Game On

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - STYLE - JA­SON BEN­NETT

Ti­tle: Farm­ing Sim­u­la­tor 19 Plat­form: Win­dows, Mac OS, Nin­tendo Switch, PlaySta­tion 4, Xbox One

Cost: $34.99 to $49.99 Rat­ing: Whole­some fun for all ages Score: 7 out of 10

My pri­mary take­away from Fo­cus Home In­ter­ac­tive’s Farm­ing Sim­u­la­tor 19 is that it re­ally drives home just how pre­car­i­ous the farmer pro­fes­sion can be, es­pe­cially with how much cap­i­tal is tied up in land and equip­ment.

For some peo­ple, a game like this is go­ing to be a sort of zen­like ob­ses­sion. There’s no rush, just tool­ing around on your trac­tor in a mo­not­o­nous yet calm­ing cy­cle of till­ing, plant­ing and har­vest­ing.

For oth­ers, it’s go­ing to be bore­dom in­car­nate.

While it’s prob­a­bly not a game I’ll de­vote hun­dreds of hours to, I did en­joy play­ing it be­cause it was quite ed­u­ca­tional. I grew up on a small Mid­west­ern farm, so I had some un­der­stand­ing of farm ma­chin­ery. We had a 1950s Al­lis-Chalmers trac­tor with a hy­draulic sys­tem and three-point hitch, to which we would at­tach a plow, disc cul­ti­va­tor, grass mower, planter and the like. But such small-time op­er­a­tions are merely the be­gin­ning with Farm­ing Sim­u­la­tor 19.

The game in­volves many pieces of ma­chin­ery cost­ing hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars each.

Farm­ing Sim­u­la­tor 19 boasts more than 300 ve­hi­cles from more

than 100 man­u­fac­tur­ers and, new to the fran­chise, John Deere farm­ing ma­chin­ery is now avail­able. Other no­table man­u­fac­tur­ers in­clude Massey-Fer­gu­son, Case IH and New Hol­land, and there are many Euro­pean man­u­fac­tur­ers, their prod­ucts all faith­fully re­pro­duced right down to the en­gine sounds.

De­spite Farm­ing Sim­u­la­tor 19’s over­haul of its graph­ics en­gine, I found most graph­ics ser­vice­able at best. Grass, crop and tree tex­tures were no­tice­ably poor, and the draw dis­tance felt ex­tremely lim­ited, with tex­tures and “sprites” (images) sud­denly and jar­ringly pop­ping into view at close range.

In com­par­i­son, the var­i­ous farm ma­chines and their an­i­ma­tions were stun­ningly de­tailed and re­al­is­tic. That re­al­ism — graph­i­cally and me­chan­i­cally — is what sells the game. Farm­ing Sim­u­la­tor 19 is a niche game, made for a par­tic­u­lar au­di­ence, and it doesn’t try to be more than that.

The game has three dif­fi­culty set­tings: The first starts

farm­ers with a small, ex­ist­ing farm and sev­eral fields, along with a va­ri­ety of farm equip­ment, grain silo, farm­house and $100,000. An­other mode starts play­ers with $1,000,000 but no build­ings or equip­ment; and the hard­est mode starts play­ers off with $500,000. Sounds like a lot of money, but it can sure go fast.

There are two playable maps — one in the United States and the other in Ger­many.

I started my game on the eas­i­est mode with a cool mil­lion, which quickly dis­ap­peared. First, a few hun­dred thou­sand for a large, rec­tan­gu­lar, easy-to-farm plot of land. It al­ready had some wheat ready to be har­vested, so I bought a com­bine and grain header for $130,000. How­ever, I had to un­load the com­bine mul­ti­ple times, so then I had to buy a grain trailer — and a trac­tor to haul it. There went an­other $100,000.

Then I had to put down lime, cul­ti­vate the field, add fer­til­izer. For that I needed a fer­til­izer spreader and cul­ti­va­tor, and then a planter and seed.

After the crops be­gan to grow, weeds sprang up, so I had to buy a sprayer and her­bi­cide

and then an­other round of fer­til­izer.

I’d switched my crop to sun­flow­ers, so I needed a dif­fer­ent header on the com­bine. And once the har­vest came in, there was plenty of straw and chaff left be­hind, which meant get­ting a straw baler and square bale trans­port wagon.

By the time I’d fin­ished a sin­gle crop cy­cle with my 11-acre plot of land, I’d spent the full mil­lion and about eight real-life hours. And my earn­ings? Just $40,000.

Barely sus­tain­able, just like a real farmer!

To scrape by, I started tak­ing odd jobs from neigh­bor­ing farms, fer­til­iz­ing and spray­ing their fields, and took out loans from the bank when I needed new equip­ment or land.

The tu­to­rial mes­sages said I might also en­counter rain and hail, but I never saw any.

The theme of Farm­ing Sim­u­la­tor 19 is more, more, more. More crops, more an­i­mals, more ma­chin­ery, more things to do. Grow­able crops in­clude wheat, bar­ley, oats, corn, soy­beans, sun­flow­ers, po­ta­toes, sugar beets, oilseed radish, cot­ton, grass and sug­ar­cane.

If that doesn’t strike your

fancy, you can try your hand at the rancher life, rais­ing cows, sheep, pigs, chick­ens and horses.

If that’s still not enough, you can aban­don the farm­ing life al­to­gether and start up a log­ging and forestry pro­fes­sion, har­vest­ing wild and planted trees and trans­port­ing them to the sawmill.

While Farm­ing Sim­u­la­tor 19 does pro­vide a brief ingame tu­to­rial and some help­ful tu­to­rial guides, much of how the game works re­mains mys­ti­fy­ingly ar­cane. You’ll likely find your­self, as I did, look­ing up YouTube guides on how to con­nect pieces of ma­chin­ery.

There’s a mul­ti­player op­tion, which I also en­joyed. I man­aged to find a few peo­ple on­line, and it was pretty neat see­ing ev­ery­one help­ing one an­other out to work the land.

It can be pretty tough to find a game to join; I had more luck when I cre­ated my own mul­ti­player game and waited for oth­ers to join me.

Most peo­ple will prob­a­bly al­ready know whether this kind of game is for them, but if you’re not sure, rent it for a few days and see how you like it.

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