What am I doing? What should I be doing? What should I be doing it with? These are the kinds of questions that will pervade you while playing Farming Simulator 15, assuming you are not agrarian-ly inclined, which is more likely than not. It goes without saying that I have as much experience and expertise in farming as I do with piloting spaceships: Which is to say, practically none. And in a way, one can argue, that’s the point of video games. Video games are supposed to help you experience things you wouldn’t normally be able to, in a fun, condensed and simplified manner. At least, that’s the theory. Farming Simulator 15 looks at this formula and just screams at the top of its lungs “Screw that! Tractors.”
Let’s get over the niceties first. Yes, the tractors and the many different kinds of machinery you can purchase and use are modeled beautifully. They look even more realistic as the mud begins to cake them after prolonged use and make them go from unrealistically clean to what you would imagine hardworking, blue collar, farming machinery to look like. The user interface has been cleaned up and looks much more modern and “in” with the times as opposed to the horrid UI we saw in Farming Simulator 2013. The game also doesn’t take up much harddrive space.
You know I’m really scraping the bottom of the barrel when I have to mention how much hard drive space the game will take up as a positive point about the game. I want to say that the game is a really hardcore simulation of modern farming techniques, but it isn’t. It is just so incredibly lacking in far too many noticeable ways. For instance, we can take a look at what appears to be a substantial tutorial with twelve separate parts.
Having completed all 12 parts of the tutorial, you will find that it isn’t even the end of the train of tutorial and “help” material that you will receive in Farming Simulator 15. When you start a new career the map is littered with question marks and phone booths which act as “helplines” where you can read a short summary of various aspects of the game. There is even an initial mini-tutorial to get you on your merry way. All of this must be a good thing, right?
Unfortunately, no. All the tutorials provide minimal explanation and guidance on the farming aspect and instead, chooses to focus on the mechanical aspects of teaching you how to move backwards and forwards, turn on your tractor, and that you must move your harvester in straight lines through the fields in order to harvest the wheat. Perhaps this is being much too picky. Perhaps it is understandable that tutorials are supposed to teach you the absolute mechanical basics. Surely the in-game tips, helpline and mini-tutorial will be much more helpful in the more advanced topics.
Nope. If basically repeating some of the things mentioned in the original tutorial is to be considered helpful and not a massive waste of time, considering the 12 parts of the tutorial will eat up a solid hour and a half, then I’m just out of touch. I’m pretty sure I’m not though. Farming Simulator 15 does a very good job at showing you many pretty tractors and other farm-related vehicles. It also does a very good job at teaching you exactly how you would maneuver them around mechanically, but when it comes to the bigger picture as to how it is all connected and culminates into actual farming and how you would run a farm, unless you had the patience to actually read and learn all about it on the internet outside of the game or were already an expert farmer, you would be at a loss.
But a lack of a tutorial doesn’t really make a game bad. There have been plenty of other games that either lacked tutorials or much general instruction at all, but they were still really good games. The key difference here is all those other games made up for it with excellent in-game help as well as being generally intuitive. Farming Simulator 15 is anything but, and that’s what makes it unbearable. Even assuming you know what you are doing (because if you don’t, the learning curve is like running straight into a titanium wall head first) the gorgeous user interface can’t hide the fact that the information it portrays is sorely lacking and unhelpful.
For example, in the above image, you can see the page where the prices of all the possible commodities you can sell are listed. I’m not even going to complain about the fact that you have to click on the side arrows multiple times to see the prices you can net from different destinations even though they could have probably cut it down to two pages by leaving smaller gaps in between the columns or perhaps even using a slightly smaller font size, but even when the overview pages display information that is useful, Farming Simulator 15 just manages to find the most blockheaded way of doing so. As you can see in the image below, Giants Software has elected to use a combination of minutely different shades of blue and green to indicate different levels of crop growth and harvest readiness. This might not even be too big a problem if they didn’t then decide to cover the map in another, similarly shade of green making it near impossible to discern what is ready to harvest and what is just land around your fields.
Another big issue with the information presented is the inability to look at historical prices of each commodity that could perhaps help you better predict price movements. There are these arrows that point up, down or right, but they don’t really tell you anything or really help you make the strategic decision on whether or not you were going to store your crops. Maybe canola is getting a big red down arrow so you might think its a good time to store, but what if it was a big red down arrow just right after the peak of the historically highest prices of canola in history? Thus you’d probably want to sell off every drop of canola you have before it became not as valuable. With the current system, there’s no way you would know.
I suspect the lack of historical commodity price records is in part due to the confusing way that Farming Simulator 15 treats the passage of time. Naturally, farming is an activity that takes a very long time. Seasons pass as a normal farmer waits for his planted crop to be ready for harvest and it would be foolhardy for the game to make the player wait months to harvest. Thus, you get the option to speed up game time, which at normal speeds is about one second for every game minute, by 150 times.
