In a world of exo-suit death matches, brutal fatalities and high speed chases, Farming Simulator 15 is easy to ignore. It’s slow, repetitive, largely single player and contains no layered RPG elements. It’s not procedural, there’s no companion app and you will not be checking any leaderboards. Yet these are also the reasons that Farming Simulator 15 has taken almost 100 hours of my life.
The game begins, you spawn at your farm and you have a small amount of every crop, a field and the vehicles required to cultivate the field. As you grow your crops, you earn money from them which allows you to buy better machinery, more fields or diversify into Forestry, animal husbandry and Biofuels. There are buildings to place around the landscape although not many. You will have a choice of Greenhouses, Beehives and also Wind Turbines which add an hourly income.
Every vehicle, trailer & tool available with the core game is rendered in a clean and effective style. Each vehicle has a number of functions, for instance you may wish to purchase a tractor with a frontloader to enable you to tow your hay bailer and also pick up the bails afterwards. Following this you may decide to purchase a bail transporter to decrease the amount of journeys you must undertake to either sell your bails or use them as feed, should you have a herd of cows. This could then lead you to buy a slurry tanker in which you can collect waste from the cow shed and use it to fertilize your crops, thus saving you money and providing you with more glorious machines to play with.
It’s these discoveries as a new player that have endeared Farming Simulator to me, everything has a use, a tool and a price and the game flows naturally because of it. If you find yourself with a problem, there is always a tool to resolve it, failing that, there are payphones located around the map at which the player can access the “Help” functions.
The 2 maps provided on the PS4 version can be traversed within a few minutes in a tractor and quicker in a pickup. Westbridge hills is focused on agriculture and Bjornholm has smaller fields with plenty of trees in order to capitalize on the Forestry element that has been included this year. The maps themselves are malleable and if you wish you could cut down all the trees in Bjornholm and plant wheat or perhaps fill Westbridge Hills with thousands of trees and take advantage of the flat topography to enable swift logging.
Forestry itself is fun and you can start off with just a chainsaw and frontloader/tractor and as always as you earn more money, you buy better gear. I personally chose to focus on agriculture which is very profitable but also time consuming.
Giants Software has automated some processes of agricultural farming. You can hire workers to plough, seed, fertilize and harvest your fields, this does save time but the A.I is not the sharpest around, and you will need to keep an eye on your staff to make sure one of them isn’t stuck behind a tree or has run out of seeds to sow.
There are some processes, such as grass cutting, windrowing, tedding and collecting grass/hay that cannot be automated. This can be quite frustrating initially but with the right music or podcast it feels very Zen. I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent mowing the grass, collecting it for silage and cow feed but I can tell you I was calm, relaxed and happy. The game can even be set to run in real time which allows you to relax and undertake the days tasks in a way that suit you, this really isn’t a game to rush.
There are community message boards situated around the map which provide you with missions. These come in two varieties, either supply and demand; in which you must deliver a specific amount of a certain crop to one of the businesses that operate near your farm, you receive a bonus if you complete the delivery within a time limit. There are also missions that involve mowing grass or delivering pallets, again with a bonus for prompt delivery.
Those of you who have a little knowledge of farming may be disappointed to see the absence of features such as crop rotation and meat production but with regular iterations of the game improving on the last I hope to see these features arrive in the future.
There is Co-op online play although I found that connecting to my friends was not possible, having tried on many occasions. That being said, I did have help from other farmers who I didn’t know and the lazy camaraderie built up by performing perfunctory tasks together adds another dimension to the game.
Overall, I would recommend Farming Simulator to anyone curious or interested by the nature and process of agriculture. The graphics are crisp and clean and there is no lag, stutter, screen tear or noticeable pop-in. In terms of downsides; there are only 2 maps to choose from, the DLC is a little pricey for what it contains and the online aspect is frustrating if you intend to build your farm with friends. With that being said, Farming Simulator 15 is a calm, relaxing experience with a myriad of in-depth farming themed mechanics, and comes as a perfect break from the typical AAA lineup.