Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Review: Farming Simulator


If you’ve ever enjoyed the farming aspects of Stardew Valley, or the classic Harvest Moon series, and thought to yourself “You know, I really want to have all of my farming tasks elaborated on using real equipment” Farm Simulator may be for you. Why merely gloss over the challenges and nuances of farming when you could work through a much more detailed version that gets much closer to taking you there? Farm Simulator shoots for helping you appreciate the challenge of both managing a farm financially and stopping to smell the sweet scent of the liquid success you can spread on your fields.


Starting with the sandbox, somewhat big boy toys, aspect of the game there’s the ability to use major pieces of farming equipment to care for your fields, transport your livestock and crops, and even cut down some trees if you’d like. This is probably the most novel element in the game, the ability to operate a variety of equipment to perform roughly the tasks farmers would in a given day, warts and all. While a variety of radio stations are available to you to try to help make the time go by faster you’ll either be sucked in by the somewhat calm and methodical nature of caring for your fields and crops or you’ll find it mind-numbingly boring. I’m not sure I minded the tilling, seeding, fertilizing, weeding, and then cultivation of my crops quite as much as loading my trucks for bear and taking things to market. As it may be the least, overall, productive activity in the game I’d say I’m surprised you do a fair amount of it and you can’t pawn that activity off like you can most of the everyday cultivation tasks.

That leads into the other aspect of the game, determining the direction and staffing of your farm, trying to make it profitable. By changing the skill level you play at you can either amp up the difficulty in being successful or leave it low so it more closely resembles sandbox play and you’re not as constrained by needing to make wise choices. From managing your workers, to expanding by buying new land, to deciding whether to buy or lease your equipment you’ll have to choose a direction and work towards making your farm as profitable as possible. One aspect of the game I liked in this vein is that by cultivating crops that can be used to feed or pamper your livestock they’ll then produce manure and slurry for you to use on your fields and it creates a productive circle of sorts, reducing your costs and making you more efficient.


When it comes to issues the main thing that comes to mind is that the controls can be a bit tricky at times and though the tutorials do a fairly good job of getting you going I hit snags in a few places that left me baffled, specifically for a few actions tied to some equipment. While generally you can trigger actions for your equipment using the left shoulder button for whatever reason in some cases that crucial control ends up on the right. Once that lesson is learned you tend to be fine but occasionally I would end up spending a few minutes getting my bearings so I could figure out what I needed to do and how next. In one case I also had a glitch where I bumped the weight that often goes on the front of your tractor and from that point attaching the weight became impossible, forcing a restart. In general I’d say that I would almost have appreciated a light RPG-type mode to give me a bit more direction on starting and managing my first farm. Since I have no experience to guide me in taking care of a growing farm a little bit more guidance would have been a nice touch.

It almost goes without saying that Farm Simulator is a pretty heavily niche title that isn’t likely for everyone. If you have a real appreciation for sandbox games that free you to generally do things your own way and you don’t mind the often limited pace there’s some enjoyment to be had. If you have a real itch for the farming life, and gaining an understanding of some of the everyday work involved, you may find it interesting.


Score: 7

Pros:
  • Probably the most accurate depiction of the farming experience you’ll ever play
  • A wide variety of equipment for you to purchase and play around in
  • Some high-level management options for how you want to run your farm


Cons:
  • The style of play, particularly with driving everything, is slow and generally methodical in nature
  • Some of the control systems are a bit wonky and not always intuitive
  • If you’re looking for a guiding hand to help you through managing your farming empire you’ll likely be a bit disappointed


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