It’s kind of nice to get away from it all once in a while – to sit down the latest and greatest in military shooting, kick your feet up, and just tend to your crops. This is where I found myself enjoying Farming Simulator the most. I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to. I am the master of my own farm, and I can work at my own pace.
You have to understand what you’re getting in to when you play Farming Simulator. As advertised, it is far more of simulator than it is game. From the get-go, it does not give the player much of any objective other than “expand your farm.” Players are initially supplied with one field and a collection of tractors and farming vehicles required to get started. After that, the rest is up to you.
It’s refreshing play a game that doesn’t push you in any one direction. I felt a strange sense of freedom when the game gave me the basic building blocks I needed to make something grand, and then left me alone to craft it. A set of tutorials teaches the player how to operate most of the different types of machines and explain their purpose. While these tutorials do a pretty good job of getting the player comfortable with the basic mechanics of driving, this is all Farming Simulator ever does to explain itself. The in-game map is presented through an on-screen PDA, which highlights the locations of crop drop-offs, ATMs, and stores. Unfortunately, the icons used to label these on the map are vague and unnamed, and without a map legend made it infinitely annoying to distinguish which icon you’re looking for.
It’s sort of baffling how unnecessarily lacking Farming Simulator is in the visual department. Apart from generally muddy textures, there is also a distinct lack of render distance when looking afar at crops. Even in the comparably small field that the game gives you in the beginning, the game only loads the textures and models of the crops a few meters ahead of you. This seems downright unacceptable, seeing as the game isn’t exactly visually demanding. It doesn’t make sense as to why the render distance is so awful in this case. One redeeming factor of the game’s visuals are the vehicle models themselves, which boast an impressive attention to detail in both design and animation.
The closest Farming Simulator ever gets to giving the player a specific objective come in the form of random side activities that have the player mowing fields of grass and delivering packages via a front-loader under a time restraint. It’s in the player’s best interest to partake in these activities as much as possible given how much money they reward, but there are only a handful of different routes and fields to mow. This results in mind-numbing repetition that had me practically falling asleep at the wheel of my grass mower at times.
Probably the most reprehensible part of Farming Simulator is its omission of multiplayer, a feature prominent in the past PC versions of the game. Previously, multiplayer allowed for cooperative farming, where everyone could contribute individually, based on what needed to be done on the farm. Multiplayer made the best case for Farming Simulator for me in the past, and it’s a damn shame that the mode is completely absent in this console release.
Farming Simulator is a wonderfully clunky, beautifully ugly mess of a game. For all of its quirks, it scratches a very specific kind of itch that I didn’t even know I had. It’s a game that relaxes more than it entertains. But as a $30 package on console, it’s hard to forgive its enormous fumbles in visual fidelity and absence of multiplayer, the greatest part of Farming Simulator‘s past iterations. So if you have access to a PC, you should go out of your way to play that version of the game. But if all you’ve got is a console and this seems up your alley, the console version isn’t the worst you could do.