If you’ve ever had the urge to cultivate crops and sell harvested goods then Farming Simulator 17 has probably gained your interest. Giants Software’s newest entry in the series hopes to entice you in with it’s oddly relaxing trip to the country. Does it succeed?
Farming Simulator 17 tasks you with the responsibility of looking after a whole region’s farmland. I say tasks because it just kind of plonks you into the world and lets you loose. You start with some basic farming hardware, a tractor, a trailer, some attachments and, yes, a combine harvester.
Simulator has become a bit of a loaded term in recent years, with it being applied to games that are anything but serious recreations of a real world subject. Goat Simulator springs to mind for example. Farming Simulator 17, however, definitely has it’s heart in representing farming in a serious manner.
The game has two regions; one European, one American, both full of fields, buildings and roads. It’s up to you what crops you plant, what animals you look after and where you do that. It’s extremely free-form which can be a bit bewildering, in a nod to those requiring at least a little structure you can take jobs from other farmers at plots of land every now and then. These let you jump into a variety of machinery and perform a timed task to earn some money.
The core gameplay loop consists of cultivating plots, planting crops of your choosing, fertilising them, harvesting and then storing/selling those crops. Each of these activities uses different vehicles and attachments, so it involves a lot of jumping between vehicles. To ease the amount of micro-management involved, you can hire a worker to take over an activity so you’re free do something else. As well as field crop activities you can also purchase and maintain livestock and also partake in some logging, using a chainsaw to fell trees.
Your farming empire has costs, from wages to maintenance, but you can offset that by selling your produce to a variety of locations around the region. You can see at a glance where is currently paying the most for each crop type and head there to hopefully make some profit. This is one activity you can’t hire a worker to perform so you’ll be loading up trailers and venturing into town quite frequently.
The lack of setting up automated “routines” for your workers is a shame, as they essentially vanish once they finish the task you set them doing. It would be really nice to be able to set complete work schedules for an individual worker or plot, but sadly you can’t which leads to a lot of micro-management which feels unnecessary.
Whilst there are a lot of activities involved in the game, there is a lot of driving up and down fields with different vehicles and attachments which is inherently repetitive. The core loop of getting in a vehicle, attaching the appropriate tool, going to the plot and driving many rows until the task is finished is surprisingly relaxing and oddly engaging. The game includes a few fictional radio stations as well to provide your ears with something to listen to. A nice touch although I didn’t recognise anything as being licensed.
The game straddles a line between being very authentic, with lots of appropriate branding and companies represented and being approachable as a simulator. It deals with this in much the same way as SCS Software’s Truck Simulator series where the activities you are performing feel authentic but are simplified perhaps a touch too far in the process of making a game out of them. This is understandable, especially for making something niche approachable for a mainstream audience.
Graphically the game looks quite nice but playing the Xbox One version there were some niggly things though. Whilst the vehicles and other machinery have clearly had a lot of attention and detail put into them, the scenery is just okay. There doesn’t appear to be any anti-aliasing on foliage so trees especially become flickery in motion. Crop detail draw distance is also an issue, to the point where you see it popping from a flat empty-looking plot to having the full crop appear mere metres in front of you as you are harvesting the field.
Loading times on console also aren’t great but they are infrequent enough to not be a real problem, notably occurring on game start and loading the world. Also related, the menus suffer from bouts of stutter related to loading which interrupt the flow a bit. It’s not game breaking in any way but noticeable and worthy of bringing up.
The game also supports modding on console. The in-game menus for this are slick and work well. Currently the offerings include more vehicles and tools from the developer with little in the way of third-party creations but the potential for new maps and more stuff is there. We’ll have to wait and see how fully the community utilises this feature.
All in all Farming Simulator 17 is a pretty niche title aimed at a very particular set of gamers. You likely already know if this interests you, what is here is competently put together and is oddly compelling once you start playing. If you have no interest in the subject matter you are likely to get bored relatively quickly however due to the unstructured free-form nature of the game.
Farming Simulator 17 (Reviewed on Xbox One)
Game is enjoyable, outweighing the issues there may be.
Farming Simulator 17’s odd mix of authenticity and not-quite simulation is curious. The core gameplay loop is by its very nature extremely repetitive but if you have an interest in farming you’ve probably already bought into the idea. It’s certainly not a bad game but it’s definitely an acquired taste.