- Format: Xbox One (version reviewed), PS4, PC, PS3, 360, Mac, Vita, 3DS
- Unleashed: Out Now
- Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
- Developer: Giants Software
- Players: 1 (offline), 2 (online)
- Site: http://www.farming-simulator.com/
- Game code provided by the distributor
In the words of the legendary Freddie Mercury, “Wheat will, wheat will, rock you!”. Er, that is right, isn’t it? Okay, look; what we’re trying to say is that, against the odds, Farming Simulator is a game you can enjoy without resorting to painful hipster irony. It also affords an opportunity to use an onslaught of terrible jokes and puns that nearly matches our review of Mutants in Manhattan.
The first question is surely: “What do you actually do in this game?”. The answer, it turns out, is pretty much “everything”. You’ll need to combine harvester several skills in order to reap success. You start off with a little to help you out – a few tractors and other vehicles, a small piece of land, a bank loan, a limited supply of seeds – but you soon realise this isn’t nearly enough, and you need to get a grip on the surrounding area and the game’s systems. Good luck, manure gonna need it.
If you’ve played previous Farming Simulator games, then you’ll slip smoothly into the experience here. Those who have yet to play a game which features machines capable of shooting out enormous amounts of poo, however, have a lot to learn if they want to get the most out of the experience. You can tinker with the game in the menus slightly – the most significant option probably being the speed at which your crops grow – but there’s nothing to get round the fact that this is pretty much a hardcore farming experience. Staying on the subject of crops, for example, there are steps you can take to maximise your harvest and, if you leave them for too long once grown, they will wither.
The town you choose to farm like a boss in (there are two) has its own economy and, in an odd way, this is sort of an empire-building game too. You’re not the only farmer in town; there are several other plots of land owned by AI farmers. Each will be willing to sell their farmland, but trying to do so outright is far from ideal, because the price tag for each one will be hundreds of thousands of Euros (well, you wouldn’t want to trade in GBP at the moment, would you?). You can reduce the prices a bit, and earn some in-game cash for yourself in the bargain, by doing jobs for the other farmers. Isn’t that an atractorive proposition?
By ‘jobs’, we’re not talking about babysitting or nipping down the shops. No, this is field work; harvesting, ploughing, putting poo all over the ground (not your own), that sort of thing. Each job has a time limit which, combined with the element of a clear goal ahead, makes you realise that this really is a ‘proper’ game. Intentionally or otherwise, jobs also act as a sort of training tool. You’ll be temporarily handed vehicles and/or equipment that you may not have for yourself yet and, on top of the undeniable excitement this entails, you’re forced to quickly learn how they work and how best to use them. Just as well really because, although the game makes a valiant effort with an optional introductory tutorial and some in-menu explanations, most of what you learn you’ll learn by getting your proverbial hands dirty.
It’s certainly not everybody’s cup of cider. Depending on the size of the field you’re working and the task you’re undertaking, just one job can take anything from 5-30 minutes, and in fact quite easily even longer. However, you can hire an AI helper at any time to do your current job for you (not when you’re helping another farmer out) if you can’t bear the thought of slowly driving up and down the same field again for 45 minutes or so. This will free you up for other tasks; depending on how deep you want to delve into the world of farms, this might include gathering together the ingredients for, and mixing, the perfect feed for any cows you may have bought. Oh indeed, there are animals too. Take your pig of the options on offer, try not to let the stats and painful detail of animal upkeep send you to sheep, and instead make every effort to remain udderly engaged.
There are a few nods to the fact that not everybody takes these games seriously, and even many of those who do like to kick off their wellies and have a bit of old-fashioned fun sometimes. Not even Farming Simulator 17 escapes the industry obsession with collectables for example, with 100 well-hidden gold nuggets to be found. Also, when wandering around on foot, you’re able to pick up a (very) limited number of items in the game world and drop or throw them. While this certainly serves a purpose at times, there are some objects you clearly wouldn’t have any sort of use for, and are perfect for throwing at NPCs (who sadly seem to be oblivious of your existence) or at a friend because, yes, there’s online multiplayer. There’s a basketball court and – yup – it’s possible to grab a basketball and score a basket. There’s even an achievement/trophy for scoring a three pointer.
Imperfect physics and collision detection prove to be a double edged scythe, providing both amusement (on foot we can climb to the top of certain trees, though probably shouldn’t be able to) and annoyance (hit a lamppost, and there’s a good chance it will meld with your vehicle, forcing you to reset it to the town shop’s parking lot).
Ultimately, Farming Simulator 17 proves to be a surprisingly addictive yet calming game, foiling any attempts to dismiss it as an outrageously niche curio. It even has mod support (though nothing too out of the ordinary at time of writing). And need we remind you that it features machines which shoot out poo?