Farming Simulator 17 PS4 Review
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive Developer: Giants Software Genre: Simulator
Players: 1-6 Age Rating: 3+ Other console/handheld formats: Xbox One
Welcome to the cutthroat world of farming, where you can grow an array of crops, look after 4 types of farm animals and control tractors that would give Tractor Magazine readers many happy times indeed, and only in the year 2016 have they finally got round to adding a female farmer. Have you ever watched those oddly satisfying videos on YouTube? Well, as I finally got to grips with the controls and learnt the basics of what to do, I found Farming Simulator 17 very oddly satisfying, especially when it came to cutting down crops.
Before you begin to play the game though, you can play a quick tutorial mode that goes over the basics of what exactly you’re supposed to do, though even after you have finished, you’ll still be scratching your head at times wondering what you should be doing; the game isn’t user friendly to those new to the series. I played the tutorial three times in order to understand what I needed to do, and even after that, the controls and goals are vague. There is a help menu that gives you extra titbits, but to ease myself in to such an expansive game, I started out keeping to the basics and tending fields.
You are given three fields to start out with, though there is room for you to expand your farm by buying your neighbours land, or if you don’t want to purchase them yet, you can tend to them which will earn you some money, money being important as your goal is to make a profit. Once I had learnt the basics of the game however, and had tended to my own fields, admittedly I found I wasn’t actually spending much time on my own farm at all, as the game allows you to make quite a profit from tending to your neighbours farms, which does cheapen the experience.
And here is where I discovered that Farming Simulator 17 is an oddly satisfying game. To tend to a neighbours field, you walk up to a blue marker and decide if you want to purchase or tend to the field. Choosing the option to tend, you’ll be given a vehicle, such as a tractor, and other components to help you deal with the job. The jobs mostly consist of you harvesting crops, cultivating, and fertilising the field, sometimes a mixture of all three. Depending on the size of the field you are also given a time limit, something that I did struggle with at the beginning. But once I had started honing my skills, I took to tending fields like a duck to water and was charging through these extra missions like a pro. The satisfying part comes in when you are actually controlling the vehicle; before tending the field you have to attach the components to your vehicle, switching on or unfolding other little gizmos, turning on the machines, and then you can get down to the nitty gritty.
For those with OCD, they will very much enjoy seeing the fields being wiped clear of vegetation and crops; watching as your tractor cuts neat lines into the crops as it casually hums along is very satisfying to see, like shaving off a scruffy beard. Or you can cultivate the soil and pick up vegetation and watching as the small dots of potatoes are cleared is extremely enjoyable, knowing that every one you pick up is a step closer to completion. Fertilising a field can be slightly difficult though as when the fertiliser hits the soil, it changes the colour to let you see where you have already done, though the change in soil colour is so slight that I did struggle to see areas that I had already been over, especially in fields that were full of crops – it was still pretty satisfying nonetheless.
Whilst your vehicle is tending to the crops, you can turn on cruise control and the vehicle will continue to go forward on its own, which does take some of the gameplay away from you, and there is very little as it is. You will be thankful for the cruise control option however, as your finger on the right trigger, that accelerates the vehicle, will start to feel quite cold and numb as you press down for a long time, as tending to the fields can take quite a while. Tending to fields is very straightforward and doesn’t require you to use much energy once you have got to grips with the controls.
Where the controls are the most difficult is when you are using a vehicle and especially one that has multiple components attached to it. Firstly you need to manoeuvre your vehicle and attach the components to it, and then you need to activate them in order to use them. To activate each component you switch between them by pressing the triangle button, but then you also need to use the L1 and R1 buttons to access the buttons needed to use the different parts of the components. As an example, sometimes you’ll be using a tractor, but also a weight and a fertiliser machine. To switch between all three you press the triangle button, and once you are on your chosen component, you then use the L1 and R1 buttons to navigate a mini menu that shows you the buttons needed to use to activate it in some way, such as turning a machine on, toggling lights, or unfolding covers. This can be pretty confusing as you’ll be pressing L1 to access one menu, both L1 and R1 to access the next, and then the R1 button to access the last lot of buttons. As mentioned, Farming Simulator 17 really isn’t user friendly to those who are new to playing the game, though given some patience, you’ll soon pick up how the controls works. For the most part, thankfully you are just driving around and when in a field, once up and running the controls are straightforward, though with an array of different vehicles to use, it can be a bit overwhelming remembering whether components attach to the front of a vehicle or the back, and what the controls are, and this can lead to frustration when under time restraints, such as during missions.
As well as tending to your crops, you can also keep up to four different types of farm animals, including cows, sheep, chickens and, for the first time in the series, pigs, which I was surprised to learn as pigs are a staple of the farm. You begin the game with chickens, which are the easiest to look after and don’t really require your attention at all, but you can choose when you would like to purchase any other animals. When you buy other animals, however, you’ll have to pay a transporting fee if you don’t have your own vehicle to take them home in and you’ll have to purchase the pens needed to keep them in. So as well as tending to your fields, you will also have animals to look after, that need water and feeding and also need their bedding changed, though if looked after well they will pay off dividends. Pigs will have litters of piglets, cows will produce milk and manure, that you can use as fertiliser on your crops, and sheep will produce wool that you can sell on to the local spinnery, and your chickens will produce eggs that you can sell to the locals, of course all in the name of making a profit. I was also actually surprised to learn that there aren’t horses or sheepdogs in the series, two other main staples of farm life.