In most other games, things happen differently as you speed through time. In Skyrim, you get to see quick snapshots of every hour that passes by and in city-construction sims like Sim City, things just start moving at break-neck paces. Some other games just let you skip to a certain date in the future. What happens in Farming Simulator 15? Nothing. Time just passes by as normal. Day and night passes by at the same 1 second for every game minute regardless of what speed you have it set on. Only your crops are affected and if you happened to be seeding at “150x” speeds, you will find that you will be getting a cascading pattern of your crop at stunningly different growth levels, from just seeded to ripe for harvest, which makes harvesting very difficult when you need to consider your yields.
And you will need to consider your yields. As fun as driving all matters of farming contraptions in straight lines up and down a field at a snail’s pace can be, it will get tiresome fast. Thus, you are going to want to hire some workers to do the plowing and the sowing and all that exciting farmy stuff. Unfortunately, hiring workers isn’t as easy as going to some page, clicking a few buttons and assigning them to certain jobs. That would just be too logical. Instead, you have to get them started by doing the job first and then hitting the H key on your keyboard and hope that they understand what you want them to do.
While watching a bunch of tractors and harvesters you’ve set up run themselves is admittedly pretty cool, hired workers burn money like no other. Suffice to say, if you don’t get good yields on your crops, you will be burning through your money in no time and even if you do manage good yields, you will be barely scraping by. It doesn’t help that if two tractors driven by hired workers accidentally get into each other’s turning circles, they just flat out stop working and the drivers just sit there staring into infinite space and burn your money into oblivion until you realize, too late, your folly.
And, eventually, you will probably want to increase your fleet of tractors or perhaps diversify the number of tools available to you. Well, then you’re going to be hellishly perturbed because just about everything is prohibitively expensive, especially the things you want like fertilizer sprayers and lawn mowers. Everything except for chickens, of course, which are worthless things that appear to be merely there for aesthetic purposes.
Sure, you have minor maintenance costs with chickens and you don’t need to take care of them, but the eggs they produce barely even cover the daily costs of keeping chickens (if at all). Add the fact that you will have to dedicate precious player hours running around the chicken pen looking for the eggs and then driving (thus burning fuel and money) to the nearest egg-buyer makes chickens a non-worthwhile investment.
Eventually, through incessant grinding, you will get enough money to buy you more equipment and you just might be able to try a few other endeavors like lawn-mowing from job board missions or the new lumberjacking activity. It’s hardly farming, but at least it’s something different and gives a bit of variety as well as much needed cash whilst your AI workers plow through your fields.
While there have been noticeable improvements in visuals with the aforementioned tractors and machinery, it’s hard to say that the general look has improved. Environment models and textures are still pretty poor and the physics engine is awful. When I can go mountain climbing in my tractor and open-top trailer combination filled with canola at no penalty in the form of damage to my vehicle or, say, loss of some canola sloshing about in the back, I call that the most fun I’ve had in the game, but, also, pretty awful physics. The quintessential bonk from ramming your tractor into traffic is still in the game from the previous iteration.
And, in fact, that’s exactly what is wrong with this game. The game just isn’t immersive. I don’t feel a part of the in-game community. I don’t get a fine for running my tractor into buildings or cars. I don’t even get a repair bill, just the fuel bill for all the cross-country driving I’ve been doing. I don’t feel like I’m achieving anything. Sure, I’m buying more fields and I’m mowing many lawns, but to what end? There’s also basically no customization options for you to make your farm your own. You don’t name your farm, you can’t customize the look of your tractors, there’s just no way to personalize your experience which is what makes simulators like Eurotruck Simulator 2 successful. I’m not even sure you have a farmhouse to call your own since your player never needs sleep anyway. It’s all these small details that make a game good that Farming Simulator 15 just completely drops the ball on.
But perhaps you say the point of the game is to run a successful and profitable farm. Well, keeping in mind the difficulties of managing your workers and predicting prices, even such a goal is made unnecessarily difficult in a mechanical way. I’m not saying that Farming Simulator 15 needs to be a business simulation, but it would be a much better game if it just had even the most shallow attempt of one. Such a feature would really put the word ‘farming’ in Farming Simulator 15 for, in the end, just about the only thing that is done well in the game is the modelling of the countless pieces of machinery and tractors. The game might as well be called Tractor Simulator 15 instead with some arbitrary farming mini-games thrown in.
If you are looking for a game where you can drive beautifully modeled tractors and all kinds of farming machinery around a farm, then you’ve found the game for you. If you just want a prettier version of Farming Simulator 2013, then you’ve found the game for you. If you want to play a farming game that isn’t Farmville, then you’ve found game the game for you. Otherwise, you’d best be weary of Farming Simulator 15 as while you will be able to sink many hours into it, not all of it will necessarily be fun. The unrelenting grind, the sheer learning curve and the lack of attention to the smaller things that make good games good makes Farming Simulator 15 forgettable.
Farming Simulator 15
- Available On: PC
- Published By: Focus Home Interactive
- Developed By: Giants Software
- Genre: Simulator
- US Release Date: October 30th, 2014
- Reviewed On: PC
- Quote: "If you are looking for a game where you can drive beautifully modded tractors and all kinds of farming machinery around a farm, then you've found the game for you. Otherwise, the unrelenting grind, the sheer learning curve and the lack of attention to the smaller things that make good games good makes Farming Simulator 15 forgettable."