Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Series: Farming Simulator
Developer: Giants Software
Genres: Simulation game
Platforms: Android, PlayStation Vita, Nintendo 3DS, iOS
By David Mayne
By now you know that I’m a BIGASS fan of the now-cult adored agricultural powerhouse series, Farming Simulator. I’ve spent countless hundreds of hours plowing fields, planting crops, harvesting yields, selling said yields at market for (hopefully) profit, and raising various animals in Giants Software’s amazingly addictive and (what I consider to be) therapeutic FARMING simulator. Check out my review of Farming Simulator 15/16 for more on the series’ history.
Before I get started talking about FS’s latest incantation (FS18), let’s get a few things out-of-the-way for what I’m assuming is “most” gamers out there reading this review. The Farming Simulator series is, yes, a farming game…not a flashy first person shooter or a deep, open world RPG. As the name suggests, you will spend the overwhelming bulk of your time simulating “most” of what it’s like to be a farmer. Most gamers I know would probably consider this game boring as balls, and I wouldn’t blame them. Yes, it can and most likely is boring…IF you’re looking for flashy, next-gen graphics, deep stat building, action and adventure, or something you can master in just a few hours. The Farming Simulator series has and probably always will only appeal to a very niche group of gamers (most of which are farmers themselves…no joking). As such, not ONE single shit was given by the developers to make these games anything but what the name implied it to be, and that is perfectly OK. If you like the idea of farming and want the next-best thing to waking up at 3am and working your ass off all day long and into the evening doing little but extremely repetitive chores (without actually breaking your back and ruining your skin), then Farming Simulator just may be for you. Still…probably not, but maybe.
Farming Simulator 18, while not a “console release”, aims to stick to the core gameplay of its big brother while offering a more portable experience for those farmers stuck on a train, bus, or with a few minutes here and there to get some honest work done down on the farm. Releasing on iOS, Android, PS Vita, and Nintendo 3DS (which I will be reviewing here), FS18 is not only a portable version of Farming Simulator, it seems to bridge the gap in-between the major console releases that seem to now come out every other year (13, 15, 17), which, on a side note, means we can probably expect Farming Simulator 19 to appear next October or thereabouts for XB1, PC, and PS4.
To compare the latest console release with this newer, “mobile” version of Farming Simulator, you have to accept that there are going to be several differences between the two, and while some FS fans may love the more robust console versions, they may or may not love these on-the-go versions for a few simple reasons.
As stated earlier, the mobile versions of Farming Simulator 18 don’t quite share the visual polish of the consoles. While nothing to write home about, the console versions of say, Farming Simulator 17, are sharp and highly detailed farming landscapes, with lots of little details, sounds, and a somewhat vibrant population (cars driving around and people walking about). It also features the extremely lively world of amature modding, which in my opinion makes the console and PC versions a MUST for hardcore fans, with countless added vehicles, equipment, and maps which sometimes put the developer-included ones to shame. That said, expect FS18 to be a bit more trimmed down and “streamlined” for this mobile release. A few of the omissions are sorely missed, while some additions are a welcome change, but we’ll get to that.
First up is the Fun-Factor. Ok, ok, let’s just say this: fun is in the eye of the beholder (50 Shades of Grey for example). While many gamers just testing out the waters will play probably 10 minutes of any FS game and quickly shut it off with teary eyes caused by 10 minutes of their life gone, others (meaning “those other gamers”) will power through the steep learning curve and spend many, many happy hours of farming bliss while they start with nothing, build a farming empire (over a LOT of time), and relax in the process. Yes, Farming Simulator 18 is both fun and relaxing! Once you master the basics of FS, you can easily kick back on the couch, throw on a movie, and multi-task your entertainment with ease. I’ve worked many an hour on the farm while catching up on my favorite shows and movies. This is all possible thanks to an integrated feature on the mobile versions of FS that allows you to delegate almost every task to a “worker”, thus freeing you up to manage the many other things going on around your farm without something not getting done because you’re not there to physically do it. THIS feature alone makes FS18 much more fun and enjoyable over the console versions insistence on making you do most of the menial tasks yourself like driving crops to the market or getting gas and a car wash. Even driving halfway across the map to pick up new stuff from the equipment dealer is a thing of the past thanks to a very helpful navigation point that can be placed anywhere to have a worker take over and complete the travel for you. This helps tremendously, especially when your farm begins to grow in size and you have many more important things to do than take a cruise over the mill to drop off some harvest. While I wish to god they would have put this feature in the console versions, I can see why it is absolutely necessary in the mobile versions, if for nothing else but to compliment the whole “on-the-go” feel, because trust me there is a shitton of driving in FS and it would suck to have to do it all the damn time on a small device. Either way, FS18 is extremely fun and accessible, with plenty of the meat from its console brethren left over to satisfy the hunger of the traveling gamer-farmer. Rasing animals, working with crops, driving big ass tractors, and having to learn a certain amount of business acumen to be successful are all here and in spades.
