Farming Simulator 19 is the latest instalment of the multi-million selling franchise. Over the years it has managed to build a dedicated fanbase. There is an annual ‘Farmcon’ gathering in Germany and the game has even dipped its toes into the esports market with a mod allowing teams to go head to head.
I’ve never played any of the previous games but have been curious to see what all the fuss was about for some time. Not surprisingly the aim here is to manage and expand a farm by planting, harvesting and selling crops and raising and selling livestock. The game is incredibly detailed, especially when it comes to the farm machinery. There are over 300 different types of farm vehicles and machines to use within the game and it has attracted many big brands such as John Deere, Case IH, New Holland, Challenger, Fendt, Massey Ferguson, Valtra, Krone, Deutz-Fahr, and many more. I don’t know anything about farming so I’ve taken it on face value that these are recognised farming brands.
You can view the official Farming Simulator 19 launch trailer below
There are 3 different starting options which amount to difficulty levels. I chose the easiest option to ease my way into the game. There is a brief tutorial that shows you how to move around and drive vehicles plus plough a field, sow new crops, harvest crops and where to sell them. Sadly this tutorial only covered one crop type and as I found out to my dismay later on different crops need specialised equipment. Thinking I’d got the hang of things a bit I started again on the medium difficulty setting.
Here you start with nothing other than a wad of cash and it’s entirely up to you what to do. After about half an hour and a quick trip to YouTube, I discovered how to actually buy a piece of land in order to start farming. Then it was off to the shop to buy the equipment I would need. The catalogue is massive and given that I don’t have a clue regarding what I needed, I spent a lot of time and money on stuff I didn’t need. Once you purchase each vehicle you have to drive it back to your farm. Whilst this doesn’t sound bad, bare in mind that these are not sports cars we are talking about, it was an easy five mins drive back to my farm.
There is a hotkey to open the shop and you can teleport to any of your vehicles but you will have to drive every single vehicle back to where you want it. I got especially annoyed when I bought a harvester (top speed 15km/h), drove it back to my farm only to find that you need to buy the harvester bit on the front separately! Cue a 10 minute round trip to collect and drive back to my field to begin my harvest. The problem is my new harvester wasn’t really doing the job so I looked back in the shop to find there are different kinds of harvesters for different crops. Cue another trip to the shop and a five minute drive back to my farm. I guess what I’m trying to say here is that the learning curve here is like climbing Mt Everest in flip flops. Perhaps it’s easier if you’ve played previous games or if you know a bit about farming but for me it was just frustrating. After my first four hours of playing I had achieved absolutely nothing.
You can view some of my gameplay footage below:
The vehicles themselves handle like, well tractors! and aren’t much fun to drive. Even the faster vehicles are dull and unresponsive but I appreciate that this isn’t a racing game and at least the vehicle models are reasonably well detailed with all of the moving parts moving (I presume) as they should do. Graphically the rest of the game world looks reasonably nice but is essentially devoid of life other than the occasional vehicle driving about. Sound wise, well I hope you like the sound of big engines! I found myself turning off the sound completely and listening to music which made the game more bearable.
All of the experiences I’ve talked about so far have been in the single-player mode and boy did it feel lonely. The idea of trying to manage the entire map on my own makes me want to cry. Thankfully you can hire AI workers to finish a job you’ve started but even so, the task at hand would be gargantuan. Thankfully there is a multiplayer mode where 16 players on PC (reduced to 6 on consoles) can work on a farm together. Sadly I didn’t find a farm I could join and no one chose to join my farm even though it was set so anyone could join. I can actually imagine a few friends together would actually make it fun and sharing the workload would make things run much quicker. I can also imagine lots of side activities would be invented, tractor drag races anyone?!
To sum up I found Farming Simulator to be the single most frustrating game I’ve ever played. I really wanted to do a good job but felt the game was against me at times, a bit more hand-holding would go a long way in terms of welcoming new players to the game. Expect lots of driving back and forth (slowly) along the same route over and over and unless you’re playing with friends incredibly slow progress.
Farming Simulator 19 was reviewed using a digital code supplied by the publisher.
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive Developer: Giants Software Release Date: November 20th, 2018 Reviewed On: Xbox One Also Available On: PS4, PC/Steam