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Parcival

Thursday, 14 March 2019

Factory Town - Now In Early Access


Factory Town is a game which I've been watching for a while, and you'll have seen it given a spotlight in my article of games to watch for 2019.  Thanks go to one of my readers, Games PC Plays on Youtube, who kindly gifted me the game with beta on Itch.io a few months ago.  I've dipped into it a bit during the beta, but there have been a lot of changes over recent weeks and I thought with the game hitting Steam Early Access it was a good time to look at it again.

Factory Town is a combination of a colony builder and a supply chain game being developed by Erik Asmussen.  As mentioned above, the game has been going through a limited beta which means that the game already has a good amount of content and has had a lot of bug fixes even before hitting Early Access.  More content is planned and a general roadmap has been posted to Steam, but remember this is Early Access so anything can happen!

An early town ready for first level base upgrade
Before you can start, you need to customise your map.  There are 3 'scenarios' you can choose, Default, Advanced and Creative.  The first two options will generate different mixes of biomes and materials, with the creative giving you a blank flat canvas to work with.  You also get to customise a range of other options such as your starting biome, available biomes, and 'starting state' which determines what technologies are available at the start of the game.

As you would expect for a colony builder, you start with a map with a variety of resources available and must choose where to place your base, which comes with a small number of settlers, and then expand and optimise.  The game will guide you through a tutorial, but predictably, you need to firstly establish supplies of wood, stone and grain to allow you to expand.  By building houses and supplying these with food, you will make your settlers happy and earn coins.  Building houses also increases the population capacity of your town, allowing you to build new and better production buildings.

As you progress, you will unlock new buildings, technologies and ways to expand your town.  These will unlock in a few different ways including, completing objectives, constructing and upgrading buildings and research through a school.  Research requires bot resources and currency which is generated by houses.  Your workers will spend money at food markets and general stores on the items they require (dependant on the house levels) which will grant various amounts of the 4 different currencies, which can be seen in the economy panel.

Wood supply chain producing wooden wheels, planks and paper
for storage in a barn
A large part of the game is about optimising your supply routes, for example you can deliver grain from fields directly to each house, requiring one worker per house, or supply it to a food market which then automatically supplies the houses in a certain radius.  I set up a fairly simple supply chain for my wood with a forester generating logs into a chute which then fed into a few different branches.  This allowed me to have a lumber mill by some water producing paper and two producing planks.  One of these then fed to a workshop to produce wheels and these 3 end products transported along conveyor belts to a barn.  Note that this is a VERY basic example of the sort of systems you can build, but I did not need any workers gathering wood and transporting the goods as this was all done automatically.

In addition to your chutes and conveyor belts, you also have some other transportation options.  The most basic is your workers walking across the terrain but this is very slow.  You can speed them up by building a network of dirt footpaths and stone roads to speed them up.  You can also set up wooden wagons which move faster again, particularly on the stone roads, and can carry more materials than a worker.  As you play and unlock more techs you also have rails and minecarts which you can build.

A food chain with grain from a farm to a grain mill on a chute and a
conveyor belt transporting berries and flour to a food market.
There is also a simple bridge which was the cause of much frustration!
There is a lot to play with in the game and that can make your supply chains complicated and means you can lose track of things- if this workshop making wheels or is it making books?  Is that worker transporting logs to the lumber mill or planks away?  Why do I have 8 people gathering grain?  This is probably less a reflection on the game and more so on my unorganised brain where I see an objective to build x, y and z and just start throwing things down without much thought or planning for the future.  There are also some features which I have had some frustrations with, again probably more that I need to spend more time with it, but I did find it pretty difficult to get conveyor belts working on multiple levels or paths crossing over them and often found myself completely cutting some resources off from my town.

The production line game is something that seems to be going through a bit of a surge at the moment with Factorio and Prouction Line steaming towards their full releases and the early access of Satisfactory on the Epic Games Store starting in the coming days.  So where does this stack up?  Having been fortunate to get access to the alpha weekend of Satisfactory, I can say that these two games scratch very different itches.  This game feels a lot like an evolution of the colony builder/settler game, although your region can become over run with houses due to the population limit, and has a nice touch of being able to purchase new areas of land to build on, giving access to different biomes and resources.
The town starting to take shape with some resources being transported
across the river on a simple bridge

Having gone through a development cycle of about 3 years to reach this Early Access state, and having gone through the closed beta, the game is very accomplished.  Despite my frustrations noted above the game is very stable and feels well optimised.  The art style very much appeals to me with the low poly assets and the grid system makes construction and designing your town simple.  As I've noted there are a lot of things to get involved with, so as usual don't get turned off by the 'simple' graphics as the game is very involved and features some deep systems with some players having made some crazy systems.

The game is now available on Steam in Early Access following the beta keys selling out a while ago.  The game is extremely fairly priced at £15.49, although if you are quick off the blocks you can pick it up with a 10% discount making it £13.94 until March 19th.  You can also join the official Discord in which the developer has been extremely active.





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