As this was my first experience with any Farming Simulator title, I figured the best place to start would be the tutorial. In the top left corner is a panel that shows the controls available to you at that time. What caught my eye was if I held the ‘Y’ button, I was able to crouch. Was this a sign that Farming Simulator had a stealth element to it? Maybe a particularly nervous cow produced great milk, but was elusive? I went on a quest to see what else this game could offer.
Farming Simulator 17 has two maps available from the start and that’s about your lot. One is set in an old gold mining town in the USA, and another with a more Eastern European vibe. Wanting to start my quest, I chose the slightly more appeasing looking Goldcrest Valley, to see what mischief I could get up to.
Turns out, not a lot! Your pickup truck is located right next to where you spawn, but there is precious little you can do with it, except drive. Any car you bash into causes you to rebound off, even with a tractor, whilst pedestrians just phase through the car. Your car does take flight when you speed off a cliff, but the steering is so bad you wish it would just spontaneously combust like a classic Bond film car does when pushed off the hill. Understandably, some of the vehicles around your farm have rear wheel steering, but almost all the cars drive like they do, proving very difficult to get from A to B.
You can purchase a chainsaw from the store, but again, every animal is impervious to it. I did manage to chainsaw all the trees down a suburban street, but the only thing this did was then make it impossible to drive down it. No, this game is doing exactly what the title suggests and is purely a Farming Simulator.
This perversion of the game is standard to any type of simulation game, as the player tries to have more fun with the gameplay, eg. Building a roller coaster that isn’t a complete track, or releasing a lion into a crowded zoo. But Farming Simulator draws a firm line in the sand and really prevents any such sort of perversion.
However, this is by no means a majorly bad problem as the actual farming gameplay is very solid. The wide range of activities and the vast number of licensed vehicles is enough to keep any purist busy for a long time as they sow, fertilise, grow and cut their crops. There are also a number of staple farmyard animals to care for, but these need purchasing with your profits; you only start off with chickens at the beginning. It does take a while to get into a rhythm of what to do and when to do it, but once you start getting accustomed with the many different vehicles and crop types, you can turn over a tidy profit fairly quickly.
Accompanying the cockpit of all these impressively recreated tractors and harvesters is a really fun soundtrack. All the music has been produced specifically for the game, no licensing here, but spread across three different radio stations are rock, pop, country and electro impressions. These are faithful representations of the genres, all with an extra wedge of cheese thrown in. The main title music is straight from a Mumford and Sons jam session, which may or may not be to your taste. But it’s all fun and definitely does its job of livening things up.
Simulation games typically are fiddly affairs on consoles due to the controller not being as versatile as a keyboard, and sadly this is again the issue. As mentioned before, all controls are listed in the top left corner, but aside from entering and exiting a vehicle, hiring a worker or switching attachment functions, most other controls are hidden behind the left or right bumper and another button, or sometimes even both.
Adding to the fiddly controls is the fiddly picking up of items. This can be incredibly frustrating when picking up objects out of boxes or off trailers, for as soon as the object you’ve picked up makes contact with anything else, you drop it. On one occasion I spent a good five minutes picking up a chainsaw from a wooden box, only for it then to glitch under the building next to it, leaving it impossible to then pick up and try again.
Annoying as well are the long load times from the main menu. This is the only time the game actually needs to load and plays very smoothly after that, but it can take up to a minute to load the map, whether that is my farm or a tutorial. And after that, the game takes around another 10 seconds after notifying me it had loaded before actually launching.
Throughout the game, there are 17 achievements to be earned. Many are for reaching milestones in breeding and crop maintenance, but there are some related to bank balances and a couple for running errands for other farmers. There is even one for collecting 100 golden nuggets. Yes, even Farming Simulator has collectibles to find.
Farming Simulator 17 is an unusual beast. It receives critical acclaim from its die-hard fans and rightly so because the mechanics of the actual farming is very impressive. But it does seem to fall short in most of the other departments, which would arguably be where those who have a piqued interest are likely to be drawn in. I found the game interesting, but I wouldn’t necessarily use the word ‘fun’. I was in the piqued interest pool as opposed to the die-hards, but there certainly isn’t enough included to really keep me invested in the day-to-day activities of running my farm.
Simply put, there isn’t really much of a game here. And I never really did find anything to crouch for in the end.