Shapez, a Gentle Intro to Factory Games

A long time ago in a galaxy… well, in this galaxy actually, I was ‘strategy gamer guy.’ Before we had home computers I entertained myself playing SPI and Avalon Hill wargames (y’know, the ones with a paper hex map and cardboard chits) so I guess the transition to strategy games on computer was pretty natural for me. In fact at Strategy Plus Magazine, during my stint there, I was Associate Editor of Strategy and War Games.

Somewhere along the way, I kind of dropped my strategy things and turned into RPG guy. I guess I’ll blame MMORPGs for that but the point is, it’s been quite a while since I dabbled in strategy games. But again, now I have a Steam Deck which means on some level I’m a PC gamer again, and I’m watching a lot of “Best Games on Sale on Steam” videos and I learned there are whole new genres of strategy games, including factory games. I realize I’m the last one to learn this, but bear with me. I was finding these games intriguing but kind of daunting.

Then I learned about Shapez. Well actually I learned about Shapez 2 which is in early access, but this led me to Shapez which is a super minimalist factory game… I think. If I’m understanding what a factory game is, anyway. It’s also a puzzle game which I guess most factory games are?

Anyway, it’s pretty darned wonderful. I mean I’ve only played it for a few hours but given that it costs $2.99 US until January 5th, if I never go back to it again I’ll feel like I got my money’s worth. Also there’s a demo if you just want to give it a try for $0.00 US.

The image at the top of the post is pretty early game, this is an hour or so in.

So basically you have a “HUB” and arrayed around it are piles of various shapes. Squares, circles, stars, etc. And you are given the task to move X of shape Y into the hub via building conveyor belts. It starts really simple, but then you get tools to do things like slice shapes in half, spin them, paint them, combine them and so on. So maybe you need a 1/4 blue circle and it has to be the top right quarter of the circle. So you start with a circle, run it through a slicer, run the resulting half circles through a second slicer, maybe rotate the resulting quarter circles to get them to be top right corners, and then run that through a painter. Or maybe do the paint first, then slice it up. You figure it out!

This might be a case where a quick video is worth 1000 words. Here’s my “machine” in motion:

You can see that painting really slows things down, causing quite a few backlogs. I’m still trying to figure out a way to improve that.

While you’re achieving whatever goal has been set for you, you can also unlock upgrades, such as faster speed, via delivering other shapes to the hub.

I don’t think there’s a fail state so it’s all pretty chill. There’s no economy to worry about so you can erect and tear down conveyor belts to your heart’s content. It’s almost more a toy than a game, but I’m finding it super fun, particularly for $3. And I feel like I’m getting my feet wet so I can take on more elaborate factory games in the future.

Recommended! Oh, and if you miss the Steam Sale, the regular price is $10 which still feels like a good deal.

This is the same game state as the image above but ‘zoomed out’ to show how big the map is. Most of it is still untouched.