With a new graphics and physics engine, new industries to experiment with and multiplayer allowing you to farm with friends, Giants Software’s latest iteration in the Farming Simulator
series makes a return to consoles in the form of Farming Simulator 15
Unlike the recently released Goat Simulator
and PC favourites such as Surgeon Simulator
, Farming Simulator
aims to be as true to the real life occupation as possible without getting your hands dirty.
The premise behind Farming Simulator
is simple. You begin your career on either of the game’s two available maps - the Scandinavian village of Bjornholm or the Amercian based Westbridge Hills – and attempt to earn money by any of the available farming techniques. You begin with limited resources and a couple of basic tractors, a small harvester and trailer and three fields with which to make your income.
As you progress and earn more money you can buy better equipment to speed up the job of ploughing, planting, fertilising and harvesting your crops, add more fields, or branch out into some of the other available industries such as forestry and animal husbandry as well as completing missions from job boards.
The big problem with this is that unless you “cheat” the game at first to build up stock piles of cash quickly, you’re going to be pushing 10 hours in before your production of crops allows you to branch out into other ventures. Even when you do branch out into other fields such as forestry, you’ll likely have to do so with only the basic equipment, which isn’t very time efficient.
Earn money by selling your crops
The game is a true sandbox in that you have total control of how you want to make your money and how in-depth you want to be. After ploughing a field you can sell the crop immediately to one of the various drop off locations, or you can make stock piles waiting for one of the fruits to become in high demand. You can then choose to bale the leftover hay to sell, make slurry for your cows, or ignore it completely and cultivate the field immediately ready for another crop, and each route has its own advantages and disadvantages. On a farm literally nothing is left to waste, and although some things can be a slow process, they can have large financial gains later.
Once your farm grows to the stage where you can no longer do everything by yourself you can hire farm hands to do certain tasks, leaving you free to manage other aspects of your production. The AI controlled workers generally do a good job on mundane tasks such as planting seeds and harvesting, but if they find an obstacle such as a tree or rock in the way when turning, they’ll continue to try to drive through it without altering their course until you come back to correct them.
You can also adjust the speed at which your crops grow along with in-game time settings in the menu. Adjusting the time so that hours pass in minutes is great if you want don’t want to hang around waiting for things to happen, but there is an issue with any workers you have out on the field will still work at the same tempo as before rather than speeding up as well.
Making slurry for cows can be a long process but has financial rewards
For people returning to the franchise from Farming Simulator
, you’ll at first notice that the game offers some improved visuals over its predecessor, especially on the detail of the game’s main characters – the machinery you use. Small touches like vehicles becoming dirty through use and tire tracks being left behind on dirt roads and fields help add to the authenticity, but then other things like being able to drive through a crop without leaving a mark still remain.
Aside from the vehicles and tools, other graphical elements of the game are lacklustre to say the least. Draw distances on fields is laughably low, meaning you’ll see things like hay on a ploughed field magically appear 20 metres in front of you. The streets surrounding your farm are filled with zombie like AI characters that seems to pointlessly wander the pavement happily walking through your machinery.
The new physics engine makes controlling the game’s vehicles easier and they do feel more responsive, but none of them feel any different. The smallest tractors feel identical to drive as the high-end ones, with the only noticeable difference being the speed they travel. Laughably however, the game still suffers from the crazy moments of potato physics where your vehicle will flip around in the air or inexplicably turn on its side when doing simple things such as attaching a trailer.
You’ll also notice that the PDA that served as your way of keeping up with statistics and navigating the map has been removed. Everything is now found in the pause menu which is a step backwards as it takes you out of the game. The game could also be improved by the addition of a GPS system to help you on your various trips across the map. Instead bringing up the map covers half of the screen and makes driving extremely difficult as it totally obscures the majority of the road ahead.
Vehicles offer a high level of detail
The main difference to this year’s release is the new forestry industry which will allow you to chop down any of the trees found on the map. These can then be sold as logs, or you can turn them in to wood chips. If you’re eager to try it out, you’re going to have to either sell everything at the start of the game and buy basic equipment which makes the job more difficult and time consuming than it needs to be, or wait it out until you have enough money to buy the expensive equipment which makes light work of even the tallest tree. You can also plant trees to harvest at a later time by either buying a fully grown tree, or planting saplings that you can let grow over time. It's a welcome addition as it adds a new variation to the main task of tending to your crops, and can be highly profitable once you get the process down.
Forestry provides a welcome change to tending to your fields
As with previous PC releases, the game offers a wealth of fully licensed machinery that you can purchase to assist and speed up your production. The list includes new licenses and new items including MAN trucks and New Holland tractors, as well as a new machinery to help with forestry.
The shop is split into various categories to help make navigation easy, and even though each category seems to offer less choice than in 2013, there’s still more than enough choice to be found. Each item comes with a good level of detail which allows even the uneducated gamer make a more informed purchase.
Multiplayer has been introduced in this year’s installment which now allows you and up to five friends to turn your farm into a money making machine. Offline game saves can be easily loaded online, and as the host you can adjust the level of impact that other players have on your game. Unfortunately, the developers have made it so achievements don’t unlock in multiplayer. Your stats do carry over as the host, so you can complete the majority of some achievement requirements and then load your save up in solo player to finish them off, but for most TA members this will definitely be a drawback.
Creating a productive farm and earning all the game's achievements is not going to be a quick process.
The game’s achievement list is basically a copy and paste of the one found in Farming Simulator
with a handful of forestry and animal related achievements added, and collectible coins replacing horseshoes. None of the achievements are difficult to earn, but completing the game will require some dedication. Driving for 1,000 miles
in total along with sowing
100 hectares will likely require 40+ hours of gameplay depending on how you setup your farm.
The gameplay available in Farming Simulator 15
is obviously very niche, but behind the actual subject matter the game offers an in-depth sandbox that allows you to decide exactly how you wish to progress using the various farming techniques available. Fans of games such as The Sims
and creation and management
genre games will likely find a surprisingly enjoyable experience if they can make it past the game’s slow start.
The new addition of forestry and more emphasis on animal husbandry do add to the experience found in Farming Simulator
, but if you’re simply planning on cultivating your crops there’s not going to be a great deal of difference from the series' previous installments.Farming Simulator 15
isn’t going to appeal to everyone, but for those of you who do wish to take to the fields you’ll find a surprisingly detailed experience that can prove to be enjoyable once you get your production line in place.
- In-depth sandbox gameplay
- Vehicles have a high level of detail
- A large variety of ways to play
- Short draw distances
- Stupid AI workers
- Occasional physics issues
The reviewer spent approximately 20 hours working the fields, cutting down trees and looking after sheep, cows and chickens, earning 16 of the game's 26 achievement. This Xbox One copy of the game was supplied by the publisher for review.