Graphically the game is impressive for such a title; simulating titles based on a rather kitsch concept aren’t known for having the best graphics, though Farming Simulator 17 did surprise me with its detail, with excellently designed vehicles and environments. You are also able to get out of your vehicle and walk about in first person mode and there is also some physics-based gameplay too as you are able to pick up and carry certain items that are laying about.
The menu is your point of call should you need any help and it’s here where you can check on many things. In the menu you can see what crops or produce is currently being sold as and when the prices are high or low, so you can judge what crops to produce in order to make a profit. You can see an overview of your vehicles and how much they are currently worth if you decide to sell them. You’ll also find the map in the menu that allows you to see how well your crops are growing and what you are growing, and you can also check on your finances and can choose whether to take out a loan or pay one back. The menu also shows details about your livestock, such as their cleanliness and reproduction rates amongst other things, and there’s a menu so you can adjust the general settings of your game, such as the time – whether you want it fast or in real time – colourblind mode, the unit of money used and so fourth. You can also check your overall statistics of playing the game. There’s a lot for you to learn in the menu and so it is best to take your time and pour through it thoroughly if you are to get the best out of the game.
Farming Simulator 17 is a very extensive game though, with much more to it than just taking care of animals and growing and tending to your crops. Everything in the game is about making a profit and is a game that requires a lot of your time to see everything it has to offer. It’s a slow-burning game that starts simple but, as you progress, becomes much more complex, with there also being the option to do forestry work, such as logging, planting trees and removing stumps and also some light field maintenance such as cutting the grass. You can also customise your equipment making it more personal to you and your vehicles also require maintenance work, which involves keeping them clean and fuelled. There are 10 different types of crops for you to choose from and grow, and there’s a multitude of farming vehicles for you to buy and take control of that all have different or upgraded abilities. With the extra missions on top of taking care of your own farm there is certainly a lot for you to do, and if everything does become too much for you, you can even hire helpers that will work the fields for you whilst you get on with doing other things. There is a lot to uncover in a game that has what many people would think is a boring concept and there is some strategy as you decide what to buy and sell in order to make that profit. It’s also strangely enjoyable when you tend to your own fields and you manage to succeed in growing your first lot of crops – it’s a game in which the smallest things can make you feel as though you have made an achievement.
As much as the game tries to simulate farm life, however, it is surprising how much is left out. Of course the developers chose to steer clear of the darker side of farming to keep the game child-friendly, but other little aspects of farming are missing which could have added some extra challenge. Weather does play a part in how and when you can tend to your crops, but for a countryside it does lack a lot of wildlife, with there being no signs of foxes or rabbits, and your newly planted crops aren’t even at risk of being pecked clean by crows – and no crows means no scarecrows either, which would have been a fun addition. There are also people milling about when you visit the shopping area, though you can’t even interact with these people and a great way of incorporating the extra titbits would have been through the use of these extra characters, rather than through the menu, to give them more of a purpose. When visiting the shop it is rather barren, with there being nothing but boring farming equipment for you to buy, and even though it is a farming simulator which is trying to stay true to life, some extra little niceties would have been welcome. In some ways the game is staying too true to real life farming, as another fun addition could have been the inclusion of crop circles popping up. You can’t even enter the buildings that are about. Other odd moments include being able to drive through pedestrians without causing them harm; this isn’t GTA and the absence of violence was obviously to give the game as much appeal as possible and to keep the game child friendly, though it does break the immersion when you plough through people like they are ghosts. Some may also not enjoy the fact that there isn’t much in the way of gameplay; yes, you do drive around and can walk around and see the sights, though Farming Simulator 17 isn’t a frenzied game and some players won’t enjoy its rather relaxed pace.
Farming Simulator 17 also has a multiplayer mode, though unfortunately when I tried to access this, I didn’t have the required DLC or was denied access to other peoples games, and no one seemed interested in joining the game that I set up, but basically the multiplayer mode here allows you to invite up to 6 other people into your game, who can then help you tend to your fields, amongst other things and it is fun watching other people milling about and seeing their stiff characters walking about.
So is Farming Simulator 17 quantity over quality? There’s enough here that will please fans of the series with many new little additions to keep it fresh, though with its concept it may struggle to draw new players to the series, though it seems to be doing well considering at the time of this review it is still in the top 20 in the UK sales charts, and considering that some big games are now starting to be released, it’s holding its own in the face of stiff competition. It has a lot of content, though you do need to put in the hours to see its potential, and with the gameplay being rather sedate it may be quite monotonous for some. Still, I found it to be an enjoyable game and you can tell a lot of effort has been put into it; for what it is, the game works very well, though it’s a game that is an acquired taste and it may struggle to keep the attention of newer players.