Oats and Sows
For the uninitiated, Farming Simulator is the quintessential Ronseal game – it does exactly what it says on the tin (box). You, the player, assume the role of ‘generic farmer’ and it’s up to you to manage a farm in any way you choose. You’ll be doing this by participating in three main areas of activity; livestock trade, forestry management and arable farming. All of which are open from the get-go allowing you to choose your preferred path to make a living as a farmer.
When you jump into Farming Simulator 19 you’ll be presented with three difficulty options, albeit far from the traditional easy, medium and hard.
A complex game which teeters into the overwhelming
The first is recommended if you’ve never played a Farming Simulator game before and will teach you the ropes of the game. I strongly urge any newcomers to jump into this mode as Farming Simulator is an incredibly complex game which teeters into the overwhelming in its early moments. This mode will teach you the basics of the crop cycle from planting, through to harvesting and finally preparing the land again for another bout of sowing. Once you’ve made your way through the tutorial you can carry on playing the game as normal making use of the machinery, equipment and buildings you’ve been given.
The other two difficulties are less generous. The intermediate option starts you with nothing but a wedge of cash to build your own farm. You’ll need to purchase land, machinery and any outbuildings in order to begin your farming journey. It’s easy to get carried away with this lump sum but bear in mind that you’ll need the essentials; at least one tractor, a cultivator, planter and seed, harvester and header, and a trailer if you want to carry out all the basic tasks and start turning a profit.
The open nature of Farming Simulator 19 truly allows you to play however you like, right from the off
The last and most difficult option follows the same setup as the intermediate one but with significantly less cash, a more erratic stock market and an overall decline in the amount of money you receive for selling your produce. It’s the latter option that will offer the most authentic experience but there’s no shame in taking the easy route with Farming Simulator.
Once you’ve decided your fate you will then be given an option to play in one of the two maps in the game. The first map – Ravenport – is situated around an American town with a fairly centralised layout of areas of interest (shop, places to sell produce etc.). The map itself is nicely varied with mountain views, built-up urban areas and a pier. The second map – Felsbrunn – is set around idyllic European town with great looking buildings, a market square and a large port in the northeastern corner of the map. The areas of interest in this map tend to be situated around the perimeter with purchasable land and fields residing in the middle.
Whilst playing Farming Simulator 19 you’ll be cultivating land, sowing your seeds and eventually harvesting your crop to sell at the many locations dotted around the games two maps. You can, however, delve deeper into the gameplay by applying fertiliser or spreading manure and slurry to increase crop yields. Lime can also be spread on the fields to make the make the soil more nutritious and you’ll need to battle plagues of weeds by either spraying them or using special types of machinery to drag them up. If you’re finding the latter two activities too much hard work they can be turned off in the settings.
Farming Simulator 19 has a vast array of settings for you to tailor the game to your liking
In fact, Farming Simulator 19 has an excellent array of options for you to tailor your experience including the adjustment of the in-game time speed, the time it takes for crops to grow and the toggling of crop withering. All of these options allow you to make the game as easy or hard as you’d like and you won’t be penalised or rewarded for making adjustments.
If you prefer a more hands-off approach you can hire workers to help at your farm. Workers can be hired to carry out the basic agricultural tasks such as harvesting, preparing land or planting seeds and their wages will be deducted automatically throughout the day. Utilising these workers allows for you to carry out more than one task at any given time and lets you offload the jobs you dislike, leaving you to focus on the ones you do like.
And it’s not just your farm that you need to work on. Contracts can be taken out for other farmers in the area too. The contracts focus on the standard farming activities in the game and may present you with tasks such as harvesting a field, preparing land or simply delivering an item or load to a location on the map. You can even lease hire the required equipment from the in-game store, at a reduced overall price for completing the contract, meaning you can roll with contracts right from the beginning without having to invest heavily in your own equipment.
The two other areas of activity; forestry management and livestock trade are a little less feature packed but are viable means of income nonetheless. Forestry management requires you to cut down trees using a chainsaw or if you’ve got the cash, a purpose-built logging machine. Once you’ve felled a tree you’ll need to trim off the smaller branches, load the logs onto a truck and sell them on at the Sawmill. Alternatively, logs can be chopped down to woodchip and sold at the Biomass plant.
