By Mikey a month ago, last updated a month ago
If you're a fan of automation games like Factorio, Satisfactory, and Dyson Sphere Program, I think you'll enjoy Shapez 2. In this factory-building game, geometric shapes take centre stage as you extract, process, and combine them to unlock new possibilities.
Before we talk more about Shapez 2, let's quickly segue into what a typical automation (usually known as factory-building) game looks like.
In automation games, logic and progression are intertwined. You are typically attempting to build efficient systems to achieve specific goals. For me, the joy lies in the quick learning loop: implementing automation, identifying and resolving issues, and optimizing until perfection is achieved. Regardless of whether you choose chaotic inefficiency (special shoutout to YouTuber Let's Game It Out) or meticulous optimization, these games offer a playground for creativity.
The developer describes Shapez 2 as "a game where you build factories to extract and process geometric shapes, each serving as a building block for your intricate creations. The objective is to automate the production of distinct shapes, unlocking new technologies along the way."
In Shapez 2, the primary goal is to combine shapes to create new ones, tossing them into the void to unlock fresh set pieces. This sounds deceptively simple; however, it gets complex quite quickly.
You start with a simple extractor that takes circles or squares; you then unlock cutters and rotators, which allow you to create half circles, half squares, quarter circles, quarter squares, etc.
You then use the unlockable technologies to create progressively more intricate shapes. Of course, the extractors only output a certain number of shapes per minute, and belts can also only handle a different number of shapes per minute, leaving you as the player free to do the math to optimize your factory to make it 100% efficient, taking care with your ratios to ensure that you're not pumping 60 circles into a machine that can only handle 30 per minute.
As you advance, maintaining efficiency becomes a challenge, but right when you need it, Shapez 2 introduces the Blueprint. This feature is only a recent addition to other automation games and enables you to copy and paste your entire factory seamlessly. Other games I have played, e.g. Satisfactory, force you to create a blueprint machine and build your factory in that machine, which can be cumbersome if you already have a pre-existing factory. Shapez 2 just lets you literally copy and paste using CTRL+C and CTRL+V - a breath of fresh air.
The progression is both logical and creative. From circles and squares, you evolve to half circles, quarter squares, and intricate combinations. The game's soothing soundtrack complements the experience, providing a relaxing backdrop to your automation endeavours.
A criticism I have is that the camera can become unwieldy, and I found the controls annoying at times; an example is if I had gone up one floor with Q or E, I found myself habitually pressing the escape key to get me back from the top floor to the bottom floor, but that just opened the menu, adding just that tiny bit of friction.
Additionally, once you progress on to Asteroid Miners near the end of the demo, the placement of the starter asteroids (at least for me) were positioned so that I wasn't able to mine all three asteroids in the cluster as the miners seemed to butt against one another in such a way that the belts were not able to get the shapes to my base.
The progression within the demo also felt a little slow, and I sometimes found myself waiting for the goals to be completed. Admittedly, I hadn't built the most optimal factories; however, for these simple shapes, I felt the waiting for progression may have been just a tad too long.
The complexity of shapes at the end of the demo is already enough to keep me plenty entertained. Whilst the developer says that there are around 2 hours of playable content within the demo, my current playtime nearing the end of the demo is more like 3 hours, and I could see others not familiar with the genre sinking more time into it.
Looking at the in-game goal listing I see things such as fluids, painting, trains, crystallizers, wires, and "mind-control machines that make curious people wishlist the game" coming to the full game, and I am excited to see more than one of these concepts realized in-game.
In conclusion, Shapez 2 offers a serene and enjoyable spin on the automation genre. With its familiar mechanics, simple keyboard shortcuts, and engaging progression, it's a game that caters to both enthusiasts and newcomers. Within an hour, I felt like I knew everything about how to play the game and was already obsessing over the efficiency of my factories.
Our score: 9/10
Special thanks to the developer for providing GameFront with a Steam Key for the upcoming demo release.
Shapez 2 is set to launch in 2024, and you can experience the demo during the Steam Next Fest from January 25th to February 15th.
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