Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Series: Farming Simulator
Developer: Giants Software
Genres: Simulation game
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Android, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, Nintendo 3DS, iOS, Microsoft Windows, Mac OS
By: David Mayne
There are games for all kinds of people. Some people like mindless shooters where they pit themselves against some 12-year old living in their mother’s basement who has WAY too much time to perfect the art of cheap kills and the unequaled art of virtual teabagging.
Some people like grand RPG adventures where they live another life in another world; a sometimes-temporary escape from reality that can lead to such things as sleep deprivation, terrible eating habits, and the blurring of lines between the virtual world they play in and the real world that they live in.
Others, still, love playing football, basketball, or racing their dream cars through exotic cities around the world with the glory of virtual victory just within their grasp. My point is, there is a game for just about every gamer out there. Hell, even games like Train Simulator, Euro Truck Simulator, and The Sims found their niche amongst gamers itching for seemingly mundane micromanagement of real-life events, activities, and occupations. But not until the Farming Simulator series have UBER-niche gamers been offered such a magnificent treat as virtual-farming, complete with real-time growing cycles to fuel their love of the harvest!
You know that saying, “about as fun as watching paint dry”?
At first glance, most people might dismiss the Farming Simulator series as precisely that, with an extra helping of social media mockery to add insult to injury. I mean, who in their right mind would find any sort of enjoyment out of doing probably one of the most mundane tasks on the face of the planet?! Tilling fields, planting seeds, fertilizing, harvesting, selling…rinse/repeat. I’ll tell you who…THIS guy!
In Farming Simulator 2015 for the Xbox One and others (yes…this made it to current gen consoles), you do exactly what the title suggests. Ready? You simulate….FARMING. Yes. Let me repeat. This game is a FARMING simulator. Don’t think that there is some higher meaning to this game, that it’s a vast open world adventure with multiple endings, interesting characters, triple-A voice acting, or survival horror amongst the corn rows. Farming Simulator 2015 is all about one thing: farming. That’s it. No more. Well, that IS if you just skim the surface. While none of those mainstream gaming qualities just mentioned found their way into Farming Simulator, there is a virtual cornucopia of gameplay available here nonetheless, and while this game definitely beckons to a (probably) tiny niche of the gaming community, those that choose to partake and make it theirs will not be putting the controller down anytime soon.
Farming Simulator 2015 is one of the most engrossing, complicated, and multi-tasking games that I’ve ever played, no joke. In my 115 hour time with the game so far, I’ve managed to build a moderately successful farm. And by moderately, I mean I’m paying the bills and not going under. To become a farming tycoon, another 100 hours or so will need to be had to ensure my legacy lives on in the pantheon of farming legends. Farming Simulator 2015 doesn’t hold your hand in any way, shape or form. When you start off, you’re given a medium-sized piece of farmable land, an equipment and silo yard, and some starter equipment such as a low-horsepower tractor, an entry-level harvester, and a few other tools to get you going. What you choose to plant is up to you, although with your beginning equipment and a pitiful amount of starting cash, you’ll need to stick to the more basic crops like Wheat, Barley, and Canola to beef up your bank account before you can move on to the bigger cash crops like potatoes and sugar beets, which require much bigger and more expensive equipment to grow and harvest.
Once you decide on what you’re going to grow, you need to prepare the soil, which means using a plow to prepare the dirt for seeds. Once that’s accomplished, you’ll lay down the actual seeds of your chosen crop. Then begins the waiting game. While the crops grow, you can choose to fertilize them in order to get higher yields at harvest time, or you can travel around the semi-large map to get acquainted with the various business, farms, and services available to you. There is a virtual bank in town which you can offer you loans if you so desire, although these loans will accrue interest over time which you will need to pay back. The bank loans offer players a good way to get out the cash that they need early on in the game to buy some bigger and better equipment right off the bat, increasing the likelihood of success after one or two harvests. That said, being saddled with debt isn’t always a good thing and interest payments can be a bitch the longer you wait to pay back your loans.
Once you’ve had a few successful harvests, you can either store your grains in silos or sell them at one of the various markets around town. Some places will pay more than others for any particular grain, and with an ever-changing supply and demand in-game pricing system, you will sometimes need to stockpile your harvests and wait for optimal demand in order to sell your grains for the highest profit possible. With a day/night cycle and a dynamic weather system, gameplay can vary depending on what you can get done during daylight and favorable weather. Night is very dark in Farming Simulator 2015, and farming can be a tad more difficult when you can’t see shit, even though most of the motorized equipment as headlights and such. Weather systems like rain and snow can bring your operation to a stand-still, so it’s best to plan your days around the weather.
