Review: Farming Simulator 17 (Xbox One)
The Farming Simulator series has always been the butt of many jokes within my gaming life. People usually point at it and laugh because of its ludicrous concept and silly presentation. Why would anyone want to play a game where all you do is farming? Wouldn’t that be endlessly boring? But I’ve always reserved my scorn for the series since I have never played one myself. I have discovered that there is a huge niche market for these simulator games with Euro Truck Simulator and the various train simulators enjoying continued support and love from their dedicated communities. It’s baffling at first, with these games not being your “conventional” idea of a good time. It’s monotonous, but it’s supposed to be like that and there is joy to find in it. A meditative experience away from the busy world as you drive a virtual truck around a nice landscape while listening to some podcasts and just unwinding. So I went into Farming Simulator 17 with an open mind and wanting it to impress me. Since this is the newest entry in a long-running franchise, I expected them to really pull out all of the stops.
I would describe Farming Simulator 17 as a test of patience and of willpower. An Everest of boredom to summit and a game that will make you realise just how awful your life is. I’ll highlight why this is later. If you haven’t played the franchise before like I have, it is pretty much essential to run through the tutorials. The tutorials do teach you the basic fundamentals of the game admirably, but they do it in such a condescending tone that it felt like I was a kindergartener whose parents recently divorced and was starting to draw piles of murdered people. “Good job, you are doing great!” Don’t patronise me, game. However, I got the basic feel for the game. Barring the condescension, the tutorials were good to show you the various complex systems. I knew the basics of running my own farm and how to operate the equipment at my disposal.
Old MacDonald probably wanted to die
Once you decide to get farmin’, you’re dropped into a town and set loose. They give you a couple of fields that you can cultivate, fertilise and tend to as well as all the basic tools that you need to become profitable. The brunt of the game’s central premise is to earn money and buy better equipment, more land and rapidly expand your farming empire. This is pretty much on par with any decent management game at this stage.
I need to give props to Farming Simulator 17 for its sheer depth. There’s a ton of farming equipment available to buy, many avenues that you can use to generate income and the various options you have to expand your farm is impressive. There is a sizable amount of variation to everything and you won’t be short on content. But the problem arises with the implementation of these varied systems.
A new level of tedium
Simply put, it’s boring as hell. Complexly put, while the game has a respectable amount of variation and content, it struggles woefully to be engaging in any respect. If you choose to cultivate, fertilise or harvest your own land by yourself, it will be the most mind-numbing experience of your entire life. I mentioned earlier how this game makes you realise how awful your life is because as you’re driving straight down a field for the 40th time, you start realising all of the terrible things you have done and how you have reached a functional deadzone in your life. The game should be called Existential Crisis Simulator 17.
Thankfully, you can hire workers to do all of the monotonous labour at a fee that you gladly pay for. This then leaves you open to do other things such as feed animals and cut down trees… which are also mind-numbing tasks that make you want to curl up into a ball and cry. The gameplay associated with foresting and animal husbandry are not well designed and often rely on shoddy physics or basic “drive this resource to that place”. You can drive around town and do missions for other farmers in the area for money… which involves more tedium-induced mind static. Delivering goods to various shops where you make the bulk of your money is also an exercise in patience.
Now, let us be clear on a few things here. One might accuse me of having an overactive mind that needs constant stimulation that the game does not give me, but rest assured that I can be boring with the best of them. I play Elite Dangerous as a trader which is the most boring route you can take. I enjoy trucking games. I take road trips in open-world titles just because I feel like relaxing. This was another level of tedium. It’s the type of repetitiveness that makes you want to fall asleep mere minutes after you start playing. The type where you question why exactly you are doing this and wasting your life away. It’s simply not engaging.
The management aspects would be the game’s saving grace as it can be like running your own farming empire, but even that didn’t interest me in the least. Impressive, sure, but it’s impressive in the same way an accountant finds your annual tax returns “impressive”. It’s just staring at numbers, finding better profits, managing your machine upkeep costs and making sure there are passive income streams to offset your daily expenditure. Yay.
A bunch of pig doo doo
If all of this wasn’t bad enough, the game is also a technical disaster. Firstly, the visuals are terrible. They look straight out of a very early Xbox 360 game and the frame rate still chugs like crazy. The draw distance is so poor that half of your fields will be lost to the distant Ether a mere 10 meters away. The game constantly glitches and it is very common that you’ll have your tractor stuck inside a pole and be forced to reset it. Textures are bland, lighting effects are sub par and I honestly believe some indie games have way better visuals than this. Farming equipment was the most detailed part of the game and they did a decent job at making replicas of actual farm gear, but even those models were shoddy. This being the latest iteration, I expected the visuals to be adequate. Not even good, just passable. But they’re not.
The sound design for the farming equipment is good, even if that is like complimenting the consistency of the dust on your table. The built-in radio stations feature the best audio trash this side of the hemisphere with stock tunes that compliment the blandness of the rest of the game rather nicely.
Okay, I have been harsh to Farming Simulator 17 and it is very possible that I was simply just not the target market for this game. Some subset of people might enjoy the mindless monotony of this title or delve deeper into the management aspects than I did, but that doesn’t excuse the game of its various other shortcomings. It still looks like garbage, it plays like trash and the various gameplay aspects are simply not engaging in the slightest. I cannot in good conscience recommend this title to anybody, even if they do fall into that particular niche. For its price, you can buy so many games that can enlighten and entertain you leagues above what this game ever could. Even games with the same “monotony” mantra that this game falls into can be considered superior.
Farming Simulator 17 was the butt of many jokes. But as I have painstakingly found out, it deserves to be that butt. Don’t buy this.