Whether you like to sit back, relax and pretend to be an agricultural guru or to drive combine harvesters down busy roads, Farming Simulator is the series for you. The game has an active and loyal fanbase so I arrived to take a look at 2017’s offering with the question “what’s so different this time around” on my lips for sim-kings Astragon and Giants Software.
For those not in the know, the Farming Simulator series allows players to step into the muddy wellington boots of a farmer and set about planting, harvesting, re-planting and cashing in on crops and fruits. Through expansion and small mission-play, the player can also take over nearby farms to increase the amount of fields they control and earn more dosh.
The game has undergone some dramatic graphical improvements for 2017, according to Astragon Community Manager Ranjit Settle. Whereas before Farming Simulator was restricted to just four sources of dynamic lightning, now the game has “infinitely more” in its Unreal 4-powered backend. It also sees the return of a horde of licenced vehicles. Now there are more than 200 of them, from tractors to combine harvesters to logging equipment to trains and haulage. During the preview I saw more farm equipment than I think I had my entire life.
There are also new crops and plants too, including sunflowers, soybeans and poplar trees, bringing the total number to around 75 different types to harvest. If you’re more inclined to keep animals than grow plants, chickens and cows make a return and are joined by the new addition of pigs, too. Another new feature, and a perfect one for those not too keen on their micromanaging, is the ability to hire workers to farm your crops for you - they’ll do all the menial work so you don’t have to. You’ll still have to pay them, though.
Day and night cycles make a return, as do weather events that limit the amount of crops you can plant and harvest. In the preview I only got to have a look at one map - a green valley which I was told was designed to look similar to the West Coast of the US - but more scenarios and environments are in place or planned.
Astragon is proud of its community and the modding-crazy fans it has. Settle told me that the game is prepared to go all-out to accommodate this. Not only will mods be available from day one, but the title will be one of the first on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One to include modding and customisation - something Astragon is particularly proud of.
Fans of YouTube videos featuring confused players crashing into buildings, chopping down the wrong trees or driving over pedestrians with farming machinery won’t be displeased, it seems that all of those “extra features” are still in the game, too. Despite a few physics issues here and there, though, the game was remarkably bug-free and feature complete. Those who enjoyed previous iterations of the series will be more than happy with what Giants Software and Astragon are turning out. While by no means a blockbuster in terms of graphics, sound or gameplay, it does what it says on the tin and does it extremely well.