Farming Simulator 17 review code was provided to PlayStation Universe by the publisher.
I’m of an open mind about videogaming’s many, many genres, sub-genres, and the like. I’ll give almost anything a chance. It means I get plenty of wonderful surprises, and some less pleasant ones that at least broaden the perspective on what a bad game actually is. On this gaming journey, I’ve found the most consistently worst thing you can make a game is boring. Farming Simulator 17, for all its good intentions, in-depth management, and dryly quirky charm, is utterly bloody boring, and not especially good either.
As the name implies, this isn’t suppose to be a joyful sideways twist on farming, this is (fairly) serious business. You gotta micro-manage that harvest buddy, or the cows won’t come home to roost before they’re hatched, or something like that. The Simulator series of games tend to have a knack for producing overtly fussy, yet strangely compelling and relaxing experiences, regardless of your interest in the subject matter being simulated. Farming Simulator almosts dares to pull off this same trick, and the reason it doesn’t is because there’s a dearth of immediacy that strangles the life out of any therapeutic value it could provide.
The game does helpfully provide tutorials on how to do some of the simpler things in your farm life like operating machinery, loading grain into a silo, figuratively, and literally, buttering up the animals and doing donuts in a tractor. In isolation these tutorials do two things. Make the game seem understandable (good) and more than a bit dull (bad). When you actually take your newfound farm pimp skills out for a spin, you soon discover that the good was a lie.
Farming Simulator 17 isn’t an easy ride, fair enough considering previous mentions of the whole simulator aspect of the game, but when it’s coupled with interactions that, at worst, deliver pre-packaged doses of pure narcolepsy, and at best, give you tasks as dry as a Ryvita in the Sahara, it makes for an experience that’s best described as painful tolerance made flesh. Even when FS 17 does a decent job of something it still manages to go about it with all the lustre and excitement of a mummified corpse in concrete.
There’s not much wrong with the open world format Farming Simulator employs for instance. It even looks alright, but there’s a whiff in the air and it isn’t just the fertilizer, it’s the unmistakable aroma of ‘that’ll do’. A lot of scenery is there for show, and not averse to letting you move right through it. Amazingly, despite the level of detail in the workings of machinery and the sheer depth of planning and tinkering available in maintaining your farm, there’s bizarre omissions in real world physics that break any chance at immersion. Try crashing a combine harvester into a car and see the horrifying and devastating amount of nothing that ensues for yourself. I warn you now though, you may never recover from the grim spectacle.
Elsewhere, the efforts to grow this world of farming are either a bunch of boredom balloons or laughably naff (occasionally slightly endearing in the process). The radio stations are a particular highlight thanks to the effective amount of cheesy, knock-off country, rock and dance they play. The joke (I assume it’s a joke) wears thin pretty quickly mind, and it won’t be long before you’re whacking on mute or switching on your own background sounds.
Things get a tad more tolerable once (if) you get past the initial learning experience, as you start to strategize the strengthening of your particular field of expertise. You could focus on crops, which sees a pattern of planting, fertilizing, harvesting, storing, and selling. Alternatively you might seek your fortune in lumber, which has the added bonus of using chainsaws, or you could get some pigs, cattle and the like to produce some tasty McDonald’s menu fodder, though this isn’t nearly as entertaining/grim as it could be.
There’s depth there if you want it, and there will be an audience that utilizes and enjoys that to full effect, but it’s an incredibly niche audience that may feel more comfortable playing it on PC. You see, while there’s a commendable effort to map the many options to the Dual Shock, it’s clearly a PC setup making do. There’s a lot of fudging as a result, even with the tutorials available it’s not the smoothest ride going, which, as previously mentioned, doesn’t help the process of hooking you in on any level.
Farming Simulator 17 does wander briefly off the beaten track with some daft minigames that lose appeal rapidly, and with mod support that’s mostly confined to replicating real world farm machinery, vehicles and the like. It’s damning that FS17 can’t even make the side stuff all that interesting beyond a core audience and a few folk who are very easily pleased.
I can completely understand there being an audience for Farming Simulator 17, but it doesn’t excuse the rather slapdash approach to making it appeal beyond that audience. There are far too many fixable obstacles that keep the game a wholly miserable, dull experience that has all the personality of a dry cow pat.