Back on the farm…
Spending a long day working on a farm, only to be rewarded by yet another day of doing the same thing, may not be something of interest to many gamers. There is nothing to shoot, no troops to strategically move into place, platforms to jump or colourful gems to match into rows of three or more. Yet Giants Software’s Farming Simulator games still manage to be popular enough that the latest incarnation, Farming Simulator 15, has made its way onto the newest generation of consoles. Maybe it is the wide open spaces, the allure of heavy machinery, the freedom to make your money in any number of farm-specific ways. Or maybe it is just the appeal of gaming at a slower pace. Whatever the reason, we felt compelled to explore this phenomenon on the PS4. Can you pass my wellies?
Farming Simulator 15 is a game filled with more choices than your would perhaps expect, beginning with a choice of which style of farm to work, from the returning wide open American farm to the slightly more quaint Nordic farm. The goal of the game is to make your farm a financial success and how the player does that is entirely up to them. However, the vast majority of choices come further into the game, once the player has started making some money and struggled through the monotony of the early hours.
The core of the game involves plowing the fields, seeding them and then waiting to harvest the crops, and the early game will require plenty of time spent doing this. The starting equipment is really not the best, but being able to upgrade to more efficient vehicles and tools is something that will have to wait until the money starts rolling in. This early part of the game, in which the player will find themselves gathering their crops and then trying to sell them for the best price possible, does drag on a bit. But keep working through and before long options will become available.
Options such as which type of crop to grow on your ever-growing farm. Variety is key to making the money. Then there is the chance to buy additional equipment, both to replace the worn out beginning offerings and also for new purposes. Very little goes to waste on the farm, and even haystacks and silage can provide some income or benefit to the farm. The options continue with the chance to branch out into livestock, should you desire, or even the newly added ability to go all woodsman and start making money through forestry. Get past the early game, and the choices of how to make money really do open up.
As do the choices of how to spend your time. As the farm expands and the money starts to come in, hiring workers to do the less interesting jobs on your farm becomes an option, leaving the player to deal with some of the challenges that pop up around the map from time to time. Of course, if hiring AI workers for your precious farm is something that fills you with dread, then maybe trusting the work to other player online will appeal. The multiplayer option is quite well implicated and players can have both friends and strangers working on their farm, or the player can go and help out on anothers farm. The gameplay may remain the same, but it adds a new, human element that is quite enjoyable.
This is all well and good, but Farming Simulator 15 is a which takes the simulation of farming seriously, and really will only appeal to gamers who are looking for the slow and steady pace. Whilst driving a tractor in a straight line may eventually open up into more varied actions, they are still only interesting if the idea of managing a farm is something your would enjoy. And there are the occasional bugs and glitches that some may say add character to the game, while others will suggest it shows lack of budget. The bugs are not game breaking, they just spoil the immersion slightly.
Visually, it is quite easy to see where all of the money has gone. There are a mass of licensed vehicles and machinery in Farming Simulator 15, and they are recreated in the game very well. Driving a new tractor or other piece of equipment from a first-person view in the game is one of the highlights, the interiors are all replicated well and controlling them is quite enjoyable. However, when you move away from all of the shiny machinery, the environments all look decidedly dated and certainly don’t do justice to the PlayStation 4.
Farming Simulator 15 is an incredibly niche game, a game that will likely only appeal to players of the previous games in the series. The improvements over the previous game in the series are small, and playing on the console means that all of the wonderful mods created by the PC gaming community will not be available. Still, Farming Simulator 15 does what it says on the tin and if reading the title got you interested, then playing the game will not offer any surprises. If the slower pace of life is what you want from a videogame, Farming Simulator may well get you reaching for your wellies.