It has been mentioned a couple of times in various threads, but Factorio deserves its own thread. There’s a limited alpha demo available for free and pre-orderers gain access to the full alpha which is very playable with tons of features already implemented.
It has a kind of the same vibe as many other crafting + survival games in that you start with a lonely dude with nothing more than a pickaxe and you need to harvest basic materials (wood, stone, copper, iron and coal) which you can refine and craft various things.
And while the basic idea has been done to death lately, the new thing that Factorio has at its core is an intricate automation and infrastructure optimization game. The manual labor phase of the game only lasts a short while and soon you’ll be putting up coal-powered automated mines and inserter arms that do all the harvesting and basic smelting without manual oversight (except adding more fuel occasionally):
And since providing every machine with coal to burn gets cumbersome, you can also pretty quickly setup basic electricity generation using pumps, boilers and steam engines.
You can also automate full production chains like, for example, the simple wall producer which mines stones, turns them into bricks which are fed into the manufacturing plant which assembles them into wall segments that I can then pick up from the chest and place where I want.
And why would I want walls? Because the planet you are stuck on is populated with aggressive alien life which gets especially pissed off once you start spewing out pollution and encroaching their territory with your ever expanding factory complex. You can craft a gun and defend the base by yourself but there are also various defence structures like automated sentry turrets which in the next screenshot can be seen protecting the coal mine that got attacked the previous night.
Finally, here’s an example of a more complex factory: my fully automated research base which smelts iron ore into iron plates, manufactures iron gears from the plates and conveyor belts from the gears as well as refines copper plates -> copper wires -> electric circuits and then assembles those into level 1 and 2 science packs that are fed into the labs in the bottom left corner.
It’s far from optimal (I’ve only just started playing my first sandbox game) but it churns out research at a steady pace without any intervention on my part.
It’s an extremely addictive and satisfying game, especially if you are a fan of e.g. building complex railway networks in something like Transport Tycoon Deluxe. The UI is a bit clunky in places but otherwise even the alpha seems quite polished and bug free already. And there’s tons of technology I haven’t reached in my game yet like automated supply and repair bots, military bots, vehicles etc. The devs are also planning a cooperative multiplayer mode for the final release version.