Ever fancy yourself as a bit of a farmer? Like the idea of harvesting wheat in your own Case IH 1660 Axial-Flow combine harvester and watching your crops slowly sprout up across the horizon? Me neither really. Farming Simulator is undoubtedly one of the odder simulation series to come about in recent years. It’s always seems to be the butt of many jokes and many gamers are reluctant to classify it as a real game. And yet Farming Simulator 2017 is Giant Softwares 8th game in the last nine years, surely then there’s got to be something that keeps bringing people back to them, right?

The games about growing and making your name as a master farmer which you can do solo or, if you can find anyone willing play, can be done cooperatively online. When you first start up your given your choice of character (which from what I’ve read is one of the newer additions to this years title), a choice of 2 towns, difficulty setting and then you’re drop straight into the thick of it. Newcomers are advised to take the brief 15 minute tutorial as each vehicle and tool has a series of hidden rules and mechanics to operate them efficiently. Outside of operating faming machinery and basics on selling produce there is no hand holding so there’s tasks will take a lot of trial error initially. There is only one goal to the game and that is farm. Till the land, sow your seeds, fertilise the crops, watch the digital grass grow, harvest, sell and repeat. That’s really all there is to it, there are no primary missions or objectives to achieve per se, just maintain your farms, vehicles and livestock and try not to go bankrupt.farmingsim_03

Press X to attach harvester, L1+X unfolds combine, L1+square turns on the harvester. Now accelerate forward keeping as best you can to stay in a straight line for two minutes remembering to press L1+square at the end to turn off harvester before turning around and repeating on the next row. The farming process is incredibly dull as you tediously and monotonously carry out the same procedure for the 20 to 30 minutes until the jobs done. The idea of that alone is enough to put most gamers off, it definitely almost made me quit at a very early stage. Luckily though I gave it just enough time to see what lies beneath it, its micromanagement gameplay.

The game is all about farming and making money, how you go about doing that is completely up to you. Higher quality crops do better on the market so buying a fertiliser might be an idea, but why do that when you could just buy another farm and earn equally as much with lower quality produce. Then again you could leave the farm to run its self to go logging or bee keeping for an alternative source of income.  Then there’s also elements like paying off your bank loan, who’ll pay more for certain crops and choices to keep livestock on for dairy purposes or food. The choices and possibilities might just be enough to hold players interest through the dull farming sequences.farmingsim_04

Hiring helper AI to automatically carry out each process on your farm is takes a huge weight off your shoulders as they can helpfully operate more complicated actions and means you can work on multiple tasks at once. Unfortunately they’re not perfect, as they can be flummoxed by the smallest of obstacles and don’t always do what you want. In some case the AI would harvest two strips of land before claiming they’d finished or just giving up altogether resulting in you having to switch to that particular job to rectify any problem. When you do happen to get your farm properly automated you’ll find you have a lot more free time on your hands to… do yet more farming.

Farmer Jamies got a breakthrough deal with a new big client and he needs an extra hand bringing in his crops and Farmer Erick wants his land cultivated ready to start his next shipment and both are willing to pay. These side objects are manual work so you need to attach tools yourself, carry out each complicated procedure and painstakingly prep each field one row at a time. There is a timescale to finish each job, 20- 30 minutes which most jobs take you right up to and it all needs to be performed well as if you miss to many patches here and there you won’t get paid and you’ll have wasted a large chunk of time. Again it’s tedious to play, really your better of working on building up your own farm and buying the locals land out later. The only real advantage they bring is that you get to play with different vehicles and equipment. Interested in getting that shiny new SKE 18.5 PUD Slurry Tank but want to get a feel for how it works first, well take a drive around and you’re sure to find someone who has one.farmingsim_02

In terms of visuals Farming Simulator isn’t the best looking game on the PS4. However it does have certain something going for it with lighting and changing weather effects adding a real moody atmosphere to the games two locales. Whether it’s taking in the sunrise over Goldencrest Valleys rural little town or hauling crops in the rain through rustic Sosnovka there’s a certain charm to be found in this world. There’s a massive amount of licensed farming equipment to purchase, with everything thing from a chainsaw to cultivators being lovingly modelled in great detail. The same can’t quite be said about the environments as they lack the same polish and are sparsely occupied. A nice touch that’s been added is the inclusion of mods to encourage the community to develop extras for the game and there’s not great deal but in time there may just be some extra maps and enhancements to graphic elements.

Without a doubt Farming Simulator 2017 is an acquired taste and it’s clear to see why the series has split so many gamers. This is literally a game for watching digital grass grow so if you haven’t got a lot of patience then you’re better off steering clear of this series. For those that do then you’re sure to find some enjoyment in the games layers of micro management possibilities.

Positives

+ Lighting and weather effects give the game a nice atmosphere

+ Automating jobs with AI frees up so much time

+ Great amount of depth to micromanaging your farm

Negatives

– Monotonous farm based activities

– AI doesn’t always do what you want

– Side missions seem more hassle then they’re worth

6/10

This review is based off a review code of Farming Simulator 2017 provided by Koch Media.