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Shapez 2 Preview: A Factory-Builder Whose Hunger Is Never Satisfied

Shapez 2 is like if you stripped down the moment-to-moment joys of a game like Satisfactory or Factorio to their most primal elements and left all the rest behind. As I extract, rotate, chop, and stack polygons to dump into a giant vortex, there is no greater narrative or survival context to what I'm doing. It's logistics for the sake of logistics, almost Tetris-like in its pure mechanical focus. And there is a certain zen satisfaction to that.

The demo level for Shapez 2 starts you on a platform out in space with a simple goal of building a system of conveyor belts to deliver fresh rectangles and circles, straight from the earth, to a swirling anomaly in the center. It's a slick-looking game with a very effective UI, and I found the controls quite easy to use and extremely flexible. The simplicity of it makes each component of a production line easy to identify at a glance. And any time I got stuck in my tracks, it wasn't because I couldn't figure out how to build what I wanted to build. That frictionlessness allowed me to focus on the puzzle itself instead of fighting with keyboard shortcuts.

Complexity is gradually layered on from there. It begins with cutting shapes in half. Then you might need to rotate them to deliver a specific orientation. Rotating them 90 degrees then allows you to cut the halves into quarters. It can get surprisingly tricky. For instance, making an L-shape requires you to cut a square in half, then cut some – but not all – of those halves into quarters, rotate everything properly, and finally stick the quarters onto one of the empty quadrants of a half. And that's before we even get into the fact that whole shapes can be stacked on top of one another.


At each step up in difficulty, you'll have a main objective to unlock the next major milestone, as well as side objectives that ask for different shapes which give quantitative upgrades like faster conveyor belts. Thus, I eventually ended up with multiple interweaving production lines using some of the same parts in different ways. Unlocking additional vertical layers provides even more potential optimization and complexity.

Toward the end of the demo, you also unlock the ability to harvest different colors of shapes from asteroids that must be connected to your main factory by a chain of larger platforms, which can themselves be used to build more complex infrastructure.

It gets to be a pretty intricate and satisfying challenge to get all of this infrastructure going initially. The fact that you can bulldoze an entire production line and rebuild it at no cost means the only barrier to starting over and doing it better is time. I eventually found myself trying to hone in on a setup that could deliver any possible component I would need as a base, as quickly as possible, and then allow me to split off any of those lines once a new objective was revealed. At the same time, the lack of basic resource management does create a feeling that I don't have to think too carefully about what I'm doing at any given step.


The other issue I found myself facing with Shapez 2 is that there's a lot of waiting. Once you've set up a production line to deliver a complex shape, you might need to wait for hundreds of them to trickle into the vortex before an objective completes, and there's currently no fast-forward button. In the meantime, you could set up another line to deliver a different shape for a bonus objective. But sometimes I had already done that and was simply waiting on both of them. You can also try to increase the efficiency of a line so it completes sooner, but there isn't really any reward for getting things done faster other than the minutes of your life you might get back. There's no failure state and no special award for speed. I'd rather just go make a cup of coffee or watch some YouTube videos.

One of the last tricks you unlock in the Shapez 2 demo is the ability to copy and paste whole sections of a factory as blueprints, which does add some light resource management to the mix. Every item you place as part of a blueprint costs Blueprint Points, which are earned steadily by delivering specific shapes to the vortex. While this can save a fair bit of time and fiddling, I didn't end up using it that much simply because of the issue above: saving time in Shapez 2 usually just means waiting longer for an objective to complete. But it is nice to not have to recreate the same structures manually over and over.


There is something rewardingly meditative and zen about Shapez 2, especially with the positive vibes of its electric-orchestral soundtrack accompanying me on my journey through space. I could see myself zoning out and fiddling with it when I just need to wind down and go at my own pace. But I also felt like I wanted more context, and more stakes. I'm not sure why I'm here, dumping all of these components into an actual black hole, and I'm never racing against the clock or facing the possibility of failure. In that way, it can kind of feel more like a toy than a game. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. But the basic ideas here have the potential to go a lot further, and I think they'd work just as well in more intense gameplay modes as they do in the sandbox-like one I got to check out.

If you'd like to give Shapez 2 a spin yourself, you can check out the same demo I played from now until February 26.

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