I’ve recently expanded my gaming experiences by trying a whole load of new things, most of which have put me out of my comfort zone. I’ve played hockey and found that it is pretty good, I’ve dunked in basketball, and I’ve discovered that being a gaming firefighter is horrid. Now I get the chance to be farmer. But a quick disclaimer: I don’t do the countryside in real life – the sheep scare me, what with those eyes and the conspiracy bleating and whispering. In fact, I’ve never been to a farm since those trips everyone took in at primary school. So loading up Real Farm on Xbox One, I was both excited and nervous about trying to make it big in the country. So am I a real life Farmer Brown now?
The popularity of farming sim games has been a big surprise to the gaming world over the last few years. There seems to have been a host of different examples of the genre in recent years, all gagging to hit the gamer’s farming fix. Unfortunately, they haven’t been critically acclaimed, but the people out there continue to buy them and do seem to love heading down to the farm. I was curious to find out why.
In Real Farm you play mainly in a career mode, where you can choose your difficulty level. I initially went for easy – as I said, I’m scared of sheep so need all the help I can get. The game starts by placing you in a farm in the middle of a sunny generic American countryside. You seem to be playing a down on his luck freelance farm labourer, one who’s up for some hard work and some ready cash. You first get a job to plough a field, but in order to do this you have to borrow the farm tractor, put a weight on the front and a plough on the back, and Bob’s your farmer. You then drive towards a field and start to plough.
This consists of driving the tractor, which is like every other driving game, but you also have to make sure the plough is in… plough mode, and off you go. The way to do this is to basically make sure every piece of dirt in the field is ploughed, in a set time (normally 45 minutes). And that is about it. When the field is ploughed, you get to cultivate the land, which basically sees you doing the same thing except with a cultivator on the back instead of the plough. You then need to plant the seeds – which again is the same task, but with a seed maker on the back. Then there is insect spraying and then harvesting. Can you guess how you do those? Yep, same thing again. All of this hard work will give you money so you can start to buy your own vehicles, tractors, farms, workers and livestock, becoming a uber farmer and taking over the countryside. But whilst it all sounds a bit tedious, how does it play?
Well, let’s just say I used to have a job stacking boxes in a Trivial Pursuit Factory and that was hugely exciting when compared to the amount of field work I’ve had to put in with this game. You spend up to 20 minutes of real world time per field, depending on the quality of the tractor, and those 20 minutes are very boring indeed. But strangely, the possibility of building up cash and employing others to do the work is tempting enough to keep the interest alive, especially as you have a small town to negotiate around, with a number of different farms and shops. You can pick up jobs from the notice boards outside the farm entrances, and as you would expect, the more jobs you do for that farmer, the cheaper they will sell their farm to you for.
Career mode helps you achieve farming glory with personal goals, but the sudden jump in the tasks required made me laugh. It all starts with manageable missions – buy a tractor and take in about six fields worth of work, and then buy a plough to take in maybe three fields. But then you need to buy a farm for a million pounds, and that means you need to cancel everything, your whole life, because you’re going to be ploughing for months on end.
This I think is the crux of the matter, and the decider over whether you’re going to love Real Farm or not. Farming sim fans will, quite obviously, relish the challenge and this has got everything they could ever want. I mean it all works fine, the career mode is good and there seems to be a range of vehicles that will satisfy farming experts around the world. But it is the newcomers to the genre that Real Farm might find tricky to attract – all because of the farming grind. It’s relentless in its workload, way before you get to the more interesting stuff involving budgets, farm planning and livestock. Yes, budgets are interesting. I have to admit to becoming slightly addicted to the whole thing, but can I see myself heading back to the farm once I’m done with this review? Um, nope.
It has to be said that Real Farm looks fine and bright with a nicely drawn countryside community. The vehicles and farming equipment are all shiny and clear, but I‘m certainly not qualified enough to tell you whether they are correct or accurate. There’s the odd anomaly, like not seeing any life in the farming town, and there was the same creepy red car that seemed to be watching me as I ploughed away. It got me so paranoid that I stood in front of it and there was no one in the driving seat. It was like it had arrived via an X-Files episode. Then there were the glitching pigs, but that’s another story altogether.
Overall though and Real Farm is a very hard game for me to score. If I was playing this without reviewing, I don’t think I would have persevered after the first two fields, as it’s not really a game for me. But for the farming community and those who like farm sim titles, this is as good for beginners and experts alike, with a decent amount of career progression to get stuck into. It all works fine, with only a few minor glitches and it has a nice presentation feel to it, but I for one won’t be persuaded to enter the countryside again.
I’m glad I gave it a try though.