‘A console has reached its tipping point from core to mainstream when a publisher can launch a farming simulator videogame and make a profit.’ These are my very own words which I have projected onto conversations about the success of modern consoles and their place in society on many occasions. Videogame consoles do not bridge the gap between gamer and common interest until the audience grows so large that an extremely niche product, such as a farming simulator, can launch on them with confidence. That time is upon, it would seem, as Focus Home Interactive bring Farming Simulator to Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.
The videogame is, unsurprisingly, a virtual representation of life as a farmer. Not in terms of running a business or negotiating sales, but rather more concerned with sewing the fields and cultivating crops. There is a great variety of jobs in Farming Simulator, as you can probably imagine. Most commonly involving the use of a specific vehicle an attachment in order to work a field in one way or another, the videogame does exactly what it promises it will: simulates farming. Not in the same way that SimCity simulates being mayor nor how Populus simulates being a god; Farming Simulator is the nitty gritty of the lifestyle. All the hard work out in the sun and not the balancing of books to make that bottom line.
Within that Farming Simulator is more about memory than it is about challenge. Simply learning which vehicles are your best asset and the quickest way to get from sewing to selling is enough to see you through. The player doesn’t have to take direct control of the vehicles in the way you might imagine, instead they can simply select from three cruise control settings and the vehicle will reach a steady pace quickly. To make things even more automated the player can hire a worker to do each job for them who will inevitably finish with a tidier, more efficient job than you could’ve prayed for under your own volition. This does also free you up to tackle the next task of course, with time management being a key component towards success.
There’s a lot of guess work involved in Farming Simulator’s campaign early on. A short introduction explains that each vehicle has a special use and that different fields are better for different crops, but it never truly explains how to go about making a profitable business. A standalone tutorial is available but this is also more concerned with physical control than financial. So much of Farming Simulator will be up to trial-and-error, so if you’re the kind of gamer that prefers a rollercoaster ride from start to finish you’re most certainly better off looking elsewhere.
Farming Simulator isn’t the prettiest of videogames nor does it particularly sound amazing, however neither of these facets are really what the development team at Giant Software were aiming for. The scale of the experience is what’s important, and the impressive map size coupled with the huge variety of vehicles, crops and buildings to uncover is what makes Farming Simulator a worthwhile investment. Undoubtedly a welcome addition to the modern console software library, Farming Simulator does a lot right but simply due to its inherent nature it has its work cut out to find an audience to match its scale.