The Farming Simulator series has a strange release schedule. Each year, the entries alternate between a version for PC and consoles and a version portable devices, yet are named consistently. 15 and 17 were on major platforms, while 16 and 18 are mobile games, giving the series the illusion of a consistent line of progression from one iteration to the next that just doesn’t exist.
Last year’s Farming Simulator 17 was dang fantastic, offering an in-depth experience that could be as involved or as zen as you wanted it to be. This year’s Farming Simulator 18, on the other hand, suffers from an oversimplification of the formula thanks to its paring down for mobile devices. This is still Farming Simulator as I know and love it, but a somewhat inferior version.
As the name would suggest, Farming Simulator 18 puts you in control of your own farm, and it’s up to you to pull in a profit and upgrade your farm through any means necessary, by managing everything from simple products like growing and selling wheat, to producing biofuel and raising livestock. Occasionally, you’ll also be tasked with odd jobs for another farmer, such as transporting cargo or loading up wagons.
An oversimplification of the formula thanks to its paring down for portable devices.
Sadly, this is the first point where the simplification for portable devices works against the series. Where 17 had a whole community of farmers in each map wanting you to help them out, 18 has a single character offer specific tasks to you at random times. In 17 it was a great way of learning some of the more advanced machinery you’d not bought yet, teaching you the game in a structured environment while also giving you the goal of buying them out eventually.
Here, it just feels like an annoyance that’s never there when you need a quick buck, but gets in the way when you’re in the critical stages of your own farming. The requests are never that interesting either, often using your own vehicles to go to a point on the map and back again.
This lets you spend more time managing your own farm and less time just finding stuff to do while waiting.
To help balance that lack of extra work, as well as accommodate the pick-up-and-play nature of handhelds, things happen much quicker in 18 than in previous entries. This lets you spend more time managing your own farm and less time just finding stuff to do while waiting. Crops grow in a matter of days (in-game, less than an hour real-time), so the general cycle of harvesting, selling, clearing, sowing and fertilising happens more often.
This effect snowballs into making profits, upgrades and farm expansion also happen quicker than in 17, which makes it more compelling to play but at the cost of some of that chill, zen feel the series usually does so well. In 17 I was a laid-back farmer boy who was just happy to have chickens, in 18 I’ve become an agricultural baron obsessed with getting my fields making money as fast as possible.
This leads into my biggest complaint with Farming Simulator 18 – it’s all work and no play. The first-person exploration mode has been removed, effectively chaining you to your vehicles. There’s none of the gentle strolls to see my chickens or check on my bees I enjoyed in 17, instead I have to storm around in a hulking tractor all the time. It sounds silly, but I loved that peaceful, gentle feel of Farming Simulator 17, and the cuts made for handhelds have taken that away from me. This game’s much more about the farming work than the farming life, and I don’t think that’s particularly to its benefit.
It’s a shame too, because the map offered (just one, compared to 17’s two) is pretty great. It’s a compact, but detailed, city where nothing is too far from anything else, but with plenty of room for neat chunks of scenery to appreciate along the way. While it’s not the most visually stunning game on its platform, there’s still plenty of appeal to its scenery – looking out over the harbour, or watching the sun rise from behind the rocky cliffs. All from my tractor while carting another wagon of wheat for sale, sadly, but it was still nice.
There’s none of the gentle strolls to see my chickens or check on my bees I enjoyed in 17.
It’s not all bad, though. The aforementioned increased speed works really well on handhelds where you may have limited amounts of time to play, and the controls have been streamlined enough to support that perfectly. Mechanically the game controls identically to other entries, and the time spent adapting from playing on a keyboard with a bajillion buttons to a Vita with considerably less was minimal.
As someone who often struggles with 3D games on handhelds, I had zero problems at all here.
Some of the more faffy elements of 17, like hitching and unhitching tools, have been made automatic, only needing you to line up the vehicle in approximately the right place. This is something I hope carries over to the next console/PC entry, as being able to rock up to a fertiliser and not have to go through a checklist of commands and buttons was great. As someone who often struggles with 3D games on handhelds, I had zero problems at all here.
Farming Simulator 18 is an ideal place for beginners to hop onto the series, but for veterans it may feel overly simplified. The controls work astonishingly well, it looks great, and the timescale has been radically adjusted for the shorter playtimes of a handheld device. But I do question developer Giants’ decision to number portable titles alongside the ‘main’ entries like this. While 18 is good as a portable game, it is still drastically inferior to last year’s release. With the ability to get out of the vehicles, farm customisation, alternative maps, NPC missions and multiplayer all stripped away, fans of the series may find the latest version lacking. Maybe it’s time to rename this to Farming Simulator Portable?
A review copy was provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review.
Platform: Vita [reviewed]/3DS/iOS/Android
Developer/Publisher: Giants Software
Price: £19.99 (3DS & Vita), $4.99 (Mobile)
Release date: June 6
- Fuss-free, streamlined controls.
- Great map.
- Faster turnaround.
- Absent features from the previous game.
- Only one map.
- I miss my bees.
A good farming sim in its own right, Farming Simulator 18 pales in comparison to its feature-rich predecessor.