When it comes to farming, let’s face it, most people are never going to try their hand at it, its long hard work, with little reward as the result, but does a virtual farm break through that stigma.
There is no story to be found here and character creation is limited to choose a gender, but even then, the biggest choice is not that, it is your location that makes the biggest impact to how your game will progress. Once you have selected that, you are dropped into the world and set loose, of course if you are like myself, a tutorial is going to be your best placed to learn the ins and outs of your farm, of which there are quite a lot.
While most people think that farming is just feeding the animals, planting and harvesting crops, each of those decisions and the many others you make, is all based-on money, which is crux of the game, you need money to be able to do things, from getting seeds to plant the latest harvest, to having people working for you. You can start off without too many hassles, depending on the game difficulty that you apply, but its more about learning each part of the farm, then managing them correctly, for example, you will not be able to just plant any crop, you must ensure that the ground is ready for planting, if it is free of previous attempts, then you can just start seeding it, however if its not, you need to get in and clear the field out, once the field is clean, it can be planted. Where things can get tricky is whether you want to do it all on your own, or hire people to do it for you, so the balance of do you spend money to get it done faster, or save money by doing it yourself presents itself.
Of course, once you have planted, grown and harvested your crop, you then get to make the decision about what to do with it, you can take the crop to town and sell it as you get it, giving you a small influx of cash, or you can store it and sell all of it later, giving you a larger payout, but as you will need money to continue running the farm, it becomes a balancing act. Each piece of farm equipment requires up keep, from the standard running costs, to maintenance and with each part of the farm needing specialist equipment, there is a lot of upkeep required. Then, you need to deal with the weather, which can impact your farm in good and bad ways, depending on what exactly you are hoping for, rain is great but too much of it, not so much and given that each day you are not working you are losing money, you need to sort out the balance right. Finally, none of that considers the costs of having animals on your farm, of course when you add that into the mix, the game takes on a much more strategy/simulator feel than anything else, coming here looking for a more advanced Minecraft will leave you disappointed.
While the management of the farm is crucial to your success, actually navigating the farm and controlling the vehicles that you can drive is just as important. Driving a tractor around the farm is really straight forward, even the more advanced machines like the combine harvester is nice and simple, you won’t need to learn how to control every different type of farming equipment, just the standard driving controls for the most part. Getting around when on foot is pretty basic, with the added ability to crouch and jump, not that I found a need to, you can also sprint, with no discernible method of managing your stamina you simply run, until you can’t.
One area that the game does well, for some of it and not so well for the rest is the visuals, all of the farming machinery is really well represented, with the detail covering all parts of the machines, both on the outside of the machine, as well as the interiors if they have them, think along the lines of the Forza Vista mode and you’re getting a good idea, just for farming equipment and living in an area where I am surrounded by actual machinery, I did check out some at one farm I know and they do match up. The problem with the visuals is that everything else, is subpar, the trees, while they have dimension, look fake, the ground, rocks, crops and other organic parts all look like last generation elements. The towns that you can visit have very few people around them and the ones that you do see, look very robotic, but even then, they are nothing compared to the other cars around, they look like they are simply cardboard cut-outs on a track. There are times when the game looks like a piece of art, but they are few and far between.
Sound wise, the game does a really nice job, again when it focuses on the farm, but not so great elsewhere. All the sounds of nature are nice, they never try to take over the experience, so you will be able to enjoy the other sounds, but at the same time, they help sell the experience of you being on a real farm. The machinery sounds like you would expect it too, larger machines have louder engine noises, but also have the additional grinding or ripping noises when in use, depending on the actual machine. One part that does not gel with the rest of audio is the ‘radio’ and I use the term loosely, as it’s not something you can just turn on or off; Hidden within the menu is the radio and once on, you get to listen to a range of attempts at country music, but with no words, the worst part of it is that the music is just not catchy.
Farming Simulator 17 is not a game for everyone, it is more management than anything, but even within that process, there is almost a serene zen type of peace to be found. While the game looks like a mix of old and newer graphical styles and has questionable choices, there is enough of a challenge here, to help keep people invested, even if gameplay wise, there is little to do.