Satisfactory's animations make watching stuff as much fun as building stuff

If you've played even a little bit of Factorio you understand the compelling nature of automation. The process of resource gathering and crafting in games is a repetitive one, and setting up factories to do it for you—all of it, from digging up raw materials to processing them into components to fabricating products by combining those components—is, frankly, something of a high for anyone whose grown tired of swinging a pickaxe. It's dizzying, almost, to have minerals pulled out of the ground and distributed to all the machines that need them—including to power the very machines that are pulling those minerals out of the ground—without having to get your hands dirty.

Satisfactory, which enters early access on the Epic Store next week, taps into that automation satisfaction, but complements it with another pleasure: some really great animation. The machines you build, the buildings you construct, and the world itself all have some really satisfying animations that make your work (or the work of the machines you build to do your work for you) pretty darn enjoyable.

A couple warnings: some of these animations were pretty surprising to me, so if you're planning on playing Satisfactory, you may want to skip this article altogether and just discover them for yourself. Also, if you have any issues with seeing a giant spiders run right at you in a dark cave, there's one of those here, too. You've been warned! It also bears mention that this is an alpha version of the game, and doesn't necessarily represent the final thing.

When you unlock a new item in Satisfactory, something cool happens. A big red launch button appears on your console and when you push it, the pod that's docked on top of your base blasts off and flies into space, returning a few minutes later.

Big red buttons are fun to push, especially when they launch stuff into space, and every time I launch the pod I run outside to watch it. I also stop whatever I'm doing to watch it return. The sounds are cool, too, so you may want to click the looping videos on this page to hear them.

I'm not quite sure where that pod goes or what it does while it's gone, but it's always a treat to see it zipping around. I'd kind of like to build ten more bases and just have those pods coming and going at all times, even if they're not actually doing anything.

As for labor saving machines, there are plenty in Satisfactory, though some become obsolete as you advance to more useful ones. I didn't have to use this little mining bot for very long before I replaced it with a proper mining facility, but I still like its animations as it gets settled, figures out its optimal placement, puts its little drill together, and gets to work. It's like Claptrap only it doesn't yell dumb shit all the time.

You're not just building factories on some nice, docile little planet. There are things living there already, and many of them don't like you. Spiders, for instance. They are big. They are fast. They run up to you and bite you and—this is somehow worse—they also run away from you, leaving you to wonder when they'll be running back at you. 

Note: it's soon. They'll be running back at you soon. They are pretty cool to watch, though, once you get over the initial terror.

Speaking of angry creatures, there are plenty of them in the overworld as well, and luckily you're able to unlock a rebar gun to defend yourself from a distance. It's not exactly powerful—I'm hoping a deadlier version will arrive somewhere up the tech tree—but I enjoy the reload animation a lot.

This is very, very minor, but I still appreciate it: Occasionally you'll craft something manually at your workbench, which just requires you to hold the crafting button down. But the longer you old that button, the hotter and brighter your crafting panel glows, the more it trembles, and the more tiny sparks fly out of it. When you're done, you even get little wisps of smoke drifting up from the vents. It's a nice little touch, and a reminder that it's way better to build machines that handle these tasks for you.

We can all agree that normal words are vastly improved by putting the word 'space' in front of them. For instance, a space cowboy is cooler than a cowboy, a space battle is better than a battle that's not in space, and a monster might be scary but a space monster is definitely scarier. Because it's in space.

The word elevator is much better when it has the word space in front of it. Instead just going up into a building, a space elevator goes up into space. You can build a space elevator in Satisfactory, and watching it connect to outer-frickin'-space is, well, pretty boss.

Satisfactory will be in early access for an undetermined amount of time after it releases next week. The alpha version I played was pretty buggy—in co-op, we got stuck at the loading screen almost every time we died and respawned—but there's a good framework in place, and these satisfying animations help it live up to its name.

Christopher Livingston
Senior Editor

Chris started playing PC games in the 1980s, started writing about them in the early 2000s, and (finally) started getting paid to write about them in the late 2000s. Following a few years as a regular freelancer, PC Gamer hired him in 2014, probably so he'd stop emailing them asking for more work. Chris has a love-hate relationship with survival games and an unhealthy fascination with the inner lives of NPCs. He's also a fan of offbeat simulation games, mods, and ignoring storylines in RPGs so he can make up his own.