Just before writing this review, I kept asking myself who I should write it for. Is it the die-hard Farming Simulator fan who wants to see what’s been updated from previous iterations, or the first-timer looking to see if Farming Simulator is worth a try? This decision on who my audience should be seems to have been a similar quandary for the folks behind Farming Simulator. Stuck between a rock and a hard place, Giants Software have tried to cater for everyone and, in doing so, may only please a small number.
Before we get into the issues with this title I want to focus on the positive. There is fun to be had here. Driving over the rocky landscapes and perfectly landing barrel rolls in a pickup truck is extremely satisfying. There’s no vehicle damage to worry about and no high-speed police chases to curtail your inner Evel Knievel. There is also a gentle satisfaction in driving a combine harvester back and forth through the wheat with perfect precision. There are also in-game achievements, so while I may never be able to be free from the grasps of bank loans in real life, at least I can achieve ‘Financial Independence’ in-game.
While there is no vehicle damage, you can wedge it on a tree or drive it into the river. No matter, though, as you can sell it for the usual price, regardless of what state you’ve left it in. Also, there are two tunnels leaving the map but you can’t actually go through them. Why build invisible walls into the tunnels when you could just have a cutscene/loading screen take you into a store, or something similar.
Now to the farming. You start off with three fields and it’s your job to maintain them, harvest your crops and sell it to pay off your loan. Once you’ve paid that off it’s all for profit as you attempt to buy out the entire town’s worth of farmland. If you don’t fancy the hard, thankless task of working your own land, you can hire AI workers to do it for you, leaving you to do other things like work other people’s land. The most cost-efficient way to spend your days in Farming Simulator is to pay the AI to work your farm while you tend to the other townsfolk. You can get paid ludicrous amounts for the laborious task of harvesting another man’s wheat while you pay pittance to the guys back at home. It seems crazy to me that in a game where the main objective is to run a farm, the best way to go about it is to work on other farms. You don’t win any games in Football Manager by taking over someone else’s team, so why should you profit from working other fields in Farming Simulator?
I worked one field for over an hour and was paid 60 Grand for my troubles. While that was time-consuming, I did an absolute botch-job of the whole thing, taking no care in bringing in the whole crop. If you spiral inwards around the field then you will complete the task as you only need to bring in roughly 90-95% of the crop to get paid. You also get rewarded for completing the ‘missions’ in a timely fashion, encouraging rushing through the work instead of doing a good job. The AI worked my land very well for the most part, but at one point one of them had given up on sowing my seed and driven off-farm, crashing into a lamppost and forcing me to take over and bring the vehicle back myself. This bug was actually a welcome distraction and one of the few moments of real enjoyment in the experience.
The main feature of Farming Simulator is driving, whether it’s tractors, harvesters or pickup trucks. The digital trigger buttons on Nintendo Switch mean that you’re either driving at 100% or emergency braking. It’s very frustrating when to trying to simulate driving to the shops to pick up your new trailer to either be stopping and starting or spinning out constantly because you can’t control your speed. Prepare yourself for crashing into a lot of trees and lampposts.
There are a couple of choices you can make before you start your game, and these are scored by a pleasant country folk soundtrack. Once you start your game you’ll be left in a desolate soundscape of rumbling machinery and occasional animal noises. Character selection allows you to choose gender and the colour of your Gingham shirt. You can also choose between the idyllic American suburb or the harsh, run-down Eastern European village which feels as though this game was created at the height of the Cold War. The latter has a far better layout and, as you can get so much work done in one day, you can make your way around the houses and work on everyone’s farms and still get home in time for supper (and that was with x5 Time on the clock). Not that you can have supper, of course, or even enter your home. There could have been a mechanic where you keep some of the crop for yourself, and reap what you sow. Instead of sleeping you’re forced to continue working those fields until the sun comes up and you can do it all over again. However, you have to wait for your crops to grow leaving you with a lot of empty time on your hands. This is when you have to increase Game Speed to x120 and sit in your Pickup truck overnight like you’re dealing with marital issues. In fact, my Nintendo Switch went to sleep before my character did.
There are a crazy amount of options and a lot of depth if you’re willing to delve in and wait for it but with the busted economy you’ll struggle to feel accomplished when you can finally afford that fertiliser spreader you’ve been saving up for.
Farming Simulator for Nintendo Switch doesn’t seem to be a game built with any direction. No clear goals except for clearing your loan which can be done in the first day. The only achievement for time spent playing is for 10 hours and that could be done after two days in-game. It seems as though you spend all of your time tending to other people’s farms which is more lucrative than buying the land from the owners. This means that you can never celebrate a harvest or see your crops grow into a field full of sunflowers because it just doesn’t make sense to work on your own farm. That alone seems quite at odds with a game which is designed to simulate farming.