Farming Simulator 2019 joins a long line of substantial simulator titles. It is the eighth major instalment in the franchise, and the thirteenth title to bear the Farming Simulator name. Where other simulators generally try to sound more exciting (such as Zoo Tycoon and Flight Simulator), Farming Simulator relies solely on the premise of good seasons and beautiful weather. You can also drive tractors, so there is that.
It is baffling to me how Giants Software and Focus Home Interactive always manage to sell millions of copies of games I have no interest in. There is obviously a market for it, and it made my first experience with Farming Simulator even more intriguing. Does the game live up to its name? Spoiler alert: it does and this review will explain why.
From Manager to Tycoon
Farming Simulator 2019 opens up with a cinematic of a random dude driving his pickup truck to a barn. It is clear this guy cannot wait for a day filled with sowing seeds, cutting weeds, and tending to horses. The cinematic quickly fast-forwards through the entire process before the title screen appears. I can already feel my blood pumping from the sheer excitement (not really, but for someone out there it will do exactly this)!
I may jest, but the truth of the matter is that Farming Simulator tries its darndest to make farming seem like a fun adventure. While I have not played a single previous entry, I can already tell how this new version of the game is meant to introduce itself to a whole new generation of players.
When you first start up the game, you are asked to choose from three different options. I initially started with New Farmer, which started me off with some land and equipment. This mode is also intended as an introduction to the game. Once you have the hang of it, you can select Farm-Manager. This option lets you start with some funds to buy land with, but no buildings and no equipment. It is up to you to decide what the farm will look like, what will be farmed, and which equipment you will use. The hardest setting, however, comes by way of the “Start from Scratch” option. It starts you off with only a small amount of capital. You are not given any land or equipment, and the economy is a challenging one. This is also touted to be the “most realistic setting”. Be that as it may, I chose the easiest, and headed into Ravenport where I started the process of running my own farm.
After this, Farming Simulator 2019 lets you customise your farmer from several presets. Options are limited, but this is by no means the focus of the game. In fact, you only ever see your farmer when you are looking at things in third person mode, which rarely happens! After creating your character, the game throws you right into the thick of things. On “easy mode”, you start with an already made farmyard. Starting on the other modes, however, forces you into opening up the map, choosing a field, and buying it right from the start.
While the game does not feature any story whatsoever, the goal is to ultimately own a farm that brings in more revenue than it outputs. While this makes a lot of sense coming from a game that is literally called Farming Simulator, I have to be honest and say that I would have liked some form of a narrative. Something simple, like auctioning the best berries in town or breeding the strongest stallion the world has ever seen. You can actually do both of these things in the game, but with only one goal in mind: to be a good farmer.
What would a good simulator be, if not for its copious amounts of management and gameplay features? Simulator fans will be pleased to know that Farming Simulator literally has it all.
The premise of Farming Simulator 19 is to run a successful farm, and this remains the case all the way through the game. It is up to you to do it all, from harvesting, ploughing, fertilising the fields, managing livestock, and much much more. Of these, the most challenging aspect is managing finances. The game kind of throws you into the thick of it, and leaves you to your own devices on which equipment to buy, and which vehicles would work best for the unique jobs. Fortunately, you can tweak general gameplay elements, such as time scaling and weather conditions. This allows you to plan once you have dipped your toe into the mountain of things to do.
While the easy option mentions how it will teach you how to play the game, I have to say that it only really taught me how to walk around, get in and out of a tractor, and how to attach hitches and trailers for the right situation. Once all of these relatively easy controls have been discussed, the game literally leaves you to your own devices. Learning how to purchase a tractor, get in one, equip it with the right front weight and the correct hitch, is all up to you – the player. I do feel like the starter tutorial for a game as broad as this should be far more detailed.
Thankfully, Farming Simulator 2019 does feature a section with guides and tutorials for the entire farming process. This includes how to harvest, fertilise, and store various forms of crops and animals. While this is a nice experience to go through, it must be noted that figuring out how to do things at first, is a bit of a chore. With that said, once you have a field or two on your name, and when you have purchased a few starting vehicles and hitches, you will have to figure out where to get money from. Money can come from a variety of sources: contracts, selling harvest, and managing a successful farm.