And, on to the graphics. No, this is not on par AT ALL with the console version. While we wait to see what the Nintendo Switch version of Farming Simulator 17 will look like as both a console AND mobile title, we’re stuck with the largely scaled-down mobile versions. It’s not to say that they are horrible, just not that great. On the 3DS, it is clear that this version of FS18 might be the weakest in terms of graphical eye candy, which I understand is also the case with the other versions minus the Android and iOS which naturally have better resolutions. In fact, my FS16 Android version looks amazing on my tablet and about a generation beyond the 3DS/Vita 18 versions. Either way, you have to understand what you’re playing on and accept that it is what it is when taking these kinds of games on the go. Also, with the 3DS, you’d probably be buying it mostly for the “3D” effect, right? I did, otherwise I would have just purchased the Android version for much less.
There are two types of 3DS games that use the 3D effect. On the one hand, you have games built from the ground up (or heavily modified) around the 3DS’s amazing 3D engine. When done properly, the 3DS is second to none in 3D visuals, even rivaling large screen 3D effects. To boot, it’s all done without the need for annoying 3D glasses, a huge leap forward in 3D technology. Games like The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds and Super Mario 3D Land look quite simply amazing in 3D. Others like Starfox 64, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy, Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, and Dragon Quest VIII look great, although you can tell they weren’t made exclusively for the 3D platform. On the flip side, there are those 3DS games where the 3D “effect” is simply slapped on. This latter category is right where FS18 on 3DS falls. With graphics that are already questionable as far as low texturing and a sub par frame rate, the wonky 3D effect is pretty bad, like disable-the-3D-effect bad. I tried, I really did, because as I said I bought the 3DS version specifically for the 3D option, but I’ve soon come to regret it. While there is a “3D” effect for sure, it looks like a complete tack-on afterthought and the already meh graphics go from meh to ugh in about 1 second when the 3D effect is turned on. Textures go super jaggy, almost blurry, and a seriously noticeable frame rate drop ensues that has you turning the 3D slider back down to off so you can actually just play the game without getting a headache. Sad too, because you’d think a game like Farming Simulator would look awesome and benefit from being on a 3D platform, but perhaps the didn’t have the time to optimize both high-res graphics AND 3D while keeping things crisp and smooth. Other than the 3D effect being an effing nightmare on this version of FS18 as well as the janky textures, the gameplay is definitely there and for those (like me) that can overlook visual shortcomings in favor of a good game.
Sound is a no brainer. You hear tractors. Well, that and really shoddy music (all three tracks of it). While the console versions now feature very detailed sounds for all kinds of things going on in and around your farm, the mobile versions suffer slightly from very basic tractor and machinery sounds. The main faux pas here occurs with the inclusion of only a handful of musical tracks to listen to while farming. Look, I know this isn’t Grand Theft Auto and Giants Software probably doesn’t have the resources available to worry about music licensing, but come on, maybe at least 15 to 20 royalty free tracks would have been better than the same 3 tracks looping continuously? Again, I am thankful that the music can easily be turned off in the options.
That’s TWO things now that you will definitely want to turn off when starting this game up on your handheld, the 3D and the music. Not a great beginning to a game, but oh well.
