I always find it difficult to explain the appeal of Farming Simulator. It’s one of those odd games series that you either love or loathe. The kind of game that does pretty much exactly what it says on a tin and your enjoyment of it will vary wildly depending on how much the basic premise appeals to you. Personally, I have a soft spot for the series, which replicates the ‘not so simple life’ of your average farmer, then again I grew up in the country, and have always had an odd respect for farmers and people that work the land. Even if I also have my fair share of traumatising memories of being chased by dogs, and men covered head to foot in tweed, brandishing a shotgun.
The basic, premise of Farming Simulator hasn’t changed at all in this latest edition, with you starting with a reasonably large farming operation and then slowly expanding it as you buy more fields and new equipment, while creating any kind of farm you want to, whether it’s crops, livestock, forestry or a combination of all three. Though sadly you can’t rent out your fields to music promotors every year for a music festival or charge upper class idiots to come and pick your crops for you. (Maybe we’ll see it in an exciting DLC or mod)
Though if that doesn’t interest you, you could always just roleplay as a drunk (By that I mean get tanked on Old Rosie before play begins and then doing a spot of harvesting while queueing up the Wurzels – I am a Cider Drinker on repeat via Spotify) or alternatively as a former banker that doesn’t have a bloody clue what he’s doing. No, wait. If you’ve never played a game in the series before that is who you start as (Though the game never explicitly states this)
While veterans will be able to dive straight into career mode, newcomers should give the games tutorials a go before putting on their virtual welly boots and wax jacket. These take players through everything the game has to offer; from simple ploughing and harvesting, to more involved aspects like forestry and animal husbandry. Farming Simulator 17 also introduces a handy help section in the pause menu to quickly look up how to look after different animals, what machinery is needed for different activities and what steps are required to complete various processes.
It’s a great way to remind yourself of the difference between hay and straw and what you need to do to raise chickens, pigs and cows,( or anything else for that matter)
It’s worth remembering that nothing is simple in farming simulator, if you’re expecting the kind of laid back, rose tinted, marry the local vicars daughter and just watch the garden grow nonsense of your average Harvest Moon then you are going to be disappointed. The mere act of growing crops is a multi-stage process, that takes time, patience, and a whole lot of ploughing, cultivating and unsuccessful attempts to recreate classic scenes from Casualty with a Combine Harvester, before you can trade in your yield and get paid.
There are more crops for you to choose from now, and each requires different methods to get the best possible yield as the usual selection of wheat, barley, corn and potatoes can now be supplemented with fields of sunflowers, soybeans and oilseed radishes.
Once you’ve decided what you want to grow, you begin by ploughing the field, then spreading the seed; fertilising at different points in the crops development using either specialised formula or good ol’ cow dung from your herd, the finally you get the key to your brand-new combine, or forest harvester and hoover up your crop ready for storage or sale.
Either by road, or for the first time by rail, that’s right you get your own little train network to move produce around your farm. (If that got you a little excited, then this is the game for you)
Each kind of produce has a different selling point which react to supply and demand. Grow too much of one thing and you flood the market, driving the price down and your potential profits with it. As such diversifying, as soon as you can, and keeping an eye on the markets is crucial if you want to maximise your profits. Those profits then go back into upgrading your equipment and machinery, buying more land, and creating a Baseball Diamond in your corn field so you can reconnect with the ghost of your dead father (OK, maybe not the last one).
Like in previous games how you run your farm and what you choose to cultivate are entirely up to you, and as your farm gets bigger you can hire extra hands to sort out the busy work for you, leaving you more time to go on drunken rampages in your tractor and attempt to recreate scenes from silent movies with your train (the game does not successfully allow you to do wither of these things, but it doesn’t stop me trying)
When you eventually decide to turn your attentions to raising livestock during the ‘late game’, you’ll find that along with the chickens, sheep and cows from previous entries, Farming Simulator 17 has added the ability to raise pigs.
As before Animals are a pig to raise (now literal and metaphorical) as they are expensive, difficult to maintain, and require a ton of specialist equipment including pens and crops grown specifically for feed. The trade-off being that once you’ve got a stable herd, brood, or sounder they provide a substantial amount of income, and you can use their manure to fertilise your fields. Which in turn saves you money and helps to maximise your profits.
If you never wanted to be farmer, and always dreamed of being a lumberjack. Farming Simulator 17 has you covered, as you can once again try your hand at a little forestry. Little has changed since it was Introduced in Farming Simulator 15, save for the addition of poplars which can be planted in your fields, harvested by a forage harvester, and the resultant woodchips can then be sold as pellets and used at the biogas plant. A few more machines have also been added that make it a little easier to get started in the mechanised forestry business.
Hands down the best new addition Farming Simulator 17 is the new mission system. This allows you to help neighbouring farmers by completing tasks for them, earning you a little of cash on the side. This not only helps you to get past the difficualt early stages of the game, by giving you the extra cash needed to buy better equipment faster, but also gives you a greater variety of things to do in the early stages of the game, instead of simply going through the motions of growing cash crops, and allows you to get your hands on some of the games more choice equipment hours before you would be able to afford to buy it yourself.
However, if you really want to try out advanced equipment, you can now also lease equipment from the shop by paying a nominal fee and then watch it slowly drain your bank account as you continue to pay for the damn thing with each hour and day you use it. Though it does let you try before you buy, I always found it felt far more rewarding to simply save up and purchase the equipment I needed.
You may have noticed that I’ve made a lot of crazy suggestions throughout this review, that’s because these things could possibly come to Farming Simulator 17 via mods, which will be available on console for the first time. Though there have been no details as to what will be allowed yet, If the modding scene on PC is anything to go buy we’ll be treated to new vehicles, maps and other sensible additions. (I’m still waiting for my field of dreams mod)
Farming Simulator 17 looks substantially better than its predecessor (SF15) on consoles, with improved textures and lighting, and fields generally looking leafier and the world a little more alive as a result. On the other hand, the interiors of vehicles are still feel a little plain with static computer screens and not nearly enough buttons and levers.
With a metric fuck ton of vehicles to play with (over 250 +DLC), a train to play with, new crops and animals to raise and some potentially brilliant mods on the way, Farming Sim 17 is better than ever. Though Admittedly it’s a game that not everyone is going to enjoy, Farming Simulator 17 at least attempts to widen its niche a little by making it more accessible than previous entries.
If you’re the kind of gamer that can’t go five steps without shooting something, Farming Simulator 17 will probably bore you to tears. But if you’re in the mood for something a little ore slow paced and just want to watch the flowers grow then I would certainly recommend this escape to the country.