Farming Simulator 2015 is the epitome of a “busy-work” game. You must master the art of good repetition and multi-tasking, especially when your farm gets bigger and you own more land and equipment. You can assign (and pay) employees to work your equipment for you, which over time will become a necessity if you want to grow anything larger than a rose garden. By learning the ways of sowing, fertilizing, harvesting, and selling, Farming Simulator will actually leave you with a feeling of accomplishment at the end of the day that MANY games can’t even come close to, as crazy as that sounds. I knew practically nothing about farming before delving into the FS15 world, and now I could tell you the difference between a mower and a windrower. I could recommend what sort of tipper you’d want based on what harvester you were using and how much crop you were taking to market. I know when to use a T4.75 Powerstar tractor vs. a Lamborghini Nitro based on horsepower needand what fuel consumption I can afford. And yes, Lamborghini does make a tractor. I can also tell you that now is not a good time grow canola because you flooded the goddamn market with it over the last few harvests so you better get back to being friends with Barley for a season or two. Fertalizers and manure? Yep, I can tell you all about them and I can also tell you what to feed your cows so they make the best effing manure possible.
During my time with FS15, I’ve also gone beyond the farm and invested some of my money into forestry and animal husbandry. There’s a lot of money to be made in logging, although the equipment is pretty expensive early on. Selling logs that you cut down is highly profitable as well as wood-chipping the shit out of them. You can even grow your own trees if you’re looking to be a bit more sustainable and make the hippies happy. Managing animals is almost a whole other game in and of itself. Taking care of sheep, chickens, and cows can take up half your damn game, should you let them. Sheep need fresh grass to eat, and if kept happy, will supply you with wool to sell. Cows can be fed in three ways – using only grass or silage, grass and silage and a special mixture (straw, hay and silage). Cows will produce manure (which you can use to fertilize your fields), milk, and of course, beef. Depending on what and how you feed them, cows offer a deep part of gameplay that might actually make you forget the rest of the game.
Graphically, FS15 looks amazing for what it is. Giants Software went out of their way to ensure that the farming equipment looks and sounds like the real thing. A New Holland harvester looks like a freakin’ New Holland Harvester. The open world maps (there is a USA and UK map) are great, if not a bit lacking in overall “feel”. The day night cycles are awesome, as are the weather effects. The graphics here really do justice to the rest of the game and serve to really bring you in to the world of farming. Controlling the various equipment takes some getting used to as there are several button combinations to use in order to work the different components of some machines. It’s not quite like doing a finishing move in Mortal Kombat, but there are a few combinations that require a touch of dexterity.
Farming Simulator 2015 isn’t going to win any awards from the mainstream as its way too niche to even be considered by most gamers. That said, if and when you do decide to give this rare gem a spin, you’ll no doubt be rewarded with endless hours of quality farming gameplay. Learning the intricacies of farm life will probably only be had on a real farm, but this game is the closest thing to it so far. I find FS15 highly therapeutic after a long day at work. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to play it, and the tasks can be seemingly repetitive, but sometimes that’s just what we need to shift the focus away from real life, right? Right beneath the surface though lies an incredibly deep simulator that will challenge you in many ways and leave you filled with a sense of accomplishment after those first few harvests when you finally say to yourself, “holy shit, I think I got this!”
Note: The next console game in the series will be Farming Simulator 2017, as FS16 has only been released on Android and iPhone. While not as varied as its big brother on the consoles, FS16 on these portable devices offers up a worthy farming sim experience on the go. Unlike the console version, you cannot leave your vehicles to walk around in first-person, which was kind of a bummer at first, but for a mobile platform, it’s an omission I can live with. There’s also a snappy soundtrack in FS16, which isn’t present in FS15 on. A few basic options like speeding up growing time is also sorely missed on the mobile platform. The graphics are taken down a few notches as well. The biggest plus over the console version however is the ability to send workers off to sell the grains for you. They can also wash and gas up vehicles and equipment you as well.
Things I’d Like To See In Farming Simulator 2017:
- More crop options (Apples, Oranges, Grapes, Peanuts, hell…even Rice!)
- A deeper first-person experience, perhaps being able to go inside your house, customizing it, etc. A store to walk around in would be cool too.
- Employees able to control some of the bigger equipment like the sugar beet and potato harvesters
- Like FS16, being able to send employees off to too more tasks like delivering/selling goods
- Cloud saving of farms between console and mobile. Also, the ability to import money/save games from 15 to 17 when it arrives. NO ONE wants to start over after 2-3 years of playing.
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: 9 – For a game about FARMING, these gfx totally work. This game never claimed to be Battlefront.
Sound: 7 – Sparse, except for the massive roar of your killer farm equipment…and the occasional plane flying overhead…that you never SEE.
Control: 9 – Complicated at first but easily second-nature a few hours in.
Lasting Appeal: 10 – I could see another few hundred hours in my single player game. The ability to join other player’s farms or for them to join you and help out is awesome.
86% – Great