Control is a mixed bag on the Nintendo 3DS. On consoles, shit gets confusing early on but a dozen or so hours in and you’re good to go, for the most part. This is referring to the various control button combos sometimes required to adjust and change things on tractors and certain equipment modes. A lot of that is streamlined on the 3DS, although the absence of any control/button mapping is sorely lacking. I’ve always had a problem with Nintendo’s button layout in regards to their A and B mapping. Because it’s the freaking polar opposite of other consoles, it’s sometimes difficult when going back and forth between something like the 3DS or the more recent Switch to other consoles and platforms like the Xbox One or Playstation 4. It’s like they purposefully tried to be different and it makes a huge gamer of multiple systems like me cringe every time I screw up something because of confusing A and B mapping versus other consoles’ controllers. Accelerate is strangely mapped to B on the 3DS and even though it’s not game breaking, I wish to hell there was a button mapping option as it pisses me off to no end. The camera system is funky as there is no collision detection if you drive in front of something and your view is suddenly blocked by a mountain or a building. The camera will simply go through said mountain or structure, completely obscuring your view. An auto-camera would adjust to compensate and make this a non-issue, but sadly there is no such thing here, in turn forcing you to constantly adjust your camera via the L and R buttons so you can navigate around tall objects and still see at the same time. There is a look straight forward and backward cam (tapping L and R at the same time) which is helpful. There is also zoom in and zoom out, although missing is the ability to come down right next to your tractor or trailer to examine it close up, a design decision probably made to prevent you from seeing the shoddy textures too closely. There is also no first person mode in FS18 (a feature present in console versions) which lets you get out of your vehicles and walk around. Again, perhaps due to them wanting to hide the assy textures from close inspection. Other than those gripes, the main controls of steering, hooking up to equipment, and operating machinery is all satisfactory and gets the job done. The game is fully playable with the given controls, I just wish more love had been given to the camera system.
Lastly, let’s just say it all comes down to two things: Is it worth it to buy Farming Simulator 18 with far superior and more robust versions on PC and next-gen consoles? And, if you do choose portable, is the 3DS the best buy for your money?
Personally, I think it is worth it to get FS18, mainly because of the cool on-the-go farming simulator fix that I sometimes need while stuck out on a job site or even on the couch while (mostly) watching TV or a movie. Hell, I’ve been able to harvest several acres of canola while using an exercise bike. Bed is another draw for the drowsy farmer. Being able to do a few things on the ranch before hitting the hay (see what I did right there) is another plus of mobile farming. Farming Simulator is a fun and surprisingly deep version of the much larger console offering, and while leaving plenty to be desired it does manage to entertain and keep you busy enough for a portable option. Hell, if you are in to Farming Simulator, you can easily spend over 100 hours in this title, no questions asked while happily ignoring the shortcomings. It is that good of a game at its core!
The other question, should you get it for the Nintendo 3DS, especially with the fully featured Farming Simulator 2017 version coming to the Switch later this year which will offer the full FS console experience on the go OR at home. To this I say no. After witnessing the failure to implement good 3D into this game, and by not good I mean bad, I would have rather spent my money on the waaaay cheaper Android version ($4.99-Android vs $29.99-3DS). With my Android tablet, I would have a much larger screen, higher resolution, and the ability to play Pandora or something in the background. Yeah, yeah, I know…touchscreen controls can sometimes be nails on a chalkboard for some, and to deal with that you can easily play with a bluetooth controller, just get one of those tablet covers that props up your device and you’re all set.
All that said, don’t stray away from Farming Simulator, just know what it is before you buy it, and with such an affordable price on both iOS and Android it might just be the best way to play this game without breaking the bank to play it’s more gimmicky version on the 3DS.
Fun Factor: 8 – It’s farming. For days. On end. Repeat. BUT….if that does it for you, as it does me, then rock on!
Graphics: 5 – Even for a mobile game, I expected more from the 3DS which is capable of much, much more. 3D effect is terrible and the textures are meh.
Sound: 3 – The sound effects are mostly serviceable, but that music tho….turn it off.
Control: 7 – Complicated at first but easily second-nature a few hours in.
Lasting Appeal: 9 – If you have the interest and the time, FS18 will eat away many hours of your life, and maybe more so in portable form.
64% – OK