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.