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Review: Farming Simulator 19 (Xbox One)

Simulation
4

Poor

My memory of first setting foot on a farm begins with my nasal passages being filled with the eye-watering scent of manure followed by an hour or so looking at various fields of vegetation that I couldn’t really care for and just wanted to see some animals I remember hearing about in the ever popular nursery rhyme featuring a farmer named MacDonald. As pleasant as the encounters sounded to my young little ears, the eventual experience was less so. Sure, it was amazing to finally see these creatures in real life and be able to interact with them, but everything surrounding it was so tainted with odour, dirt, mud, grit, and grime that you immediately felt like a few hours is more than enough for a farm life experience. The same could be said for Farming Simulator 19, bar the smell of course, where the game’s intro has so much enthusiasm and spirit stuffed into it making farm life seem so satisfying, until you try it that is.

I did as the man said, yet my fields are barren

This is my first run at Farming Simulator and I went into it knowing that it’s not a triple A title and didn’t expect state-of-the-art UI, controls, graphics, sound and the like. So, basically, I went in expecting nothing and maybe being surprised with something. I was surprised. Surprised at how tiny the text in the on-screen prompts and everything in the HUD disappeared into the background, making it near impossible to keep track of things. And because I’ve never delved into the world of agricultural simulation before I wanted to at least learn how to do it. I did learn something: the bare basics of how to hook equipment to a tractor and drive over set fields that needed cultivation. I thought the process was easy enough and farming couldn’t be that hard, but little did I know indeed.

I thought the process was easy enough and farming couldn’t be that hard, but little did I know indeed.

The game’s tutorial covers a few aspects of life on the farm, but the lessons are portrayed in such a lean piece that you end up questioning whether that is all there is to it. If you’ve managed to manoeuvre a vehicle of any kind and pushed a button in order to do an action in any game, you’ll be okay navigating the fields in most vehicles. Unfortunately each one of these tutorials are almost carbon copies of the previous ones, except for the forestry aspect, and this is when a hint of dread starts to plant a seed in your mind as you realise just how much time you’ll spend staring at the same things over and over for some time to come. When you do get through the Farming for Dummies bit, you get to choose between an easy or not so easy start in Career mode. This is where it becomes gravely confusing. You have to make choices on which farming vehicles you need but you barely know what your chosen fields can yield. The easy start to the career is supposed to be a more in-depth tutorial than the last one, but all it does is remind you to hire workers and point you to the next piece of land that needs attention.

Everything needs your meticulous attention.

Don’t get me wrong, there is never a moment when you have nothing to do, but the sheer amount of information being thrust into your face leaves you feeling like the task at hand is much greater than the sum of its parts, and this couldn’t be truer. Everything needs your meticulous attention and although you have a substantial amount of starting capital, without knowing just how best to spend it can see you going into the red fairly easy. Maintaining fields are routine. Not a routine you can easily accept or be excited about every time you venture out there. Cultivate, plant seeds, take out weeds, fertilise, harvest, rinse and repeat. For some the intricate stats and management aspect of the game would be a wet dream, watching your profits increase as you reap the benefits of a truly successful yield or harvest, but these goals appear so dull and uninspiring and give you an indication of how very underwhelming farming can be. Yes, those that have played or are really interested in the world of farming may find this entertaining and enjoyable, but for anyone who just started will feel the overwhelming need to label themselves a city slicker and run back to civilisation as it can prove to be a tad too much and too little simultaneously.

Cluck, cluck, motherf@#$%r

If and when you decide to move from the monotony of fielding flora that gives you very little interaction and just sits there idle, you can try your hand at raising livestock. You have a choice of chickens, cows, sheep, pigs and even horses. As before though there’s not much that will teach you exactly how to go about it, just some suggestions as to what you can do. Most of these animals are fairly easy to start off with coupled with constant monitoring, but the latter is something of a mystery. I’ve taken more than one stab at establishing my little farming empire during my time with the game and it’s definitely trial by error or error that leads to realisation and stumble upon another error. First was poultry and I moved up in the food chain, but I wasn’t expecting breeding horses to be as goalless and unsatisfying. Essentially, you’re breeding pretty and temperamental lawnmowers that you can go and watch from time to time. It’s more of a nice to have than a functioning component in your repertoire of livestock and vegetation.

After some time when you’ve eventually found some decent help who can do the job and not sit next to the crop that they are supposed to maintain for no apparent reason (because the game doesn’t tell you why the help are doing what they are doing), if you are so inclined you can roll through your majestic farmlands, gazing across fields and forecast the rewards you will reap from your efforts.

When doing so you’ll notice the amount of detail that went into the visual representation of your surroundings. The way that everything else around the area that you have poured hours into seems more inviting than your labour. An intricate picture frame if you will. Everything you touch seems to be a variant of everything else around you, but taken down two notches. This is perhaps to indicate that those elements are either going through the processes of the game, but it does leave you feeling little unsatisfied with the outcome. And while you walking or riding through it all, you’re met with a soundtrack that doesn’t really help with the experience unless you’re a fond lover of what is on offer. Thankfully you can just switch off the radio and go about your day without a drone of uninteresting noise in your ears.

This is a very complicated potato

Farming Simulator is by no means a game for just anyone. It’s an intricate piece lovingly put together by the developers and enthusiasts that find joy in immense management games and have a love for the country life.

The graphics in some areas are questionable, but when you take the time to just take in the sights from afar, it can induce a glimmer of achievement after many hours put into it. Don’t expect the game to hold your hand through anything but how to drive a tractor and hook on equipment and weight and the only way to get used to all the ways of how not to do something is by doing just that and learning from it The UI and HUD are somewhat over simplified and you’ll keep looking for something other than stats or unorganised item menus that will lead to doing more time researching your decision than actually doing something. If that’s your thing though, then put on your best overalls and dig into the rich soils, partner.

Good

  • I now know that farming isn't my thing
  • A micro manager's wet dream
  • A farmers' testing grounds

Bad

  • Monotonous
  • Very few mechanics that keep you entertained
  • The UI needs an upgrade
  • The help don't really help that well
  • Not for beginners

Summary

As someone who never saw themselves living out life in the country managing crops and livestock counting every grain as to determine whether all my efforts were fruitful, Farm Simulator 19 reaffirms that it will never be part of my train of thought. For those who are interested though, they may find a lot to look forward to and will be bombarded with many pieces of information based on the time put into nurturing their piece of horticultural heaven. Beginners won't feel that at ease during the early stages, but I guess a decent amount of time spent in the game might start making sense after a while. It's no technical marvel, but like any trusty old tractor, it does what it does for those who like it.
4

Poor

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