notes back and forth through the text chat and giving tips on how to design the communal factory.

Factorio Review - Screenshot 4 of 4
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Undocked)

It is easy to see how people have invested so much time and energy here. The tutorial alone takes at least five hours to play through. It doesn’t do much to hold your hand, giving you a vague set of directions to advance to the next stage. We died several times during the tutorial section of the game simply because we invested our resources into harvesting the wrong materials early and ran out of ammo for our weapons at a crucial point.

The music and visuals here are fairly simple but effective. At times the music will cut out completely and leave you only with the ambient noise of your factory to keep you company, which was surprisingly soothing. As simple as the visuals are, there is an intense satisfaction to be had watching your defences fire up at the approach of alien attackers or seeing a swarm of hoverbots deliver products from one end of your territory to the other.

Despite some slight issues with the layout on Switch, Factorio still does what it sets out to do in this port. It is a fun, deeply complex game with dozens of hours of gameplay before you even start to tackle the challenge maps or the multiplayer mode. If you want a management sim that is more hands-on than most and will provide you with almost endless content, this is one of the best out there.

Conclusion

Like the gears in an engine, everything in Factorio has a purpose. There is little in terms of extras here but what is present in this factory management sim does its job beautifully. Despite some issues with the way the Switch port is presented and controls, these are minor issues in an otherwise stellar game that will have you obsessing over the best possible layout for your factory or wanting to keep playing to see what the next research tree unlocks.