Sometimes we play games for excitement, for complex storylines that weave multiple characters together, all working towards some climactic node. Other times we go explore uncharted wilds, looking for answers and long-lost treasures. But sometimes, we just need to farm.
Pure Farming 2018 is not for everyone. Let me put it out there right at the beginning that I am a person that happily plays simulation games, that goes into games without well-defined goals and just… explores or mines or whatever. If you enjoy setting your own goals and pace and just want something to slowly work towards, you will find it here.
Sowly does it
At first I was chomping at the bit, chasing goals in the My First Farm scenario. This is a new mode in the game that focuses on you, someone who gets into farming thanks to your grandfather’s will. You start with a small farm and a pile of debt and until you level up, many of the bigger tractors and attachments are off bounds to you. There is a focus on quests, on being taught how to farm and making money without the use of workers (or if there is a way to get workers in those mode, I can’t find it). Doing quests leads to more quests and a constant stream of emails helps you find your way around the game.
But after a while it just clicked. I am here for the task, not the completion of it and farming has a simplistic reward in its slow cadence, in the habits formed and precision and care taken to make the best conditions for planting crops.
I wanted to smash through the objectives and get to the story, similarly to how I went through the beginning of Stardew Valley looking for the end-game, the story behind the story. I was like the Man in Black, not understanding that Westworld is what it is. But after a while it just clicked. I am here for the task, not the completion of it and farming has a simplistic reward in its slow cadence, in the habits formed and precision and care taken to make the best conditions for planting crops. Similar to how some people find it cathartic to wash the dishes, to get into a task and see it through to completion while the mind subconsciously deals with everything else you have been too busy to address, Pure Farming offers that same set of tasks. Get in your tractor and plough the field. It will take a while, because your first plough is only about 4% of the total width of your farm. So you drive along the length of your farm, careful not to steer too far off course. Then you lift the plough, do a three point turn and go again, parallel to the furrows you just made.
A need for seed
For a large piece of land, ploughing, cultivating, irrigating and sowing the seeds can take a full hour. I have caught up a fair amount on some shows and documentaries during my farming time, one eye on the show and another on keeping my tractor or combine harvester on track. Each crop takes a few days to ripen and then you harvest it, store it in your barn before taking it to the market for sale. It is a slow burn and the only way to make quick money is to do quests for the locals that sometimes offer good money for a bit of work, and sometimes you score a new field or orchard once you are done.
Coming from KZN, I thought I knew enough about farming and tractors but Pure Farming has some pretty interesting machines. Did you know that olives grow on trees? I had no idea. Did you know that in Italy they have a special tractor/ harvester machine that straddles trees then drives over them to dislodge and catch all the olives or grapes? I was surprised to see it and it is fun to use specialist equipment, or finding the type of field you like taking care of the most. I like the jobs where one machine can do all the work, or two machines without extra attachments can get all the work done. Though I think that has a lot to do with me putting attachments down where I can’t remember where they are more than anything else. Luckily your tablet keeps track of where everything is, if you can remember what the specific attachment’s name was.
Ploughed and pressed a juice
Farmers have nice gadgets to help and instead of just looking at the colour of the crops or… however they know when something is ripe, your tablet will tell you what is happening. Everything you own gets split into three sections in the most used app after the map, notifications: ripe, growing and empty. You can tell that a big field will be ready to harvest in the morning, so maybe you shouldn’t start a big side quest right now because you have a busy day ahead. Or you can repair and get the machines ready for the job now. Prepping ahead of time is less important now, because a recent patch allowed players to play at real time and reduced fuel consumption to make trips to the petrol station less frequent. Suddenly a mission that must be done in 18 hours means you have 18 hours, not around 18 minutes or so, and your petrol will last for most of the work. This does mean that I can now stop farming at night, working by the light of my tractor’s headlamps. Now that felt like a depressing social commentary about farmers, but thankfully it has been fixed.
If you like the idea of running a larger business, you can play free farm mode. Here you can set your starting capital, the location of your choice and hop to it. Will you farm in Italy, Columbia or Japan for something different? Now you can hire workers to handle the farms for you, while you go about the business side of things. Personally I prefer having to do everything myself and not starting with a load of money, but I get that some people want the game to move at a pace and become a farming mogul that owns the entire area.
What the tutorials don’t really teach you is efficient farming techniques. Should I be getting each bar on my farm to 100%? Can I fertilise this field and will it make a difference? The challenge mode helps a little bit with that: if you can complete the tasks in the allotted time with the machines they give you, I guess you are efficient enough. The challenges also help because they give you machinery without having to buy it, letting you see how it works and if you enjoy that type of farming, or if you would rather just stick to barley and wheat.
Oh and one tutorial makes you buy a potato planter, plough, cultivate and plant potatoes, then never tells you that you need a special trailer to harvest potatoes, which costs $35,500. Thanks game, I needed these expenses right now. Oh and your starter tractor is too small to tow that new trailer. Ouch.
At first I thought that this review would be a bit of a joke, a dud game given to me to review. But last night, when the review was already put to bed, I found myself loading up again, planting a new field while catching up on my shows. Between this and Stardew Valley, I am beginning to question my life choices. Maybe I should start a veggie garden. After so many years of farming in games for loot, I guess it was only a matter of time.