If you’ve ever played and loved games where you set up a factory or automated system that runs itself after a time, you know that these sorts of games are in short supply. Good examples include Factorio and Dwarf Fortress (if you’re into that sort of thing), as well as Rimworld and Oxygen Not Included if you expand the definition. Positech’s (responsible for Gratuitous Space Battles, Democracy 2, 3) Production Line, a game that tries to distill the formula down to just the production aspect and removes any resource gathering, unfortunately, fails to live up to the standard set up by the other competing titles.
While taking out all the inane resource gathering sounds nice, this leaves Production Line with an expectation of having a particularly brilliant factory-building aspect. Otherwise, why would anyone play it if the sole gameplay type was sub-par? While still in Early Access on Steam, there doesn’t seem to be much that makes Production Line worth looking into at this time, and I would be surprised if it ever grew out of this state. Functionally, the game is adequate, but the gameplay is cookie-cutter at best. All the player does is drop down different parts of an automobile assembly line (Body Fitting, Accessories, Painting, etc.) and connect those parts with a conveyor line and resource line. How much time each automobile (those being the only thing you can build throughout the whole game across all levels) spends in each section is told to you outright, and this is really the only way to improve your factory. If something takes 15 minutes to complete, and the next step takes 30 minutes, you can put down two of the factory part for the latter step to keep things running smoothly.
As you progress in a level and across the game, you research new luxuries to put into cars, as well as new body types and production pieces. These new steps along the assembly line are really just the previous pieces broken up, allowing you to upgrade and modify them as you wish. The entire game breaks down into finding and removing bottlenecks, but it ultimately fails to give you any good reason to go through the trouble. Seemingly forgetting the part where games are supposed to be fun, the developer attached no intrinsically rewarding stimulus to making or selling cars. They automatically get put out to a showroom (just another menu) and are sold without a single sound or notification. Just imagine what Super Mario Bros. would be like without the signature sound of collecting a coin. There are undoubtedly a few people who will get their money’s worth in enjoyment out of Production Line simply by crunching numbers and figuring out the most efficient path to take, but for those seeking to dip their toes in the automated factory game genre, they’ll find a very cold and pointless game.
Currently, there is no story to speak of other than you wanting to make money, though games of this type don’t really necessitate one. The art and graphics serve the game well enough, though things quickly get cluttered. The sound is, at best, sub-par. The music could be mistaken (or is) stock music you’d hear in any ad-riddled mobile game, and the sound effects are similarly forgettable and lacking in impact. All three categories (story, graphics, sound) either just barely meet expectations or fail to do so.
Unless you’re the type of person who knows they’re going to enjoy number crunching and wringing out every tiny bit of efficiency you can from an intrinsically unsatisfying game, I’d strongly recommend you stay away from Production Line at this time (and I don’t see it improving to the point where my opinion would change, either).