I’ve been back on my Satisfactory you-know-what since late last year with no sign of letting up, aided by the kick-off of a co-op savegame with my daughter, who saw me streaming the game one day and expressed some interest. As of last night our multiplayer savegame is at the furthest point along the tech progression I’ve ever been in the game, and today that makes me ponder the differences between the solo Satisfactory game experience and the cooperative.
So let’s talk about co-op play’s pros and cons. (Not to be mistaken for prose and cones.)
- Two (or more) sets of hands make blazing fast work of tech tree progression, in most cases. One person can be handling key resource acquisition and materials construction while another focuses on research. One person can be building (through automation or by hand, if in a pinch) materials for one unlock requirement, the other can be focused on another of the required materials. Having been through the first three Space Elevator shipments in two different multiplayer savegame runs now, it’s astounding how much faster you get through the milestones and phases compared to doing it all solo. This is, without a doubt, the biggest selling point of multiplayer Satisfactory.
- Actually having someone available to say, “Hey, can you…?” to in a pinch is invaluable. From supply runs to quick single-purpose materials builds, I love being able to offload an immediate concern and get back to the primary task at hand. By the same token, sometimes hearing a “Hey, can you…?” is a great opportunity to take a break from the primary task at hand and be a good egg to your compatriot as well. (I very, very highly recommend a voice chat system for this. The text chat interface in-game is… not great.)
- Talking out plans helps make more sensible plans. Playing alone, you’re the only one who can decide what to work on next, how to do the build, where to do the build, and so forth. It’s a great amount of freedom, but sometimes you end up partway into a project and realize, whoops, this was the wrong thing in the wrong place at the wrong time. Bouncing ideas off of another person has led to much better project flow in almost every case. (There are still “whoopsies” but almost always because neither of us had a full grasp of the problems and complexities that would be involved in a new build.)
- On a related note, discussing (or, more likely, griping about) the available alternate recipe selections from each recovered hard drive always livens up a game session.
- Troubleshooting goes better when you have a fresh pair of eyes available to spot the things you missed. Forgot to connect the fourth of five refineries to the fuel pipeline? If you didn’t spot it the first five times, you may not spot it the sixth time either… but someone else will probably twig to it right away.
- Showing off is cool, and you have a built-in and invested audience (however small). One of the greatest joys of the game is each moment where one of you says, “You’ve gotta see this.” Never underestimate the power of positive validation.
- As a shared activity, it’s very respectful of everyone’s time. Only have half an hour to jump in and knock out a few improvements? That’s fine, the game doesn’t care. Want to blow an entire afternoon on a brand new entire factory? Go for it. Save when you’re done, come back next time when you’re ready.
That’s a lot of positives! There are a few negatives, though:
- You absolutely can’t afford to be too precious about the how of things. The way I am going to build a factory bears little resemblance (outside of the basic restrictions imposed by the core game elements) to the way anyone else is going to build a factory, despite ending up with nearly identical production when it’s over. If you go over and look at another player’s factory build and find that it bothers you because it doesn’t look the way you’d have preferred… well, multiplayer probably isn’t for you.
- Satisfactory is in “early access” in the Steam & Epic game stores, and that “early access”-ness comes through rather strongly in the multiplayer experience. A destructible rock pile that shows as safely demolished on my screen (I have always been the host) will persist on the client’s, preventing the other player from utilizing the freshly cleared space. (We run into this all the time.) Vehicles can be… interesting. For instance, the Explorer (souped-up dune buggy) sounds like a revved-up racing car when going at top speed, and if the other player isn’t nearby when the driving player comes to a stop, that other player is going to hear the engine noise at full volume when they get near the vehicle even though the Explorer is unpiloted and sitting still. (This glitch doesn’t care if you’re the host or the client.) And so on.
- Because of the very first “pro” listed above, it’s very possible to just… run out of game much earlier than when you’re going solo. When my son and I achieved access to drones early last year, we realized that we had nothing else we wanted to tackle from that point onward. (A bug in the drones’ battery usage prevented us from fully utilizing them, and we really wanted to, so… then what?) My daughter and I in our current game have already agreed that we absolutely do not care about the Phase 4 shipment for the Space Elevator, so while we’re far from “done” with things to do in the game, soon we’ll arrive at a point where we’re coming up with fun (hopefully) busywork projects rather than progressing in the game itself. There’s a lot of beautification and efficiency improvement projects in the pipeline… for now. How long will that suffice, though?
I highly recommend Satisfactory as a game, that should surprise nobody. I also highly recommend it as a multiplayer experience, despite the notable downsides I just detailed. Just because a game journey ends doesn’t make it bad, now does it?