My personal experience of farming is limited. Sure, I took the school trips to see how a farm works, and I’ve visited my grandparent’s farm – not often as it’s located in India – where I “helped” by being chased by bulls and chewing raw sugar cane. Farming Simulator doesn’t recreate these scenarios, instead giving a much more educational and rigid experience of running a farming business.
The best place to start is with the tutorials, of which there are eleven. These teach the basics of how most of the vehicles work, and how to correctly farm your crops. You’ll be taught the correct way to sow, cultivate and fertilise a field, harvest the crops and sell them at the market. Overall this learning process will take about an hour.
However that tutorial won’t go into all the details you need. There’s no mention on how to raise livestock, like cows and sheep, instead leaving you to figure it on your own. There are little hints scattered around the farm but they don’t go to in as much depth as the main tutorials. I eventually figured out that you just have to buy the livestock and they’ll be put in the correct place for you, with milk trucks coming to collect the produce automatically. Eggs, meanwhile, have to be collected and sold manually at the village shops.
This isn’t a game with a story beyond you having to turn your farm into a profitable business. You’re free to do this how you wish; you can buy fields to increase your yield or buy better machinery to increase production speeds. It also pays to keep an eye on which crops are worth what, as the prices fluctuate. Personally I chose to focus on my first few introductory fields to slowly build up some money to pay off my bank loan, but this takes time.
I feel that Farming Simulator needs a large investment of time before things really click, too. For the first couple of hours you’ll be exploring your farm, learning its layout and finding which fields you own. You can do this by checking the game map, where your fields are highlighted by the green field numbers. In these early hours you’ll plant and harvest your first crop and sell it to earn money and invest in other items.
Eventually it all clicks into place, as you plant your crops and sell your goods, hiring workers to take care of one task while you carry on with another. At one point I had quite a nice system going, where I transported goods to market as my workers harvested the fields. Once a field was harvested I’d send one worker to cultivate it and one to sow it with seeds, while I moved on to harvest another field. Crops grow over the course of an in game day, and these can be sped up.
There is a day and night cycle but it really has no affect on most farming activities, except for animals sleeping. Your farmer and workers do not get tired, working 24 hours a day as if they were machines. There’s no sense of fatigue, so you can be planting and harvesting continuously to earn money.
However farming isn’t the only activity available in the game, with missions appearing every 10 or 20 minutes, depending on your settings. These vary from mowing a patch of grass at the golf course, because the golfers are upset with it, to transporting some lost luggage or goods to a store. To do these missions you’ll have to buy the necessary equipment, and these will be an investment. The first time you do a mission and buy the equipment you may make only a tiny profit, but afterwards you’ll make more money. The missions though are not varied, with the same or similar missions popping up time and again.
Visually Farming Simulator doesn’t look great, in fact much of it looks like a PS2 title. I’m not expecting Skyrim levels of detail, but the textures look poor and there were problems with the draw distance, leading to a lot of pop-in and the environment generating slowly.
The wandering people would just walk right through vehicles as if they weren’t there, and some of the collisions between vehicles were a bit weird. At one point I was towing a trailer with my rather large tractor and accidentally hit a small car coming the other way. This caused my tractor to do a major flip as if it had been hit by a high speed train, instead of what looked more like a Corsa.
I also managed to find a huge exploitative bug, and I’m not sure how it got through testing. Before you plant your crops you have to buy seeds from the store and load them up into the machine. As you plant the seeds the number available goes down, but if you hire a worker to do the job then the seed count won’t drop. I managed to sow all my fields over and over with the first batch of seeds I bought, which disappointingly took away some of the challenge.
Overall Farming Simulator is a purely basic simulator game. You plant, you cultivate, you harvest, you sell. That is the process over and over, with repetitive missions cropping unless you turn them off. If you’ve ever wanted to run a farm, then this is for you, but other than that there’s no real need for the game on console.