I grew up in the countryside and though I never lived on a farm, I knew kids that did. It seemed a pretty exciting, if unpredictable life from the stories I heard and from my own experiences playing in fields and harassing the livestock. As well as annoying local children to chase away, farmers have to deal with weather and season issues, wavering prices and demand for produce, the uprising of big supermarket chains and a myriad of other things cropping up on a daily basis. None of this was addressed in Farming Simulator. Most farmers would probably be a little peeved to find out their hard won livelihood is perceived as being extremely repetitive, tedious and dull.
Farming Simulator 2014 was released last year. Not having previously owned the game (for some strange reason it never occurred to me to spend my own money on such a thing), I tried to find out what was different about this version using the power of Google (other search engines are available – Google them to see).
It seems to be identical to the previous version, with the addition of local multiplayer the only noticeable difference, just in case you want to share the tedium with other people. Ok I’m being a bit harsh. Farming Simulator isn’t without its charm but you have to really enjoy driving up and down fields and along roads at 20mph.
You’re dropped into a somewhat sparsely populated generic town and given three fields to get you started. One of these needs to be harvested, another needs to be cultivated and the other is overgrown with grass, ready to be converted into hay for your cattle. I’m telling you this because the game won’t tell you a damn thing. There’s no tutorial, only a stereotypical farmer who pops up occasionally with a word or two about a new piece of machinery you’re trying for the first time. My guess is this guy must be cosied up in a haystack somewhere sleeping off a bottle of Paw’s moonshine, or rolling in the hay with a milk maid – whatever he’s doing it’s seemingly more important than giving pointers to idiots who think they can drive a tractor for the first time without crashing.
On the plus side everything you need to start turning a profit is on hand so there’s nothing to do but crack on and learn the ropes as you go. This is probably a bit like farming for the first time in real life though it’s doubtful anyone decides to become a farmer without learning some of the basics first. Like what each piece of equipment does, what fields look like when they need cultivated or how to reverse a tractor and trailer safely. It’s probably just as well there aren’t many folk wandering about in the game, though at least I’d have plenty of fields to hide the bodies in.
So here are a few pointers for those of you who want to try your hand at farming simulation, not to be mistaken for actual farming, which is a lot more interesting, rewarding and genuinely hard work. Tapping left or right on the d-pad will take you through your drivable vehicles. It’s up to you, Mr/s Farmer, to equip with the right equipment and either manually steer them through the fields (not recommended if you have any semblance of a life) or get them in the right position and hit the magic autopilot button on the touchscreen, which costs a little money.
The touchscreen, while always fun to touch, doesn’t necessarily add anything to this game. The buttons here could just have easily been located in a menu and the map is dull to look at because there’s nothing to look at in this game.
With regards to the lack of tutorial, something that is desperately needed in a game like this, it is advisable to read the manual thoroughly and return to it at regular intervals while playing, though it is by no means exhaustible. In fact it probably won’t help you much at all. It doesn’t matter what mode you play this on, beginner or hard, you will not receive any help.
The store is available through the touchscreen as well and here you will find a lot of machinery and equipment with grand sounding names and prices but no descriptions or stats explaining what they are or what they’re for. Buying something means it is dropped at a local shop which you must travel to in order to pick it up. Driving on the roads is extremely tedious and it becomes apparent very quickly just how little effort has gone into making this game. There isn’t a lot of traffic on the road and the formulaic houses are there for cosmetic purposes only. You don’t believe someone actually lives there do you?
A lot of driving is a given in a game where you have to handle vehicles and transport produce but it could have been made a bit more interesting. Entering the menu will reveal what the current prices are for each item you want to sell. There doesn’t seem to be much benefit to shopping around. You’d think, being the only major farm in the area, the local buyers would be hammering at your door for your business but no seems to be bothered.
You can hire workers for your farm! Hooray! But you need to be careful because they will get stuck on equipment that has been left lying around and pieces of scenery. Boo. And apparently farms aren’t subject to the same physics we are. You can drive through people and supposedly solid objects, and hitting a small rock will send your tractor flying through the air like Ronaldo in a penalty box.
Want to buy some different crops for your farm to expand your agricultural horizons? Tough, you can only buy one generic seed which magically transforms into whatever you want. Perhaps this game was originally dreamt up by farmers who wondered how to make their lives easier. A place where nothing happens, no weather or seasons to disrupt the daily farm life, workers who will always be too simple to steal from you and the ability to pick and choose where you want to sell your produce without any repercussions. Sounds like a dream life.
There is a small amount of satisfaction to be had from finding the right pattern of use for vehicles and equipment between numerous fields to ensure constant productivity but this wears thin when you look at the clock and realise you’ve lost a good portion of your life to a virtual tractor ploughing virtual fields for virtual money.
And this is a serious issue with Farming Simulator. The rewards from being a real farmer are worth the toil and effort. It’s fair to say most farmers aren’t stinking rich and rolling around in bales of money. But they get something more out of what they do and that isn’t apparent in Farming Simulator. There is nothing to make you feel proud of what you’re doing. Even the occasional task that crops up randomly, usually requiring you to fetch a dropped or lost shipment and return it to a local villager, doesn’t alleviate this feeling. A farm should be at the heart of a thriving rural community, not an afterthought in a mind numbing simulation created by people with a fetish for fancy farm equipment. Simulations are supposed to be realistic. This is anything but. If you want to be a farmer, buy a pair of wellies and a couple of sheep. In short, don’t buy this game.
MLG Rating: 1/10 Format: IOS/Android/Mac/PS3/Vita/Xbox360/3DS Release Date: Out Now
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a copy of Farming Simulator 14 by the publisher for review purposes. The title was reviewed over the course of one week on 3DS. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.