I consider myself a professional farmer… at least in the gaming world. See, I’ve played a fair few of these sim games now to know my way around a Fendt 500 Favorit tractor, and I know the right price for corn so as not to be ripped off in a marketplace. In fact, I know many things about the farming world, so I wasn’t daunted by the prospect of loading up Farmer’s Dynasty on Xbox One. What I wasn’t prepared for though was having to ask people out on dates, seeing if someone wanted to go to the local barn dance and learning exactly how to repair a roof, all whilst working as a starving farmer. But that’s what this game does, and it’s a brave new world that TopLitz Productions have delivered. But will it anger or enlighten the fan base?
Farmer’s Dynasty is an original – and maybe controversial – game in the farming sim family. What it tries to do is mix the standard farming gameplay that we all know and love, the usual plowing, sowing and reaping, with some animal husbandry and the buying and selling of goods. That’s all good and wholesome I hear you say, but this also introduces a splash of The Sims where you build relationships with your farming neighbours, get married and raise some children. You even have to worry about eating and sleeping. Thank god the development team have not gone the whole hog and included a lavatory route as it might become annoying and unhygienic when you’re sat astride a tractor in the crop field with punishing deadlines to meet.
The game starts by putting you in the boots of a farmer who has recently inherited his grandfather’s farm, wanting to try his hand at learning the trade. Your neighbour, Oliver (who scares the hell out of me), shows you around your estate. It’s a bit of a mess to be honest. And so this is where the first new piece of gameplay comes into its own – repairing.
From your farm – and with a touch of the Y button – you go into work mode, and here you can choose to go into the deep repair mode. This allows you to look at a barn, move up to the section that is in need of repair – say a broken wall, for instance – and your farmer will get the appropriate tool and start repairing. You can lay bricks, nailgun wooden roofs, tile floors and remove the rust from any metal. Basically you are Bob the Builder – and yes, you can fix it. There is a helpful tool to make sure this all works well called engineer mode, where you can see the areas highlighted in red that need fixing. To fix the area you just press one button a few times and, hey presto, you’ve got a new house. You can even put unlimited amounts of scaffolding down to allow you to climb up onto the roof to get to those hard to reach areas.
I’ll be honest with you here though, and there is something very satisfying and weirdly enjoyable about actioning all this repair and maintenance nonsense. Yes it’s monotonous and yes it’s simple, but I’ve always felt like I was making a difference.
You’ll soon – well, about 2 hours in – become an old hand at all this, getting some old farming equipment from your neighbours by doing odd jobs for them. And it is here where you can then finally start to get on with some actual farming. As you would expect, it’s pretty much the usual thing and anyone familiar with any farming game from before will know what to do – going up and down a field plowing, cultivating, planting and reaping. There isn’t anything new to experience here and as always the experience lives or dies on whether you enjoy this task or not. I’ll admit, I hate the fact that it’s easy to miss harvesting one bit of a field, and in Farmer’s Dynasty it’s pretty unforgiving – in this version there is no help like a percentage bar detailing how well you are completing the job at hand.
There are however also some animal buying and selling moments, a nice little bit of relaxing fishing to partake in, and a good few RPG-lite moments. With this you acquire social points that come about from being kind to neighbours and doing them favours as well as working on their jobs. This normally includes some repairing and farming. But there are also fetch quests and, like I said at the beginning of this piece, asking people out on dates. You can get married and get some kids and a dog if you want, or you can choose to live alone staring out at the children’s playground you built in the garden for no reason. All these strange social elements work fine though and it certainly ensures that there is something a little extra included in Farmer’s Dynasty.
The game looks fine too, and it’s a pleasant world to spend some time in. I liked my little farm, even though it was a bit identical to all the other farms. And with the local church being about the same size as one of the biggest cathedrals in the world, I did have to question where the local council is getting its budget. Unfortunately though the character design is a bit strange – people don’t look right, and a few animations seem to be missing; NPCs suddenly start running for no reason, before promptly stopping and standing still.
The soundtrack running throughout Farmer’s Dynasty is a joyous, almost old Hollywood movie, type of score that is pleasant to the ear, but you can be sure you’ll tire of it after a while; do what I do when I farm and get some of your favorite playlists kicking off in the background. And similarly in terms of the voiceover work and it isn’t the best I’m afraid; some of the characters feel like robots and others are a bit too suggestive when you just want to talk about your new combine harvester. There are odd writing moments too – a neighbour suddenly berating politicians out of the blue is pretty commonplace.
At the end of the day though, Farmer’s Dynasty on Xbox One is a solid and interesting addition to the farming sim market. I like the repairing elements of gameplay (probably more than I should), and you can easily invest hours and hours playing the game, especially when going deep with the RPG elements. The actual farming moments don’t innovate enough though, and there is no getting away from the fact that it is a big old grind. Whether you have the patience to really get involved will be down to the individual gamer.
For now though I’m afraid I must leave, for I’m setting up my best friend Nigel with a lady down the road who has a nice fertiliser machine I’ve got my eye on.