Like a farmer trying not to over-farm their land, Farming Simulator alternates between releasing on PC and console one year and on mobile the next. This year sees it returning to the former, bringing with it new vehicles, equipment, crops and more.
You’re presented with three difficulty modes as you load up the game: New Farmer, Farm-Manager, and Start from Scratch. The first one is the easiest, starting you off with some basic vehicles, equipment and land. It’s also the best mode for newcomers (hence the name), as it opens with a short tutorial about the processes you’re going to need to get to grips with.
Of course, if you’re coming from Farming Simulator 17, you might dive into Farm-Manager, where you start off with nothing but a big pile of cash that you can spend as you see fit, which now includes buying parcels of land rather than fields. You’ll also need to decide where you base your farm, including grain storage, equipment sheds, and your farmhouse. The last mode, Start from Scratch is exactly what it says on the tin, giving you very little to get started with and even turning the in-game economy against you with lower crop prices. It’s really only for the dedicated players out there who enjoy a fair bit of grinding.
When I tried out the Farm-Manager mode, I was keen to try out the new building mechanic, but quickly found that the maps (of which there are two in the base game, and a third currently as free DLC) made it obvious where you should be building your base. The large, flat concreted areas are a dead giveaway for where the game expects you to set up your farm, and there aren’t too many alternatives, unless you’re happy to build on one of your fields. Placing buildings is easy enough, and the terrain will be adjusted if it’s too steep, but the costs quickly rack up if you’re not building on flat land.
Once you do get yourself up and running, the most immediate change are the graphical improvements. Gone are the days of static crops clipping through the base of your vehicle; they now bend when your vehicle passes through them, and unless you have narrow tyres fitted to your tractor, your crops will be destroyed in the process. The lighting improvements, sky animations, and added wildlife – birds will settle on your fields, only to fly off as you drive near them – makes the game world feel more alive than ever. That said, the level of detail scaling is still disappointingly close, with terrain, trees and other objects painfully emerging into detail as you get nearer, even on a powerful PC. For a series that sets itself up as an immersive simulator, it’s sad to see this still hasn’t been addressed.
One of the most anticipated additions to the vehicles is the addition of John Deere equipment, which brings the total number of vehicles and equipment to over 300. This means that there’s more choice than ever for how you want to run your farm – whether you’re focusing on certain crops, forestry, or animal husbandry there’s always a new vehicle or tool that you aspire to upgrade to. Speaking of tools, there’s now new equipment that you’ll need to use throughout the farming cycle. Weeders will need to be used regularly to prevent a loss of crop yield, and Lime will also need to be periodically added to the soil to keep the pH balance right. If this feels a bit too complicated, then don’t worry. There’s still an array of settings that lets you turn on and off options like these so you can focus on what you find enjoyable.
As you progress more into the game, you’ll be tempted to diversify into some of the new crops: cotton and oats. There’s not much to say about cotton, other than the machinery required for it is very expensive and the payoffs aren’t that great. Oats, on the other hand, are necessary for the animal that’s been added: horses. Although you don’t breed horses like you do other animals, you can eventually sell them for profit. And yes, you can ride them!
One thing I realised even just a few hours in, is that this is probably the hardest game in the series. The crop prices are a lot lower, and as a result it feels like much more of a grind, especially when you start off. Added to this, with the increased number of tools you need to maximise your yield, you will be far more reliant on leasing equipment and vehicles as you start off. Thankfully, the mission system has been improved, and now you can either use your own equipment or lease equipment to undertake the task. The best part is that you can hire workers to do these missions for you, so you can swap back and keep an eye on your own fields instead of being locked into completing them.
The last thing I want to mention is that you can now buy a dog! After purchasing a doghouse, you’ll get four legged friend that you can interact with, and he’ll follow you around too. The doghouse comes with a bowl (because you’ll need to feed it, obviously), and there’s also a ball which I’ll admit I spent a while throwing around to see if the dog would play fetch. Sadly he just sat there looking at me, and the novelty wears off quickly.
I have mixed feelings about Farming Simulator 2019. For a biennial release, I would initially have expected more, so this might start off feeling like a large expansion rather than a new game. Get further into the game, you’ll start to enjoy the new features and vehicles, and the little improvements build up to what is still an enjoyable farming game at heart. For newcomers, the initial grind might be off putting to some, but the wealth of things you can do in the game will keep you entertained for hours.
Version tested: PC
Also available on PS4, Xbox One