I have played numerous farming games over the years and do have a little guilty pleasure when this genre is concerned, it’s usually the cutesy type though and not the all-encompassing farming sim played in this review. Over many years I have played Harvest Moon, Rune Factory, Stardew Valley and even remember getting quite excited when Tom Nook was paying top dollar for my turnips in Animal Crossing. This title is nothing like the guilty farming pleasures of my past and takes a lot more of a realistic tone to its tasks, gone are the cute animals, easy to maintain fields and generally easy going endeavours. It’s all replaced with a very deep, customizable farming experience which took me a while to get used to but was rewarding and in the end, an enjoyable experience.
Farming Simulator has no story at all, I think is better than the alternative which would be trying to shoehorn some weird story into the game serving little purpose at all. You are just a farmer, who wants to farm and has no real driving force to do so apart from to provide himself with a livelihood and for the love of tending to your animals and crops.
There are a few modes for you to try from the get-go, I tried the tutorials first due to me being a Farming Sim newcomer and knowing how complex the game was for first-timers I thought this would be the best course of action. This presented me with a nice set of missions that taught me the basics of the game, took me through how to prepare the fields, plant crops and harvest them correctly. They did their job and by the end of the six tutorials and I felt a bit more confident to enter the next part of the game, the career mode.
You are presented with different preset starting points for your farm depending on your experience and how difficult you would like your opening few hours to be. You start with a different amount of equipment, buildings and cash, so you can customise your experience depending on what gameplay experience you want. This was very nice as it allowed me to start with a few vehicles and tools, which in turn gave me a bit of a headstart as I was new to the whole thing. The starting point I picked, the one for newcomers, started with the little tutorial too and helped me get to grips with everything and made sure I knew what I was doing. There was a lot to get used to and at times and early on I found it overwhelming, often got lost in the menus and did not really know what would be the best course of action to take.
The early pointless meandering and feeling of being lost soon wore off though as I got more to grips with all the menus, screens and the plethora of tools and vehicles at your disposal. When I say the amount of assets is vast, I mean it, there’s vehicles, tools, buildings, cultivators, tree planters, harvesters, seeders, mowers, it’s insane! Many of them are customisable, have their own stats and have multiple uses and modes. I spent quite some time pouring over the stat screens getting used to what everything did and what I should use it for. I wanted to make sure I was investing my hard earned cash in the correct items that would, in turn, increase my profit and make my farming life easier and more efficient.
So, I was started to hit my groove now and was keeping a track of all my fields through the handy map which could be changed to show it’s current growth, it’s fertilization state or what was currently growing in it. This was a godsend and helped me track what was going on in my various fields, this used in conjunction with the massive help section was amazing for working through the first few hours. I kept things simple to start with and never overburdened myself, I did not want to overspend or take on too much so early in the game. One of the other features I really appreciated was being able to hire helpers, any task you have started can be taken over by a helper. A simple press of a button and the task carried on by itself, relieving you to carry out other tasks and removing some of the monotony of your easier daily tasks. There is a balancing act to keep an eye on here though as helpers cost money, you just need to keep an eye on your costs and make sure you not cutting too much into your profits.
I was then at the point to start expanding and taking on more on my farm, I had got my head around the initial systems and felt more confident of what I was doing. I looked through where I should go next and there was a lot of it. I could rear animals, plant and harvest trees or buy more building and fields. The map was massive and full of stores, places to sell your wares and other things to do and see and do. You can help other farmers with their businesses through a quest system if you have free time, you are presented with a task to do and how much they would offer you to do it. They also offer a reduced reward for completion if you lease the equipment required instead of buying it, which is a great system as it allows you to complete quests you don’t currently have the equipment for. You can lease many of the other equipment that’s available to you too, making early farming easier as some of this equipment is expensive and early on you don’t have the available funds for it. It’s also helpful to try out things before you buy them as some things work better than others depending on what you’re doing and how you’re tending your fields.
Another system I liked was the price ecosystem, the price you got for your goods goes up and down in different locations on the map. This always made things feel more alive and had me constantly checking the helpful menu page that displayed all the current prices and whether they had fallen or risen. You can store your goods in a silo, meaning you can pick and choose what you wanted to sell and when as the price and market dictates. I enjoyed this a lot and changed what I was planting, harvesting and where I was selling it too on a regular basis to make the most of what was in demand.
The options menu also has a lot of things you can tweak, so you can make your experience as realistic or as laid-back as you would like. You can change the speed that time progresses, the speed your crops grow and if your hired help refill your various vehicles and tools. It even goes as deep as to change whether your crops get destroyed when you drive over them or if they wither over time. You can change whether the engines automatically start and the amount of fuel that’s consumed. It’s all very detailed, malleable and helpful for new players to the series. This all helps with tailoring the experience differently for different people and is a very welcomed feature.
The game has mods and multiplayer, although due to the timing of this review neither were fully up and running. The mods screen had a few mods in it that cost a small amount of money to download. I imagine that this will fill up rapidly when the game is released and be full of user-created content for people to try. Due to the game not yet being released the multiplayer was a bit barren. I managed to get into a game and enjoyed what I played. It’s a multiplayer version of the career mode and I imagine farming with friends would be great fun.
Graphically the game is nice to look at, nothing game changing but pleasant enough. The models of the vehicles and tools are rendered to a very high standard and are highly detailed. The fields and foliage are all rendered nicely, there is a bit of aliasing here and there but it’s nothing major. The background music for the game is provided by an in-game radio, the music is varied and tenders to most peoples tastes. I was soon harvesting fields listening to electronic dance music, bobbing along in my tractor enjoying tending to my crops and animals. A set soundtrack could get monotonous in games like this where tasks are repeated often and hearing the same music could get irritating. Farming Simulator performed very well on a technical level, I noticed zero dropped frames or stutters, very little pop in and nothing took me out of the experience at all. Everything ran smoothly and no matter what happened the game engine coped with everything admirably.
This game was definitely a learning experience, I have played many farming games but nothing this far into the simulation side of things. Players of this series will jump straight and be able to state what’s been improved and what’s better or worse. I, however, am judging the game as a first timer and I generally enjoyed what I experienced. If you stick around and put the time in to get used to the many systems and nuances of the game, you will find a very rewarding experience that evolves over time. There are many ways to play the game and a lot of customization options to tinker with and the game is a very malleable experience that will suit you no matter what your experience level is. There is something great about picking up a new tool from the store you have spent a lot of money on, collecting it on your tractor and trying it out in the field. Watching it magically transform into a massive cutting machine at the press of a button and using it to tend to your crops. The progress through the career mode is natural and you can see things getting quicker, more efficient and more profitable over time. I can see myself getting more into this series in the future, getting more into the finer details of it and enjoying a bit more of what it has to offer.
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*