Reviewed on: Playstation 4. Copy supplied by publisher.
Yeah, we’re doing this. We’re going to review a farming simulator. Why? Well, why not? Farms are important, and stuff, and I have to admit, there’s something about the whole idea that’s got me interested to see what it’s all about. So, where better to start than with one of the best? According to the box, anyway.
Farming Simulator 17, unsurprisingly, puts you in the rubber boots of a farmer with a small farm, and a local community to supply. Your goal is to expand your farm, growing and harvesting crops to sell to the locals, and eventually moving on to more valuable crops, animals, and forestry. You can buy more land to expand your yield, and of course, can purchase more and more advanced vehicles and farming machinery to improve and expand on your farming skills. It’s kind of like Skyrim, only with less swords and dragons, and more corn and tractors. Okay, maybe not.
The aim of Farming Simulator is to provide a realistic, but still fun portrayal of farming for those who like simulators, and presumably growing their own food. It does this via a first and third person viewpoint, playing like an FPS and third person driving game instead of point and click interface that many sims adopt. This makes for an oddly interesting title, as you’re in full control of all your hardware, from combine harvesters and trains, to cars and even chainsaws.
It’s a very basic FPS engine, of course, but that’s all the game really needs, as the meat of it all lies with the farming and the development of your lands. It’s slow going, and I was surprised at just how in-depth and complex the nature of the game was. This really is probably as close to farming as you’ll get without dealing with mud, manure, and reaching into a cow’s nether regions.
Every aspect of your farm is under your control. You have to plough the fields, seed them, and then harvest them when ready. Product needs to be collected and either stored or sold at local drop off points, and if you start to tackle animal husbandry, there’s a whole new slew of concerns, from feeding and washing, to breeding and selling. You can hire helpers to automate some tasks, or you can do it all on your own, it’s up to you.
All of this farming requires a whole lot of machinery and special tools, and the game has you covered with a vast collection of real world hardware from a range of actual producers. I’m no farming expert, but all of this certainly looks the part and the attention to detail is impressive. Visually, the game is actually pretty damn good for what it is, especially the detail on the various vehicles and hardware. It’s certainly a little bit of farming porn for those who like their tractors and harvesters.
The complexity of the game is undeniably impressive, and I found the flexibility just as good at times. For example, I decided to dabble in some forestry, and bought a chainsaw to cut down some trees (no, you can’t go on a rampage, NPCs are little more than ghostly background fodder – I tried it). I even bought a dolly and a log-carrying trailer. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the cash for a specialised log-moving vehicle, so had the problem of getting the logs from the ground to the trailer. This was taken care of by simply cutting the tree into smaller sections that could be carried by hand. Nice.
It’s a small thing, but I was impressed nonetheless at the developer’s attention to detail here, when a limitation of simply needing the correct vehicle wouldn’t have made a massive impact. Kudos for the level of depth included.
Sadly the included tutorial and manual (there’s even an actual physical manual, amazingly), although long, doesn’t explain a lot of elements very well, and this leads to a lot of head scratching, and some aspects of the farm are left more for you to work out on your own. In particular, browsing the expansive shop, which is split into various sections, makes it difficult to find some items, items you may not even recognise unless you’re an actual farmer, in which case I doubt you’ll be playing a game about farming. I could be wrong, though, maybe you’re just that hardcore.
The main issue I faced with the game was simple boredom. I’m just not interested in farming, and the endless loop of growing, harvesting, and selling didn’t take long to become completely dull. That’s okay, though, because I never thought the end result would be any different. Farming Simulator is about as niche as a title can be, and it isn’t a title you’ll look at and say, “I’ll give that a go and see if I like it.” You either know that you want this, or you don’t. There’s no middle ground.
This is important because no matter how good the game may be in terms of its subject matter, it won’t matter one bit if you’re not one of the people the game is designed for. It’s not made to convert new players, it’s made for those who already want it. In this regard, even as someone who finds no real pleasure in such a game, I can easily say that it’s a great simulator for people who want this kind of content. It’s deep and has a range of complex mechanics, there’s a ton of gear to buy and many ways to expand your farm. There are even side missions for you to perform, helping other farmers, and there’s more than one world map to play in, with inevitable DLC probably set to add more. It’s a good, solid title that delivers what you see on the box – tractors, fields, and growing food.