There’s barley enough time in the day.
Title: Farming Simulator 19
Platform: PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One, PC
Developer: Giants Software
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Release date: November 20, 2018
Price: PC: £30/$35 Console: £40/$50
TL;DR: Surprisingly fun and very immersive.
Family Friendly?: Click here for more information
I’m sure I’m not the only person that sniggered when I first heard about Farming Simulator, several years ago. In the world of video games where possibilities are endless, why on earth would you want to spend that time farming? At least, that was my reasoning at the time.
More recently, farming sims have been cropping up – pun intended – all over the place. We can find elements of it in games such as Don’t Starve and Terraria, and the much more farming-based Stardew Valley. So when the opportunity came to review Farming Simulator 19, my curiosity got the better of me and it was with interest that I jumped in, wellies first.
If you’re new to Farming Simulator, I would highly recommend doing at least a couple of the short (and optional) tutorials that introduce you to the controls, as well as the basics of cultivating, sowing, and harvesting. Career Mode offers up three options: New farmer, Farm-Manager, and Start from scratch. New farmer gives you land, equipment and money and introduces you to farming, Farm-Manager gives you money but no land or equipment, allowing you to choose the location and type of farm you want. Start from scratch is the most realistic setting, with no land or equipment and a tough economy. I decided to go with the New farmer option and chose to start at Ravenport, one of the two maps you can choose from.
New farmer starts you off with three tractors, a farmhouse, four small fields, and various bits of farming equipment that gave me no clue to their function by sight alone; Farming Simulator doesn’t believe in attaching huge labels to each item – it’s up to you to figure that out for yourself. So I gave each one a quick test-drive and had a look at the controls the game offered, in order to figure out what each thing was. I was excited as I harvested my first crop but my God, I wasn’t prepared for how difficult driving in a straight line would be.
No one told me – and for some reason, it wasn’t something that had crossed my mind – that I would be required to drive. And I’m not just talking about pulling a cultivator across a field, I’m talking about reversing – in a pretty precise manner – in order to attach various pieces of farm equipment to various tractors.
You see, unlike other games that involve driving, it’s much harder to hide how awful you are behind the virtual wheel in Farming Simulator. In a racing game, you can take a bend too fast and it’s fine – no one will know that you drove through the hedge on that second corner or spent a good 30 seconds in a field, trying to regain control of your steering. In Farming Simulator it’s different; your fields give you away. The wonky plough lines are like a beacon, alerting anyone who happens by that you have no business being behind the wheel as your fields – that now look like a collection of badly shaved legs – will testify.
Nevertheless, you start off with £99,999 and can use it in whichever way you see fit, whether that’s to buy additional land or equipment or hoard for a rainy day. As you’d expect, the machinery can be expensive but you have the option to rent the equipment if you only need it for a day, or if you want to test it out before you part with your money for a full purchase. Your buildings and vehicles cost money to maintain too. Each new day you’ll have the building maintenance deducted from your funds.
The in-game menu offers a host of information that you’ll be referring to a lot as you play. You can access the map which shows you the status of your fields, whether they’re growing, ready to be harvested or sown, as well as what crop you’ve planted in each. The menu also offers the current prices that you can sell your produce for and whether there is high demand for a particular crop. This is also where you can check your vehicles to see if they need to be repaired or pick up contracts for a bit of extra cash. One slight annoyance was that the game often seemed to be in the middle of an autosave whenever I accessed the menu, meaning I had to wait a few seconds before I could do anything.
Farming Simulator 19 does a good job of keeping everything as realistic as possible. The introduction of weeds (as well as the machinery to get rid of them) adds more authenticity – and work – for you, though there is the option to toggle them off in the Settings, along with “crop destruction” and other tweaks to make your farming life a little easier. Even with these options toggled to your liking, there is a surprising amount of work and time needed to keep your farm going, even in the early days. One small concession to realism is that you can access the shop from anywhere, though you’ll still have to go and collect anything you purchase by driving there. And that in itself brings a whole host of challenges. For me, anyway.
I decided to buy a pallet of seed as I had used up what I had at the start. I knew I’d have to pick it up from the shop, but how? After perusing the shop for some viable transport method, I finally figured out (possibly with the aid of a Google search) that I’d need to add a front-loader to my tractor, then buy and attach pallet forks to it. While I love the level of immersion that’s present in the game, we should probably gloss over how long it took me to line up those forks with the bloody pallet and lift it in a manner that would allow me to transport it back to my farm. And even once the pallet was securely in place, my tractor decided to have some sort of weird spasm on the way home and fire the pallet up the road ahead of me – cue a lot of swearing as I tried to get it loaded back up again.
Farming Simulator 19 also offers a Multiplayer option where you can open up your farm for friends (or random players) to join, or you can join theirs. This seems like it would make things much easier and less overwhelming for new players. I found myself with a lot of questions that I couldn’t find the answers to in-game – not without a lot of trial and error and wasted time and money, anyway. Being able to jump into a game with a friend to learn the ropes would definitely help with this.
The lack of hand-holding that Farming Simulator 19 offers – or doesn’t – didn’t really bother me though. If anything, it attests to the game’s authenticity, and I was willing to learn – hell, I can even reverse a combine harvester with confidence now!
Farming Simulator 19 has been an incredibly pleasant surprise for me and I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of what’s available. I’ll be adding horses to my farm next, but for now, working the fields is super relaxing, to the point where I kind of resent having to do anything else, like go fetch seed from the shop or head out to sell my grain, but hey (hay?), that’s what the multiplayer’s for, right?
- Immersive gameplay.
- Slow-paced and enjoyable.
- You can toggle settings to your liking.
- If you’re not a farmer, you may have to look outside the game for answers.
Rated: Not yet Rated; Suitable for all ages, though the gameplay may be too complex for younger children.
Disclaimer: This review is based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review.