For some reason, out of all the video games where you do nerdy stuff, Farming Simulator has managed to gain a particular reputation of being That Game What Anoraks Play.
Well I’ll happily be King of the Anoraks, as Farming Simulator 17, the latest instalment in the series, is a deep yet accessible simulator and a relaxing experience that I can see myself losing a lot of time in. Plus the goats don’t ragdoll into the sky like some other games that call themselves “simulators”.
In Farming Simulator 17, you run a farm either in the United States or Eastern Europe, and it’s up to you to manage your crops, animals and vehicles as best you can to maximise profit and quality. While there’s officially no true “aim” of it, the real aim is to do odd-jobs for the farmers you’ll eventually buy out, smiling sweetly as you plough their picturesque fields and take your hard-earned money until you’ve raised enough to plunder all of their land and destroy their family businesses in the name of sweet, sweet capitalism. That and raising cute little piggies.
You’ve raised enough to plunder all of their land and destroy their family businesses in the name of sweet, sweet capitalism
The missions other farmers in the area give you aren’t that complex, but they’re an excellent way of trying out high-end equipment and learning the ropes before you drop your earned money on them. One mission saw me ploughing a field of turnips, and while I knew how to harvest from both the tutorial and from my own wheat field, these suckers needed an extra step: defoliation.
It took me a while to figure out I needed to drag the defoliator across the field before plucking the turnips out with the harvester, but once I had I was well away. There is an optional but helpful tutorial, but for the more in-depth things like that, the missions do a great job at teaching you without needing to study a manual or watch an hour-long YouTube video. It also means there’s things to do while waiting for your own fields to grow if you’re impatient and think literally watching grass grow is “boring” or something.
There’s always little things to discover
Each vehicle and tool you earn is recreated in stunning detail. The tyres of the tractors are caked in mud, every tooth of the combine harvester present and accounted for, and the livestock are all adorable friends who you’ll want to care for.
The environments are also just lovely. The two maps can be explored on foot, by car or even by train, and there’s always little things to discover. A lake here, a gorgeous view there, maybe a walk in the park while you’re off to collect some new equipment for the farm.
Knowing I can leave my farm for the workers to deal with while I go and explore the gorgeous surroundings, visit the shops or go and do some side-work takes all the pressure off of the nitty-gritty simulation elements. While the emphasis is on toiling away on the fields, there’s a lot of encouragement to just sit back and enjoy the rural atmosphere. I live in a rural area, I see the countryside whenever I leave the house, but even then there’s a strange, rustic appeal to plodding around the world of Farming Sim 17.
This is where my main enjoyment with Farming Sim 17 came from – it’s so damn relaxing. Watching a tractor gracefully glide over a field and neatly harvest it fits right in with my obsessive tendencies. Hearing chickens gently cluck away, laying their eggs for me to collect makes me feel so calm in a way that very few other games are able to.
Makes me feel so calm in a way that very few other games are able to
As calming, pretty and detailed as it is, Farming Sim 17 isn’t without its issues. The series has an interesting development cycle, with each odd-numbered game being a major release on consoles and PC, and each even one being a mobile release. Despite Farming Sim 15 being two years ago now, 17 doesn’t feel massively different. There’s new environments, vehicles and stuff to grow, but I did have vague feelings of déjà vu until I got distracted by my chickens being friendly. If you’ve played and enjoyed Farming Sim 15, 17 might not be the advancement of the series you were hoping for, and more just a fine-tuning of some elements.
The physics are a bit wonky at times
The physics are a bit wonky at times. During the tutorial on how to empty a baler into my hay barn, I accidentally clipped through the barn door and was lifted up into the sky in a jittery maelstrom of what was once a tractor.
Some of the environmental decorations have collision enabled, such as smaller signs, while others can stop even the heaviest of harvesters dead in their tracks with alarming inconsistency – you can’t knock down a wooden fence, yet a cemented-in stop sign is fair game? It makes traversing the longer distances with cruise control enabled a bit more difficult, as you constantly have to keep an eye on whether your wing mirror is lightly rubbing up against an immoveable, immortal post. I’m not asking for town-wide destruction and chaos, but just going plop into an object that shouldn’t be able to hold up to a tractor breaks the immersion somewhat.
I’m not a massive sim player. I’ve put some time into previous Farming Simulator entries and have enjoyed some flight and train sims as well, but I’ve often struggled to get past the learning curve. Farming Simulator 17 is a much more accessible game for beginners, but without sacrificing the detail for hard-core lovers of the genre.
Accessible game for beginners, but without sacrificing the detail for hard-core lovers of the genre
Every detail of the game’s systems, from crop growth time to whether the brakes have to be disengaged on vehicles before moving can be tweaked and tinkered with. It can either be a quiet crop harvesting game or a deeply involved mechanical simulator for those who like to get in-depth with their sims.
Farming Simulator 17 is excellent, and has already become my number one go-to “Zen game”. If I’ve had a stressful day, or if I’m just feeling particularly anxious, I can stick Netflix on and quietly tend to my perfect little farm. With its attention to detail, wonderful environments and depth of simulation, if a quiet, relaxing time looking after a farm is something you’d be interested in, you’d be hard-pressed to find something that better fits the bill than this.
A review code was provided by the publishers for the purposes of this review.
Platform: PC (reviewed), Xbox One, PlayStation 4
Developer/Publisher: Giants Software/Focus Home Interactive
Release date: October 24, 2016
- Gentle learning curve
- Relaxing as all heck
- Wonky physics
- Not massively different from Farming Simulator 15
Farming Sim 17 is one of the most relaxing and endearing games I’ve played. Whether you want an in-depth sim or a fun time hanging out with pigs, you’ll get some enjoyment out of this.