For the sake of full transparency, let me begin with saying that I have never played a farming simulator before and Stardew Valley probably doesn’t count. However, I tackled Farming Simulator 19 with an open mind and had some big dreams. I wanted to create a place called “Tegrity Farms” and name my character Wessel “Randy” Minnie, and I wanted to face the hardships that farmers face, from predators hunting their livestock to battling against the elements.
After roughly 20 hours with Farming Simulator 19, it was clear that my dreams wouldn’t come true. Not meeting some of my high hopes, however, doesn’t necessarily mean that Farming Simulator 19 is a failure. In fact, there were times that I did enjoy my time on the farm, as the game does deliver a detailed and realistic experience.
The game taught me the intricacies of farming throughout the experience as I struggled to maintain my crops, worked the fields with a variety of vehicles and got my hands dirty. However, I also struggled due to poorly implemented gameplay mechanics and some bugs that made the experience a frustrating one.
Farming Simulator 19 gives you some short tutorials on how to, for example, cultivate the land, plant seeds and cut down trees. Then, when you pick the career mode, it gives you a short guided tour, which lasts around 20 minutes. This is where one of my biggest problems with the game occurred. If you aren’t a farming enthusiast, to begin with, these tutorials won’t be enough, not by a long shot. It is almost as if the game assumes you have played multiple Farming Simulators before. After finishing the guided tour on the easiest difficulty, I didn’t know what to do next. There was no indication what I should be doing, or how 95% of the game mechanics work.
For example, I only knew how to grow, harvest and sell wheat. However, there are a dozen types of plants I could grow, I could even grow trees to forage wood to sell. Then, there are also several livestock which wasn’t even mentioned in the guide, including horses (which are apparently new to the franchise) as well as a tonne of heavy machinery that I could buy and use, but I didn’t know how, and figuring it all out became a massive chore.
Here’s one example of what you need to do just to harvest some plants. First, I needed to cultivate the land to prepare it for sowing. This was done by getting into a tractor, then attaching two pieces of equipment to it. Then, I had to lower the weight piece so that I could actually cultivate the land by driving over it. Next up, I had to connect a sowing machine, connect the seed pallet and then turn on the machine, all while not forgetting to lower it. Then, there is a waiting period for the crops to grow. You can speed this process up by tuning how quick the in-game time passes. After the crops grew, I had to use a combine-harvester, and untold the front piece of the machine, then turn it on and drive slowly over the crops to harvest it. I then had to drop my harvest in a tipper and even had to manually move the pipe from the harvester to do so. Lastly, I drove the tipper to the silo to store my grain.
Farming Simulator 19 sure has a lot of detail in every process and combined with over 300 vehicles and even user created content via mods, it could be a farming enthusiasts dream. However, the game’s UI is very poorly designed and after the tutorial I had no idea what most of the tabs meant. The game didn’t teach me that I could borrow money, how to build new structures like farmhouses, or even how to get a dog.
Hours of trial and error ensued as I desperately tried to figure things out and finally managed to build a place for some chickens, which I picked up in town. Yes, there’s a town where you can purchase a bunch of stuff from, but the town is pretty dead. You only see vehicles driving about, but things like the restaurant and all shops have no NPCs in them. That’s where a big issue with Farming Simulator 19 comes in. The game tries to be so realistic and in the aspect of working the lands, it certainly is. However, in other aspects, it fails at realism, which is the whole point of a simulator, isn’t it?
For example, when picking up wood, you don’t see arms or anything like that, you just see the object floating in the air. You can’t open any doors of your farmhouse (there is one permanently open, even at night!) and there are no hardships to really overcome. I would have loved nothing more than to have events take place where I needed to protect my animals from predators or to hunker down as a tornado approached, or just to fight the fight against drought. However, nothing happened and I just farmed away with no real goal in sight. Just because a game is a simulator, doesn’t mean it can’t be fun and where Farming Simulator 19 fails the most is in providing any kind of fun in the whole experience.
As I mentioned before, the UI is a mess and this can be seen from the map portion to buying land and everything in between. Even fast-travelling to a shop was a chore to figure out, but at least the day-to-day work was relaxing at times. You see, I had to do it all myself and you might be thinking, why not just hire some workers? The game does give you the option to do so, but every time I hired one by entering a vehicle, starting the processes of, for example, sowing seed, and pressing the hire worker button, something went wrong.
The worker appeared to be doing his job and then just stopped midway through, with an unknown error occurring. Then, there’s also texture pop-ins even inside a building and some graphical glitches with flickering to push through, as well as a few framerate drops on the PS4 Pro.
The game also boasts a 6-player multiplayer experience where you can work together. I thought that would really be the best way to play the game as it felt very lonely on my farm. However, the screenshot below showcases my entire multiplayer experience after 3 days of constantly trying to connect.
It’s a real shame that the multiplayer didn’t work and I did see that some servers had 2/6 players on them, but I simply couldn’t connect so I can’t speak to the quality of the multiplayer and what you can do at all.
Farming Simulator 19 can be relaxing at times and I did like the great music featured in the game. It is an ultra-realistic game in the day-to-day aspects, but if you want to make a realistic game, you should go all out. There was nothing exciting about the gameplay and I really wanted to love it and have a relaxing time farming. However, the lack of a decent tutorial or guided mode made everything feel like one big chore.
I’m not quite sure who Farming Simulator 19 is aimed at. Real farmers would probably not want to spend their off time playing this game, not with all the issues. It could be for the farming enthusiast with a lot of time on their hands and a capable gaming device, but then again it feels so inaccessible if you haven’t played previous games in the series.
The only real positives about the game is its music and the attention to detail put into day-to-day farming work, and I simply don’t know if that is enough.
This review was based on a code sent to us by Focus Home Interactive
Available On: PS4, Xbox One & PC | Reviewed On: PS4 Pro | Release Date: 20 November 2018 | Price: R779
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