Animal Crossing: New Horizons has proven to be the adorable escape that people around the world are in need of now that they’re stuck indoors as they practice social distancing. But an already too-cute world has been made saccharine-sweet thanks to the game’s Bunny Day Easter event that features a manic, creepy Zipper T. Bunny who has hidden brightly-colored eggs around the island.
Players are already sick and tired of looting eggs whenever they’re trying to collect other materials. If you’re one of the many island-dwellers that need a break from Animal Crossing’s egg drops and might be interested in something similar with a lot more edge to it, consider building and terraforming a different civilization in Factorio.
Created by Czech indie studio Wube Software, Factorio is all about gathering enough supplies to continuously expand your factory. It feels like resource management meets tower defense game where you play as an unnamed engineer who crash-lands on an unknown planet inhabited by an insect species. Your goal is to build a massive rocket ship that can take you home, but you start the game only with access to the most basic of resources. In that regard, Factorio is kind of like Age of Empires meets No Man's Sky, but it scratches a similar itch to Animal Crossing where you're constantly collecting resources to gradually expand your island, or in this case your factory. It's all about building infrastructure over time.
Similarly to Minecraft, you begin Factorio only having access to wood, coal, iron, and stone. By slowly automating how you mine and store these resources, you can go on to create networks of trains, hydro-electric plants to power research labs, and laser cannons to disintegrate any aliens that approach your base.
The gist of the game is simple to understand, but unlocking every available type of technology can take even the most hardcore player hundreds of hours of trial and error. The beauty of it all is that you’re not on a timer, like trying to catch all of this month’s fish in Animal Crossing.
You can advance your factory at your own pace. You can even play on Peaceful Mode if you don’t want aliens attacking your base. This is a good place to start if you’re just trying to learn the ropes of running a factory. To top it off, you can even begin a co-op game with as many friends as you want to work towards a factory you all can be proud of.
Unless you’re a diehard speedrunner, Factorio isn’t the type of game you’re rushing through to get to the end. It’s a sandbox and potentially a serious marathon timesink if you want to gradually build up your resources and expand. The whole angle is less capitalistic than Tom Nook's deserted island, but it's the perfect kind of gradual distraction that has seemingly made Animal Crossing: New Horizons such a hit.
You can make a couple of trains travel in a hypnotizing pattern. You can organize every square inch of your mining facility in a way that lets you sit back and revel in the fact that you literally managed to build that starting from a few twigs and rocks. You can even focus the most on building devastating weapons that can wipe out alien invaders in spectacular fashion.
Now that millions of people are confined in their homes, Factorio gives everyone the opportunity to experiment and creatively problem-solve right from any room in their house. Day-to-day life can seem dull at the moment, but getting robotic arms and conveyor belts to do exactly what you want them to gives gamers an unexpected sense of accomplishment that these strange times have seemingly diluted.
An early access version of Factorio is available on Steam for $30 on PC, Mac, and Linux.