Do you like back-breaking labour? How about working long hours in the scorching sun while buzzards fly overhead, eagerly awaiting your inevitable death at the hands of heat exhaustion? Do you ever wake up and think to yourself, “You know what? I could really use some down-time so I’ll go and plough me some fields.”? If you answered yes to any of these questions, Farming Simulator 15 might be right up your alley because it allows you to fulfill your greatest desires of becoming a farmer without all the hassle of having to do actual work, spend time in the sun or worry about aliens abducting your livestock for their research with probes (That’s a regular problem for the farming community right? I haven’t spent a lot of time in the countryside and most of my knowledge comes from episodes of South Park.)
Visually speaking, Farming Simulator 15 isn’t terrible but it isn’t particularly great either. There is a lot of detail on the tractors, ploughs and the various types of farming equipment available and a quick Google Image search shows that many of the tools look almost identicle to their real-life counterparts. Other than superficial similarities, however, it looks quite dated despite it being a new game. There are no reflections off of metallic surfaces which is glaringly obvious when looking at the tractors especially because they all look as if they have a matte finish which almost makes them look cartoonish. There are also a number of texture pop-ins as well as significant drops in framerate and considering the farms aren’t exceptionally huge (There are only 2 to choose from: USA and Scandanavia), these are problems that we really shouldn’t see as often as we do, especially on the current-gen consoles. The UI isn’t very accessible either and even playing through the tutorial, it can still be troublesome to find where you are supposed to go or what to do. A major problem that I found was that the map is quite difficult to follow and there is no option to place custom markers to guide you to your destination. This means that you constantly have to stop to look at the map and memorise your route.
I hope you like the sound of tractors because you will hear absolutely nothing else.
Farming Simulator 15 offers very little in the way of audio. The game starts with a very upbeat song which accompanies a montage of people working the fields, driving tractors and waving to their neighbors and the whole thing comes across a bit like a propaganda video encouraging people to work hard for the good of the Soviet Union. Other than the introductory song though, you are left only with the sound of the tractor to keep you company for those long hours in the fields. Sure, the tractors sound like tractors and the cows sound like cows but for a game that has you spending hours doing farm work, you would think that they could at least hook you up with some sweet tunes to jam to whilst sowing crops. I would strongly recommend making use of the PlayStation’s music player app because chopping trees whilst listening to Viking Metal will make you feel pretty damn manly.
Right, onto the meat and potatoes (see what I did there?): Gameplay. For the first 5 hours or so, I hated this this game. Not because it was a bad game but because I was just so freaking bored. The kind of boredom that you get when sitting through a 4-hour Powerpoint slideshow on the benefits of cover-sheets for TPS reports and you think to yourself, “If I stab myself with this pencil, I can go to the emergency room and get the hell out of this presentation.” The beginning of the game is especially dull because you can only really do one thing at a time which means that you have to personally cultivate the field, then sow the seeds, then harvest the crop, then sell the crop…and then you start again. There is an option to hire workers to do the work for you but at the start of the game, there isn’t much else for you to do so it’s a bit senseless to pay for the AI when you could just do it yourself. What I found, however, was that after those first few hours I began to find that this was quite a relaxing experience, especially when I had my own music playing in the background.
The game also picks up a bit of speed once you have made enough money to expand your farm. Once you have purchased a few new fields and equipment, you will find that the AI workers become a necessity because it would take far too long to do the work yourself and it would take your attention away from your other responsibilities on the farm. The AI can be a bit stupid though and there were numerous occassions when I left them to work only to come back and find whole patches of unploughed soil, unharvested wheat or a derpy farm-hand who had gotten himself stuck against a barn wall whilst trying to turn the tractor around.
It’s all about the Benjamins
Once you have the capital, you can choose to focus on a number of different farming activities. Every aspect has its pros and cons and a varied approach is the way to go if you hope to turn a decent profit. Forestry offers large cash-bonuses for both logs and wood chips but trees take about 10 in-game days so it’s best to let them grow in the background. The major downside to the forestry aspect is that you can’t hire workers to plant or harvest the trees and doing it on your own can be very time-consuming, but you do get to play with a chainsaw. Like I said, pros and cons to every aspect. There is also the option to speed up time to 120x normal speed on the fly, which is really useful if you don’t feel like watching the plants grow in real-time. You also have the option to turn off the plant withering in the options menu, removing the time constraint that forces you to harvest quickly in fear of losing your crop to decay.
Animal husbandry is also incredibly profitable but it requires a fairly large amount of money to start, especially for cows, because you need to invest in large tractors that are able to mow grass as well as form hay bales. This is also an incredibly time consuming activity so it’s best to have a few fields growing grain and have your workers tending to them in the background so you still have money coming in while you focus on the animals. Animals bring in money in a number of ways. Chickens lay eggs which can be sold; sheep produce wool and cows produce milk. Some animals will also produce manure that you can then spread on your crops rather than paying for fertiliser from the store.
However you choose to run your farm, you will need to ensure that you have purchased the right equipment for each activity as well as vehicles with enough horsepower to operate said equipment. This can be pretty costly but fortunately, you have the option to take out a loan for up to $200 000.
Need a break from work? Take a break and do a mission. It’s still work but different
If you find yourself in need of a break from the general day-to day tasks of the farm, missions are available to give you an opportunity to get in a bit of extra cash. Most of the missions involve growing a certain crop and selling it at a specific store or delivering a shipment to a particular place but none of them are particularly interesting.
I was legitimately surprised by how much I actually enjoyed playing this game. As I said, the first few hours were torturous but once I settled into it, I actually found it quite theraputic in the same way that some people say that they feel good after a day of hard work (although I’m still convinced that anybody that says that needs to re-evaluate their definition of “good”).
Better with friends? Not really
Marco and I decided to have a look at the multiplayer aspect of the game and here’s what he had to say about it:
I had the absolute pleasure in playing multiplayer with Glen. Although there is nothing really special about it, it provides some slaved labour for those who help out the host.