In terms of gameplay options: if it has anything to do with commercial farming, you will likely see it in Farming Simulator 2019. Where other simulator games try to mimic the exact processes of managing racing teams and engineering teams, alongside tinkering with engines and drivetrains, Farming Simulator concerns itself with iconic farming brands such as John Deere, Massey Ferguson, and now in the Platinum Edition, Claas. Whichever brands you go with, you can be rest assured that they will be your bread and butter as you use them to do whatever kind of farming you end up specialising in.
On the topic of getting anywhere in Farming Simulator 2019, you have to manually drive your character to any location. Buying a vehicle or piece of equipment is easy enough. Driving it to and from every field and from your garage, however, can end up taking a substantial amount of time. This can cut into your contract times, or cause you to lose valuable crops if you take too long, or decide to harvest them too early. It should be noted that all vehicles and equipment need maintenance and regular refuelling. This costs time and money, so players need to learn excellent time and financial management skills if they want to progress within Farming Simulator 2019.
When you are done with doing everything yourself (and have a steady disposable income), you can hire a worker or two that will automate the farming process a tiny bit for you. This is a nice touch that I found extremely useful later on in the game.
Beyond the basic career, Farming Simulator 2019 also allows you to take your farm online! When you decide that you have played enough and created a farm worthy of the masses, you can open your ranch to other players and host online sessions. This will let you and up to 15 other players, manage a single ranch. Imagine having 15 friends all tending to your farm, while you take your newest John Deere pickup into town to ogle some Claas tractors. Sounds nice, right?
Lock it down
Something I enjoy a lot with simulator games is how they always look stellar in their presentation. Flight Simulator, for instance, features the most beautiful of planes, while the likes of Assetto Corsa features mind bafflingly amounts of detail on its cars. Needless to say, I was gobsmacked by how Farming Simulator has some of the most beautiful and highly detailed farming equipment that I have ever seen in a video game!
Farming Simulator 2019 features a new graphics engine, which the developer says makes the game the “best-looking Farming Sim yet”. I cannot agree more. Everything, from the crops used, all the way through to the equipment you drive, is all incredibly detailed. Similarly, foliage that surrounds your farms and fields also features incredible amounts of detail, albeit with a high texture falloff rate when you get back into your vehicle.
As good looking as Farming Simulator 2019 is, there is a clear drop in visual fidelity when you drive along some of the many roads surrounding your farm. Driving to and from towns and city centres is something you will often do – especially when you buy new machines or sell some crops. Similarly, other vehicles also dot the roads, and will often tailgate you as you drive back and forth. These vehicles look bland in comparison to the tractors, trucks, and many other vehicles that you will be collecting throughout the game. Buildings also need a lot of work, but I cannot fault the game for looking bad in these parts when it excels at its subject matter.
Farm Like Never Before
If you asked me two weeks ago whether I would ever play a Farming Simulator game, I would never have said yes. However, having had some time with Farming Simulator 2019, I can wholeheartedly say that I have brand new respect for the game. The game has a heck of a lot going for it and is made with a lot of passion and love for the industry.
Vehicles and farming equipment are incredible to look at and honestly feel great to use in-game as well. My biggest gripes about the game stem from the lack of information on how to use certain equipment, and which equipment is best to use in any given scenario. Thankfully, the game teaches you how to farm basic crops, and how to tend to animals, build houses and warehouses. The game also features a pretty good business aspect where you can decide how to sell your harvests, or how best to manage your farm.
There is no doubt that Farming Simulator 2019 will sell a million copies, just like the game that came before it. It is a good game, and it does what it is meant to exceptionally well. It just is not for everyone, and ultimately fails to pique my interest in the long-haul.
|Time Played||25+ hours|
|Acquisition||Review code courtesy of Focus Home Interactive|