Farming Simulator 2013 is a difficult game for me to review, mainly because it's so far outside of my comfort zone. How can I fairly assess a game that clearly wasn't made for me? In order to overcome this, I'll be judging both its merits as a game and how well it serves its intended purpose, as well as sprinkling in my own personal opinion. So how well does Farming Simulator hold up? Read on to find out!
From a coldly critical standpoint, Farming Simulator is less than stellar. Gameplay consists of a selection of menial farming-related tasks; players sow seeds, harvest crops and sell them on for profit. The practice of doing so is somewhat dull, to say the least. Most of the game time is taken up by watching a tractor travel across a field, occasionally turning it and operating its various functions. It's not exactly thrilling, but for anyone to whom the idea of a farming game appeals, this will likely not matter.
The rest of the game is spent in the first-person, wandering between objectives and completing the odd side-mission. These are little more than fetch-quests in many cases, and add very little to the overall experience. There is no real "endgame state"; the aim is simply to make money from keeping a farm. The lack of a final goal may prove uncomfortable for some players, but others will enjoy the lack of given objectives. The appeal is similar to that of Animal Crossing, only far less successful, in this case.
Players are given the choice of two farms, both of which offer varying gameplay experiences, and three difficulty modes. This allows the game to stay accessible to new players, as well as offering some extra challenge for players who wish to test their skills in multiple playthroughs.
The lack of a meaty tutorial section is also somewhat problematic. Players are taught how to harvest crops and sow seeds and then dumped into the world to fend for themselves, which I personally found rather jarring. There are information bubbles scattered around, yes, but a little more help would definitely have been appreciated. Animal farming is left almost entirely unexplained for example, and it soon becomes a game of guesswork and trial-and-error to figure out the systems in place.
The in-game finance system is perhaps a little more rudimentary than many would like. Players start with a set amount of money, dependent on the difficulty level chosen, and sell their crops for the going rate. Prices do occasionally fluctuate, and it is somewhat satisfying to sell crops during a spike in their value for example, but it's fairly shallow for the most part. The player is given a PDA in the bottom left of the screen which helps to convey useful information, such as weather and crop prices, as well as a map, which is a handy way to keep track of what's going on.
Graphically, I feel it's safe to call Farming Simulator an abysmal mess. Textures are blurry and vehicle models simplistic, the whole thing brings to mind the style of an early PS2 game, or even a late 90s PC game. Not only that, the whole game has a strange stretched-out look to it; the kind you get while playing retro consoles on an HD television.The art style fares a little better, the farms are colourful and bright but simplistic and uninspired, lacking any energy and visual punch.
There are also technical issues; the most notable of these is the total disregard for any kind of realistic physics. Tractors can drive up and down steep hills with the kind of ease not seen since Big Rigs, and it's incredibly strange for a so-called "simulation game" to be so thoroughly broken, in this regard. While there aren't too many game-breaking glitches or freezes during everyday play; tractors can generally be trusted to travel smoothly across a field for example, there are still frame-rate drops and stutters that highlight the game's lack of budget and technical polish.
The complete absence of a soundtrack is rather disappointing, too. Apart from dull mechanical noises and a small variety of stock farm sounds, the majority of the game is spent in silence. Whether this was intentional or down to laziness, I can't say. I can say, however, that the lack of music robs the game and its environments of any and all atmosphere. You'd do well to put on some of your own music while playing this game.
If we look at how well Farming Simulator achieves its goal of simulating the experience of farming, results are somewhat mixed. On the surface, the game appears to be a somewhat competent simulation of farming activities. Players are tasked with growing crops, harvesting them and selling them on for profit, as well as raising livestock and acquiring a variety of vehicles; over 100 of them in fact, the variety of which is one of the few areas in which the game deserves some level of praise.
When we dig a little deeper, however, this game's simulation elements are sorely lacking. There is a day/night cycle, but it has little to no effect on the growth of your crops. There is no seasonal system; crops grow consistently all year round, regardless of weather. Your farm appears to be staffed entirely by Replicants, as they work 24 hours a day non-stop, requiring no sleep or maintenance.
It's all of these little touches that add up to rob the game of any realism and hold the player back from feeling like an actual farmer. Despite appearing to be a faithful recreation of the farming lifestyle, even a small amount of time spent with this game is enough to reveal the glaring inaccuracies and extreme lack of substance. When compared to games like The Sims or the Tycoon series, this game appears laughable, providing none of the depth that we've come to expect from modern simulation games..
Overall, Farming Simulator 2013 is a technically inept and overwhelmingly dull game that utterly fails in its intended task of simulating a true farming experience. I can't really imagine anyone enjoying this game. Players used to more driven experiences will be bored to tears, and simulation fans will be let down by the sheer lack of depth and realism that the game provides. Avoid.
Farming Simulator 2013 (Reviewed on Xbox 360)
The game is unenjoyable, but it works.
Farming Simulator 2013 is a difficult game for me to review, mainly because it's so far outside of my comfort zone. How can I fairly assess a game that clearly wasn't made for me?