Another year, another iteration of the unusually popular Farming Simulator series. Time to get in your tractor and drive up and down your bountiful crops for ages!
I'll level with you: I'm not that well-versed in the Farming Simulator series so if you're looking for an expert review comparing 17 to previous instalments, you might want to try elsewhere. The only past experience I have is playing Farming Simulator 15 for about 10 minutes before turning it off for good because it didn't have an invert Y-axis option. I'm pleased to report that 17 rectifies this problem though it has a few other issues to deal with.
Before starting Farming Simulator 17's main career mode, I highly recommend you complete some of the tutorial missions as there's quite a lot to learn and important information is often not very well communicated in-game. The first two tutorials introduce you to the essentials such as harvesting your crops, sowing seeds, fertilising and ploughing. Later lessons go into more advanced stuff like animal husbandry and forestry.
Once you've got the basics down, it's time to start your life as a farmer. First, you'll choose either a male or female character. Apart from their gender, the only thing you can customise is the colour of their plaid shirt. After that tough decision is made, you can choose to play on one of two farms: an American one or one that (I assume by its name) is in Russia.
You're given three fields of your own to start with along with some basic vehicles and 20,000 dollars (or pounds or Euros, depending on which currency you select - I guess the exchange rate is the same for all of them in this world). If you want to buy new types of vehicles like fertilisers, animal transports or forestry equipment, you'll have to earn more money by selling your produce or doing jobs for neighbouring farmers. These jobs are similar to the day-to-day ones you'll perform on your own fields except you're required to use certain equipment and complete them within a time limit. Though they give you some quick cash, they can be very monotonous as all of them are pretty much identical in gameplay (for example, driving a vehicle up and down a field until all of it is harvested, fertilised, ploughed or sown). Some jobs are fairly short whereas others take upwards of two hours. The thought...
On your own farm, you can speed up the drudgery a bit by hiring AI workers to tend to your fields which will cost you some money but save you a lot of the tedium. Unfortunately, I found that they frequently stop working even though their tasks haven't been completed fully for some reason that I can't understand. You can also skip a lot of the back-and-forth of getting around the world by teleporting to each of your vehicles with a press of a button. However, some tasks can't be avoided such as the mind-numbing chore of having to go pick everything up you buy from the town store in person. Why can't they just deliver?
As you might expect from any game with the word Simulator in the title, there's quite a bit of general jankiness to put up with. Your character turns really slowly and there's no look-behind button when driving which means that if you want to glance over your shoulder, you have to slowly rotate your neck Exorcist-style. Objects will also frequently clip through your vehicle and if you try to run down one of the cookie-cutter residents of the nearby town (hey, I was trying to make things interesting), they just ghost right through you.
Despite all its technical issues and general banality, I do get why these games are popular. They can have a strangely addictive quality despite the general dreariness of the gameplay. There's a certain satisfaction to completely clearing a field of its harvest and a pride to be taken in doing so neatly and effectively. It's probably a similar kind of hook to the one that makes people grind forever in MMOs. All the hard work you put in (and a lot of it does feel like work) only makes the sight of your crops blooming and your bank balance rising feel all the more rewarding. Farming Simulator 17 is also one of the few console games to have mod support. Who needs Fallout 4, anyway? At the time of writing, there aren't that many available and most are just new vehicles rather than anything that fundamentally changes the nature of the gameplay, but at least the option is there.
In short, Farming Simulator 17 is best summed up as "not for everyone". It's a series a lot of people have affection for and I can certainly see some of the appeal myself. However, there are many times when it feels less like a game and more like some elaborate joke to troll you. Put a podcast on when you play and it's an okay way to pass the time. Otherwise, it might lead to sensory deprivation.
- + Realistic representation of many aspects of farming (I would imagine)
- + Strangely addictive at times
- + Mod support
- - Takes a while to get to grips with even after following the tutorials
- - Gameplay can be incredibly monotonous
- - Some janky movement and graphics