I have wrapped myself up in a tangle of conveyor belts that I have no hope of ever escaping from. Trying to unthread this gordian knot of logistics will take a much greater mind than mine, but at least it felt enjoyable to create.
Now in Steam Early Access, Dyson Sphere Program is the latest in a recent surge of logistical production games that have been buoyed into the popular consciousness by Factorio, and more recently, Satisfactory. In Youthcat Studio’s game you are a robot and mobile reproduction facility tasked with the creation of a Dyson Sphere – a megastructure designed to envelop an entire star and harvest its energy – but you start without even two sticks to rub together.
Luckily your robot has a replicator on board which, with the help of a small fleet of drones, allows you to construct extractors, refiners, wind turbines, conveyor belts and storage units. There are a plethora of materials to be gathered from the planet – stone, iron, copper, and coal are in abundance on the surface – and before long you’ll have a neat little chain of production going.
Raw materials are refined in smelters, which in turn are used by assemblers to create complex things. Eventually science labs turn these raw materials into coloured research cubes, or Matrices, which are used to research more advanced methods of mining, smelting and assemblage.
It’s an addictive cycle, and the process of clawing your way towards the eventual goal of interplanetary travel means that you’ll eventually be recreating your micro network of production on a macro level, eventually feeding into the grand construction of the Dyson Sphere.
I’ll admit that currently, that goal is out of my grasp because logistics come as easily to me as delivering chicken to KFC came to DHL. I have been clumsily creating horrible knotted messes of inefficient production facilities because I failed both A-level computing and electronics, but the process still scratches that itch of getting all of your ingredients in a row and outputting a finished product.
Looking online for advice and seeing other people’s creations, there is an astonishing array of tidiness and efficiency on display. People are taking full advantage of DSP’s conveyors, handlers and sorters to create ultra-efficient resources busses which sort lots of discrete resource extraction hubs into one huge maze of storage hubs that then fling stuff into space to be used elsewhere.
For the right person, I can see this game taking up untold hours of their time. It’s unfortunately a little languid in the early hours, with lots of manually running about and refueling your robot, but as you start to stack science buildings to make research hubs, the sprawl of options unfolds before you. I was particularly happy to get my oil extractor and refinery up and running, because it gave me a real reason to use the previously duanting splitters system in order to filter hydrogen from the output – it’s not exactly rocket science, but it’s enjoyable nonetheless.
The presentation makes a lot of the harder work more bearable. The game has a lovely, clean artistic style, and a chill electronic soundtrack that make the hours pass by fairly swiftly. There are some things that clog up the gears of production sadly, namely the choice to have the buildings listed on the bottom taskbar not auto build when you click them. Instead you always have to go through to a secondary menu and set how many you want to create. This is great if you want to stock up on a load of conveyors or storage units, but it would make sense to just allow players to quickly build one-off structures if they have the materials on hand.
Another minor issue is the need to refuel your mechanical, lest it become sluggish in both movement and production. It’s never a huge issue, but it feels like busy work that gets in the way of you doing what’s important, which is covering the planet in a spaghetti mess of conveyors.
Overall these issues aren’t enough to get in the way of the main enjoyable process. That comes in the form of your personal mental capacity for all of the production nodes and networking that you need to feel comfortable. Dyson Sphere project is full of tips and tricks to get you building your logistical network up and running, but if a backed up conveyor belt stresses you out then be warned – unless you are able to manage efficient networks, you are going to have a lot of backed up conveyor networks.
Thankfully, there appears to be no punishment for this beyond your high cost production items being harder to pump out with efficiency. I have already restarted to try and bring some efficiency to my chaos, and the lessons I have learned through my earlier mistakes are starting to pay off.
As it builds its way out of Early Access, it’s going to be exciting to see what refinements come to the Dyson Sphere project in the future. The core experience is already solid and well implemented, so a little more time to iron out a handful of issues and catch some of the dialogue translation mistakes. Meanwhile, I’ll keep chipping away, and maybe soon I’ll get the first sections of a dyson sphere up and running. For now… it’s back to the conveyor belts.