A huge variety of activities to partake in
Animals can be purchased once you own a suitable enclosure for them, all of which can be accessed via the in-game store. You’ll need to ensure that animals are kept fed, watered and clean to ensure they have a happy lifestyle and if you maintain this for them they may eventually breed. You’ll then have a choice to either sell their produce; milk, eggs, etc. or send them to market where they’ll be turned into meaty treats. Farming Simulator 19 also introduces Horses for the first time in the series. Horses primarily reside in their paddock but can be taken for a ride throughout the countryside, allowing you to simulate Red Dead Redemption whilst playing Farming Simulator [insert Xzibit meme here].
As with most Farming Simulator games, the scenery takes a back seat in the visual department. Both maps have nice enough scenery but the levels of detail within them aren’t all that impressive, save for the details on the fields themselves, but they do serve a purpose of laying a backdrop for the game. But regardless of your preferred method of play, the vast majority of your time will be spent behind the wheel of one of the many impressive-looking pieces of machinery in the game.
Lifeless environments are merely a backdrop for the incredibly detailed machinery
Fortunately, the efforts of the art team have been focussed on making the pieces of machinery look exactly like their real-life counterparts and they’ve done this with resounding success. Tractors are modelled perfectly and each has a fully rendered cockpit for first-person farming antics. The equipment is also incredibly detailed, allowing you to see all the moving parts when cultivating land or harvesting your crops. And after a hard days work, machinery will be caked in mud ready for a power wash to ensure it looks spick and span for the next day of labour.
Farming Simulator 19 also introduces John Deere machinery for the first time in the series including tractors, harvesters and front-loaders. This John Deere machinery sits amongst 300 other pieces of kit including those from licensed brands such as New Holland, Massey Ferguson, Challenger, Grimme, Amazone and many more. There is a ridiculous amount of machinery and equipment packed into this game and if you have even the faintest interest in the farming world you’ll be sure to find something recognisable.
Whilst Farming Simulator 19 can be praised for the amount of content it offers, it, unfortunately, falls flat in other areas. The handling of tractors and machinery is something that I’ve had issues with in the previous Farming Simulator titles and these are still present in 19. Turning, in particular, is very sensitive and a small nudge of the left stick will send your vehicle into overspin. Larger vehicles also handle exactly the same as the smaller ones so you never truly appreciate the power of a 600+hp tractor. This sensitive steering is lessened when performing an intensive task such as cultivating land but it is still present and makes fine-tuning a furrow all the more difficult.
The in-game physics are also a little unpredictable, particularly when stacking bales and loading them into a trailer. A perfectly stacked row of bales will often begin jumping around when transporting them to sell. This is also true of fallen trees which can prove to be problematic when trying to move them.
Erratic vehicle handling, unpredictable physics and complex controls mar the experience slightly
The controls themselves are also incredibly complex and require pressing one of the two shoulder buttons and a face button to perform an action. This presumably isn’t an issue on a keyboard and whilst Giants Software have done a great job of condensing such a complex keyset into a controller it does take a lot of getting used to. There is, fortunately, a help box which can be enabled and displayed permanently in the top left-hand corner of the screen, should you forget what you’re doing, but it will take time for you to get used to how to play this game. And, in fact, that is indicative of the game as a whole.
Farming Simulator 19 is very much an investment rather than a pick-up-and-play game. You’ll need to invest a lot of time in order to get the most out of the game but it’s one of those rare games that serves as a period of relaxation opposed to the usual Michael Bay-esque titles that swamp the modern gaming market.
But with all its flaws, Farming Simulator is an incredibly compelling game. To an observer, it may look like a dull and fruitless game but once you’ve put down your controller there’s an overwhelming urge to revisit your farm to work on another field. It’s not the perfect game but it is a great one nonetheless. It’s certainly not going to appeal to everyone but those interested in farming or management games will find something enjoyable here. It is arguably a little low on the ground for new features, when compared to the previous games, but judged by its own merits, Farming Simulator 19 is the definitive farming game.