One thing I need to get straight before I continue; the Farming Simulator series is not made for me. I wanted to see what the fuss is all about as this is a series that is updated on an annual basis, after all, and in general, I tend to enjoy god games and simulators.
However, Farming Simulator 19 is not really in my wheelhouse.
To be clear, I wanted to review this title. I specifically wanted to experience it for myself. I was imagining something similar to Sim City. The reality is that Farming Simulator 19 is much, much more involved than Sim City. For one, it’s in first-person.
Farming Simulator 19 Review
You read that right. When you load into a new game, you find yourself looking through the eyes of your chosen character, out in your fields. If you start in training mode, you’ll be directed where to go and what to do and on completion of training, you’ll be able to continue using the farm you train on.
Separate to this is another two modes; one of which will allow you to start with a bunch of funds and is generally more player friendly, and the other could be considered a “hardcore” mode. This sees players really having to manage their funds in order to pay back their initial borrowed amount.
Needless to say, I avoided the third mode.
You may have also noted I referred to your ‘chosen’ character. This is because Farming Simulator 19 also allows you to customise your own avatar. You may not ever see them yourself, but given there are multiplayer elements, I guess it makes some sense.
Navigating the tutorial is mostly pain-free. The game will highlight certain areas in green to let you know where to go. Once you get there, it will tell you what buttons to press, and what that will do. This will initially allow you to clear a field (harvest), plough a field, and seed a field.
Lastly, you’ll take the grain to a silo in town, where you can sell it. This marks the end of the tutorial and the beginning of my headaches.
How do I farm the things?
Having never played the game, nor any game like this before, I was lost. Exactly what do I do now? Just keep ploughing and seeding my fields? How do I fertilise? Water? Protect from bugs and other pests? What equipment do I need?
This is one area in which the game excels. There are so many official manufacturers, and vehicle models, that it very quickly gets overwhelming. John Deere makes its first appearance this year, but all of the major brands are here if that’s of interest.
And purchasing them is simple. You go to the store, a massive warehouse that is suspiciously empty, and you purchase it; then you drive it home.
This is where things get wonky. Purchasing a vehicle is easy. But purchasing other items can be a nightmare. For example, if you need seed, you first need to buy a seed pallet. Then you need to figure out how to get it on your truck. Then you need to fill it with seed.
Then you need to figure out how to get the seed into your machine after first making sure you have already purchased the required machinery. And none of this is explained in training. In fact, there are text-based help pages, but they’re lacking in detail.
This is really the biggest downfall to the game, the HUGE barrier to entry. If you don’t know what to do, the game will not help you. You have to figure out virtually everything for yourself.
On playing through the tutorial, continuing, and growing some new fields, I decided it was time for me to start a new game from scratch. So I loaded up a new save game and started up an empty map.
However, I had no idea how to buy land. Nor how to buy buildings. I walked around from place to place, getting lost along the way and eventually needed to restart AGAIN because I found myself too far away from where I needed to be, and no easy way to get back there.
Eventually, I figured it out and placed my house. Right on top of me and got stuck in the walls.
Using the fast travel command, I found my way out of the walls of my new home and began to plough my fields. But I really wanted animals. The game was too complex and unfriendly for me to want to figure this out, so I simply continued to grow plants as I did in the tutorial.
I Guess My Farm is Vegan
The map also has a town, requiring the player to drive in on occasion when needing to buy and sell things. Yes, you can fast travel, but sometimes you need to make the trip.
Sadly, the roads are mostly empty, and there are no people around, so driving into town (in a tractor that is speed-limited, mind you) is mostly a hindrance. It almost feels superfluous. Sure, I can hire people to plough my fields while I go off to sell my grain, but I’d rather not have to drive off to sell my grain.
Especially because the vehicles are just not fun to drive long distances. This is no Forza, of course, but if you’re going to put lengthy drives in, at least make them enjoyable.
In truth, though, there is a lot to like about this game, beyond all the negatives I’ve pointed out. The attention to detail is astounding. In fact, if the tutorial was all-encompassing, and introduced players to every aspect of the game, it would probably be far more enjoyable.
The developers took the time to add music to the game (via in-vehicle radios), ambient noises (birds and insects), and lots of little graphical flourishes, many of which are charming. When you’re on your farm, and you have a lot of work to do, it’s easy to get engrossed, and they’ve really captured the feel of the country.
But when you finish the jobs you’d planned, or when you have to go into town, everything seems to fall apart again.
So Very Confusing
Farming Simulator 19 was not made for me, and that’s fine.
There is clearly an audience that enjoys the series, and for those that do, there is a hell of a lot of depth in terms of gameplay mechanics. However, I almost feel as if the developers should skip a year or two and put time into making the town feel more alive.
Most importantly, they really need to put time into making the game more accessible. Fans will tend to put up with a lack of polish and poor tutorials especially if there’s nowhere else to get their farming fix. But as it is, it’s not easy to recommend to those are yet to play it.
Farming Simulator 19 was reviewed on PS4 using a digital code provided by the publisher.
Game Title: Farming Simulator 19