Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Farming Simulator 17 Review (XONE)

Farming Simulator games require a certain mindset from the player to really enjoy them.  If you expect constant action and excitement and stimulation for a game to be good, this isn’t the series for you.  If, on the other hand, you enjoy things like grinding in RPGs, endlessly comparing statistics, a laidback pace, and think you might like the immense satisfaction that comes from turning a few acres of dirt into cash, you’ve come to the right place. 

The latest real Farming Simulator – not a piece of broken knockoff garbage like Professional Farmer 2017 – from Giants Software is Farming Simulator 17 and it is easily the best one yet.  Farming Simulator 17 makes smart improvements over previous entries and gives you a ton of options that really make it a better experience.  The sheer amount of toys to play with and stuff to do is pretty impressive as well.  See all of the details here in our full Farming Simulator 17 Xbox One review.

Game Details

  • Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
  • Developer: Giants Software
  • ESRB Rating: “E” for Everyone
  • Genre: Simulation
  • Pros: Smart improvements over FS15; extremely satisfying; lots of new stuff; genuinely fun
  • Cons: Too slowly paced and boring for some; performance issues
  • MSRP: $50

For those not familiar with Farming Simulator, it is a slowly paced and obsessively detailed game about farming, raising animals, and even logging timber.  It is full of real farming techniques, real equipment, realistic pacing, and a realistic economy that is a fairly accurate simulation of farming.  That might sound boring to some, but if you are of the right mindset it can be one of the most satisfying and genuinely fun games around.  Most importantly, though, the developers at Giants Software have made a lot of smart decisions to give you a ton of options to make it fun and accessible as well as give you a wide variety of things to do.  It is only boring if you don’t bother to make an attempt to find the fun.

I will fully admit, however, that the first several hours of the game can be a real drag, which is unfortunate because it gives new players an awful first impression.  It is an absolute grind for the first few hours where everything takes forever to do because you have tiny equipment and not very much money.  Once you get into the rhythm of things and start earning money and can buy better equipment, things get much better.  Bigger equipment means you can do things faster, which means you earn money faster and can buy new equipment faster and do different things and have a lot more fun.  It takes a good 6-8 hours to get to that point, though, which is where the series loses most players.  Grind it out, earn some money (or better yet, find all 100 hidden gold nuggets on the Goldcrest Valley map to get a 1-million dollar bonus to buy good stuff ASAP) and buy better equipment and you’ll have a great time with Farming Simulator 17.

I think it is also worth mentioning that the learning curve is quite steep in the Farming Simulator games and the in-game help and tutorials don’t do a particularly good job of explaining how to do things.  This is obviously frustrating because you can waste a lot of time doing things wrong at first, which also sours new players on the experience.  My advice is to be patient look online for help if you need it right away.  This isn’t like Dark Souls where you get some twisted satisfaction from doing everything blind.  Ask for help.

If you’re already a series veteran, Farming Simulator 17 expands on the fantastic Farming Simulator 15 with new maps to play on, tons of new equipment to use, and some really smart new options to make the game more enjoyable to play.  New options include the ability to turn off A.I. traffic cars (yes!), change the default camera when you switch equipment, and much more.  I was shocked at how much control the developers have given us this time around to really make the experience our own. 

All of the new stuff you can do also really increases how much fun you can have with Farming Simulator 17 as well.  Raising animals is more realistic now because you can actually put them in a trailer and drive them around (or just pay a fee to have them delivered automatically).  Pigs join the sheep and cows, but chickens are sort of scaled back this time around, which isn’t a big loss.  New crops include oilseed radishes, which you plant and then disc under as natural fertilizer, along with soybeans and sunflowers.  There are also trains on the map this time around that you can use to move large amounts of crops at once.  You also get the option to customize your farm a bit by placing storage buildings and silos however you want, which is cool. 

The mission system has been changed to where you can go around and help other farmers work their fields for extra money.  Finally, the maps seem more real and alive because the fields you don’t own actually grow crops rather than sitting lifeless waiting for you to buy them.  This new mission system can be sort of a pain, though, because having to manually plow or harvest a field can take more than an hour and you can’t hire an A.I. worker to do it for you when you do missions.  My advice here is to only do fertilizing missions because they go faster since they cover a huge area all at once.

And, of course, the game has a ton of new equipment to play with and most of it has customization options for colors and other options as well.  There are multiple trucks to choose from, two different pickups, and a ton of tractors and harvesters and other stuff as well.  They even have sowing machines that fertilize the field at the same time!  That is crazy!  This isn’t nearly all of the changes and new stuff, either, but you get the idea.  I would say that Farming Simulator 15 wasn’t actually a huge change from the original 2013 Farming Simulator release for Xbox 360, but Farming Simulator 17 is absolutely a massive upgrade over previous entries in the series. 

Well, not everything got upgraded that probably needed it.  The game’s performance is all over the place and can go from running perfectly smooth to 5-FPS at the drop of a hat.  It doesn’t really affect gameplay that much when the game is chugging along since the game isn’t exactly fast paced anyway, but it definitely isn’t a good look.  Also, the logging aspect of the game is still just as annoying as ever and the equipment is just as impossible to control as FS15.  I had really hoped for an improvement here.  Animals are also still a pain in the butt since you have to mix their food and do all sorts of extra nonsense.  At least the farming itself is awesome.

The presentation has seen some slight upgrades.  I would say the equipment looks better overall, but the environments are similarly detailed to FS15.  The game still draws the fields around you in a big circle – meaning the actual detailed crops pop into existence in a big circle around you while the rest of the field is lower detail – which still looks odd, but I guess that’s the only way to keep a game with this much interactive stuff in it running properly (even if it runs like a pig).  The sound has seen some improvements with the addition of multiple radio stations full of music to listen to and the equipment sounds better.  The tone of the engines actually changes now so you don’t just hear monotone noise while they’re running, which is a big improvement.

Oh, one more thing - Mods.  Farming Simulator 17 has full mod support so the community will be able to bring in new equipment, new maps, and tons of other new stuff all for free.  In three months this game is going to be totally different than it is now, and that is pretty exciting.  

All in all, Farming Simulator 17 is a surprisingly big upgrade over previous entries in the series that will get series fans hooked all over again while also being easily the best jump in point for new players thanks to the wealth of options and variety of tasks.  Sure it’s kinda janky and has iffy performance and has a massive learning curve, but if you’re of the right mindset and are willing to learn to play it, it can be one of the most satisfying and genuinely fun gaming experiences around.  Farming Simulator 17 is the best looking, best sounding, most fully-featured, best playing Farming Simulator ever.  Buy it.