Factorio may be considered a building game, but it is also a puzzle game. The goal is to learn how to survive and build machines that enable your success. This gets more and more complex as you progress through the game. You build assembly machines that only build one kind of object, but in order to build the desired machine you need 3 others. Therefor you are at least building 4 assembly machines, assuming the machines don’t require other parts to build the items. Confusing right? In order to automate everything, which you have to do, you must manage space, resources and crafting materials or else you will run into blocks within the system that you cannot easily overcome. It is a puzzle, yet that is why it is fun. Puzzles require thought and harder puzzles cannot be completed using simple crafting formulas. You can only finish them through observation care and patience, the same goes for Factorio.
I found a study written on puzzle games and what they show about our brains and processes of problem solving. The study looked at games such as Portal and Braid in order to test our skills and development through practice. The study found that when a player is presented with an obstacle they recognize, they can easily overcome it, even if it has added difficulties. Yet when a player is given a task that they do not recognize or have not done before, they often take longer and show less “skill” at the game. In Factorio these results would most likely be the same. I could build machines in more complex ways as long as I knew the formula, but once I was presented a new task that I hadn’t dealt with I slowed down. I often had to rebuild because of a missed step.
The progress and failures are all part of the fun. I loved Factorio because it was a puzzle. It made me think about my factory and my usage of resources and space. I did not feel as though I was playing a children’s game. Road blocks were part of its complexity, and the complexity was all part of the fun. Puzzles are meant to enable thought and problem solving, and that is exactly what Factorio does just with different pieces.