Exotic Industries is an overhaul mod for Factorio that adds a large number of new resources, recipes and mechanics. It’s a significant step up from vanilla, while not being quite as big of a jump as something like Space Exploration. Probably a similar level of “moderate complexity” to Krastorio 2, though it’s been a while since I’ve played that.
The primary gimmick is an “age” system, with six distinct research ages to unlock. Technology costs increase depending on research order rather than having fixed costs.
This is the first time I’ve felt like the burner and steam portions of the game were well balanced and of appropriate length. I realised this too late and was hand feeding setups for way too long, but I had both burner and steam builds persisting well into the electricity mid-game.
Having three different train models (steam, advanced steam, diesel) was fun and they all saw use, though I would have liked a longer gap between the first two. My first advanced steam locomotive was made just thirty minutes after my first normal one, but I then didn’t craft a diesel train until 45 hours later!
Not related to Exotic Industries specifically, but for this run I decided to hand build an organically growing rail system rather than grid aligned blueprints, and created a delightful mess as a result. Started with a single two-way rail that lasted way longer than it should have, before finally adding a one-way loop around the base for throughput. Eventually I had to run second lines out on the busiest routes as well. I really enjoyed this approach, even though it was inefficient. I also tried Cybersyn instead of LTN for train logistics, and while I didn’t explore the more detailed intricacies, for a basic setup it generally felt more straightforward. It was occasionally frustrating to debug, but that’s true of LTN as well.
Unlocking nuclear power began an entirely new power progression that I really enjoyed. The nuclear chain is completely redone, with multiple types of radioactive material and no Kovarex process. Reactors are also rebalanced and don’t get the same neighbour bonuses, leading to new designs. After nuclear, fusion energy is unlocked in the late game which provides another completely new system. You configure the reactor with different fuel mixes, temperatures, and injection rates for different outputs. I haven’t seen this “configurable building” pattern before outside of basic things like selecting a rocket location and thought it was a nice touch.
Two extra tiers of solar panels felt a little lazy design-wise but was still useful. I loathe building giant solar blocks and typically avoid them all together, but I made some use of them here. Induction panels were a fun addition, creating a new mini-game to construct an efficient accumulator. Similar to spaceship construction in Space Exploration but with smaller scope. I enjoyed the power curve of these: felt like they quickly became OP but levelled out again for the endgame.
I’m a big fan of beacon restriction, and appreciated that this mod explored that space. Four beacon maximum, and they require liquid nitrogen to operate. I still preferred the direction that Space Exploration’s take pushed me (single beacon with wide area), but this was still way better than vanilla and some variety is good.
Flow wise the early and mid games feel right, but the late game doesn’t feel balanced yet. Space science in particular was a grind. Each rocket launch only generated 250 science at a time where each tech needed 2000+ to unlock, and the techs themselves were uninteresting. The amount of rocket fuel needed was wild, I made two massive refineries to try and keep up. Increasing moon fish yield might help, but even so each of the five destinations required two technologies each yet didn’t unlock any new mechanics — just extensions of asteroid mining. The maths for asteroid mining didn’t even come close to working however: even with productivity 5 modules each launch required nearly 50k copper and 12k iron, while returning (for Mars rocks) only 5k of each. Aside from extracting some token helium from Moon rocks, I basically skipped this entire age. Maybe it’s useful if you’re skint on resources, but even then it feels tenuous. I did enjoy the decorative holos for each destination however.
Black hole science felt like an afterthought. Only needed for a single science, really straightforward recipe, then the game ends. I did enjoy the final black hole challenge though.
A recurring theme throughout the mod was unlocking new more efficient versions of production for earlier items. Circuits, plastic, steel, rocket parts, dirty water. I don’t know why but this is probably my favourite mechanic whenever I come across it, and I enjoyed it here too.
The new mining mechanics were fun. I enjoyed the upgrade path from poor chunks to pure washed ores. Requiring drilling fluid for deep drilling was a nice touch aesthetically, though in practice it was a relatively uninteresting logistical challenge that just added an extra step to setting up an outpost.
This mod includes a light exploration mechanic, with some scattered alien hardware around the map and “alien flowers” that are needed to bootstrap the Odd Plating chain. This was just the right amount.
In addition to Exotic Industries I also played with Rampant for the first time, which overhauls biter AI and evolution. It mostly just added tedium gameplay wise. With default settings, biters target rails and power which they don’t do in vanilla, which dramatically increased the time cost of expansion (more turret walls) without creating any compensating fun. This can be disabled in settings, which I’ll be doing next time I play with it. I did enjoy the biter variety visually, but the different factions didn’t affect how I played. Every wall had the same mix of gun/flame/laser turrets I always use. I did add the new cannon turrets as well, but realised too late the explosive shells I was arming them with were what was destroying my walls, not the biters. Rather than redo my setup I used a mod to add explosive resistance to walls. I also suffered a number of crashes when clearing bases.
Biters play a really important role in creating an increasing resource sink as the game progresses. The evolution and expansion rates are pretty much the only thing that matters. Default Rampant settings worked pretty well with Exotic Industries through the early and mid game. Unlocking the new minigun tech and charged ammo felt like welcome power spikes that came at the right time. Late game, artillery wasn’t balanced so was completely ineffective, taking in excess of five shots to destroy a single spawner. I experimented with Napalm Artillery but it locked up the game hitting even a moderately busy base so was unusable. I ended up increasing artillery damage by an order of magnitude via a mod, but only then just used it to prevent expansion. The plasma turret arrived too late and was also underpowered against Rampant enemies, though I imagine it would be appropriately OP against normal ones. All clearing was done by hand, which was generally pretty efficient with the minigun. Probably spent too much time inefficiently clearing in the early game, not realising that biters would still attack outside the pollution cloud.
The 100-150h playtime estimate feels about right. I tend to play much faster (but sloppier!) than most players and finished on the low end of that at 102h, with Rampant included. I created a mapshot of the factory for posterity, where you can scroll and zoom around it. This was a very enjoyable mod and I recommended it to anyone looking to see what Factorio has to offer beyond the vanilla experience.