Giant Software return to the rural life with their latest Farming Simulator title. But is this to be another bumper harvest, or can we expect some premium manure? Let’s find out as we take to the tractor in the latest GmP review.
For those readers out there who think that videogames are little more than all action first person shooters or generic sci-fi romps through darkened stricken spaceships full of blade-handed bad guys or flesh-eating monsters then may we advise them to raise their heads from the latest flavour of the month Youtube commentator and maybe turn their attention to the more social side of the videogaming community as a whole. There are literally a whole wealth of alternative’s out there for gamers to enjoy without having to sit through yet another science fiction schlock horror, or, Heaven help us, one more overtly jealous Call of Duty clone trying to emulate the shooters online success.
One such option is the sedate pacing and the simulator genius of Giant Software’s Farming Simulator series of titles. Launched in 2011 this third outing for the in-depth take on the highs and lows of rural life takes players through the entire range of emotions that befall real-life farmers and small holders every day of the year. Players must get their hands dirty performing even the most mundane of tasks from ploughing, seeding and planting and, ultimately, the harvesting of crops, right through to taking stock to market, selling, bartering and the buying and selling of not just agricultural machinery and parts, but also the hiring and firing of farmhands too. One thing is certain in the life of a farmer, be they digital or flesh and bone, and that is that no-one can say that there is never anything to do.
The game itself is a high quality mix of solid graphics and a well-balanced control system stretched across an immense amount of in-game play time. Expect no less than ‘days’ being logged when you enter into your Farming Simulator career, as opposed to those meagre hours being offered up by those titles who seem to be getting shorter and shorter with every passing year, Farming Simulator bucks that trend and just keeps on having more and more added to its repertoire.
You begin your chosen path by taking control of a modest small-holding located at the centre of your world’s play area. For such humble beginnings there is a just the right amount of tools, machinery and livestock required for you to get your farm up and running. Of course, Giant Software have been canny in their introduction to the pastoral way of life by making the opening harvest an instructional that acts as a refresher course for those familiar with the series, but also as a Tutorial Mode for those novices and newcomers to the Farming Simulator franchise.
With that players will be tasked with getting to grips with machinery and vehicles such as the tractor and combine harvester, as well as learning how to add different attachments to the vehicles to better cope with the varied tasks necessary for everyday farm life.
But as any farmer worth his/her salt will tell you there is a lot more than just machinery and maize to deal with if you want to be competitive in todays agricultural markets. There are the livestock to consider most of all. Will you specialize in beef? What about our equine friends? Or poultry? And will you have the necessary funds and feed to keep your stock healthy and happy so that they stay productive and prudent expenditures?
The format for your free roaming farmer is one of open world opulence and wanderlust as you are permitted to quite literally go where you please in search of required tasks and mini-games. But, be warned: There is a staggering amount to do in this rural realm, and Giant Software live up to their name by inputting a wealth of objectives into their latest title.
So, then, off you trot to your small holding; dungarees’ freshly pressed and work boots newly polished as you get to grips with your opening chores in the games rather excellent Career Mode. With little more than a few fields to til, and a handful of hens to cluck over you will soon discover that you have to plough, see, harvest and then sell your crops in the local market before building up enough wealth to expand your little empire.
To merely dismiss this as ‘all you have to do’ in Farming Simulator is much akin to saying that ‘all you have to do in Call of Duty is fire a gun’. There is so much more to this game than merely sticking a wheat sheaf in your mouth and muttering ‘innum’ to passing ‘townies’. Farming Simulator is a far cry from many people’s idea of what it takes to work the land, and nothing like the image you have in your head when you consider a videogame based around the subject.
Modern day farming has moved on a great deal from smock covered yokels in straw hats, and nowhere is this more plainly evident than in Farming Simulator. Players have a wealth of tools, machinery and vehicles at their disposal to better assist with their empirical assault on the agricultural world. There is even the opportunity to employ AI-controlled ‘farm hands’ as an alternative labour saving and time/cost efficient method of allowing the player to multitask and complete several objectives at the same time. This is actually an imperative tactic relatively quite early on in the game, as players soon discover that managing and maintaining an ever-expanding small holding is a hectic and punishing schedule.
So,back to the action we go and it’s another early morning start for our cyber ‘Farmer Palmer’ as we begin to increase the size of our holding with land purchases, expansion and extensions of the outhouses and barns, as well as upgrading the current vehicles from any one of the available 100 that developer Giant Software have put on offer for your perusal.
One complaint with the vehicles, however, has to be addressed and that is the dashboard and ‘clocks’ that should offer up all manner of the expected data players would hope to find in a real-world version of the motorized transport at hand. Unfortunately, and in a game that prides itself on being a ‘simulator’, this is ere the ‘sim’-ilarities end as the digital vehicles have no such indications of speed, rev counter, fuel gauge and the like. A shame, really, in a game that, even though not the most graphically powerful title, still does offer up a realism that is somewhat lacking in other simulator titles.
One nice addition to the updated Farming Simulator format has to be the PDA which permits players to access a wealth of information at a mere touch. Everything that the modern-day small holder could ever hope to find is contained within its technological ‘brain’, with the player able to check on stock prices, shares, weather forecast, financial statements and accounts, machinery and repair status and a whole lot more besides. The PDA could well be the saving grace for the ‘blip’ that is the lack of detailing in the vehicles, such is the ease of use and the near unlimited access to all of the relevant information you require.
Rather surprisingly Farming Simulator is not just a single player affair as developer Giant Software branch out with an online community that allows players to assist each other, for financial compensation naturally, with many necessary jobs and tasks around each others acreage. But we offer fair warning to those ‘trolls’ looking to bring mayhem to the serene world of the more sedate multiplayer experience. Just as the PC version of Farming Simulator has its own fiercely loyal set of fans, so to do the console, ( and even the handheld ), versions.
To summarise, then, is to genuinely have our eyes opened to the fact that there is still far more choice out there to the gamer fed up to the back teeth with bombs and bullets, aliens and lasers. Farming Simulator is surprisingly entertaining, and extremely in-depth, I its approach to the modern world of agriculture. The graphics are capable without being too detailed, the gameplay may well not be blistering, and nor will any of the vehicles be challenging the hot lap at Monza in F1 2013, but nevertheless it is still very much an engaging affair that has its rightful devotee’s and legions of admiring followers. 7 out of 10
Developer: Giant Software
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Version Tested; Xbox360
Rating: 7 out of 10