I’ve got a handheld combine harvester
Game: Farming Simulator Nintendo Switch Edition
Developer: Giants Software
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Reviewed on: Nintendo Switch (obvz) (Review code provided)
I’ll start this review with the disclaimer; I have never farmed, simulated or otherwise. The last time I set foot in a tractor, it was a ride along at a local farm park with my kids. In fact, I barely do the gardening, at most mowing the lawns when they begin to look like they may be housing a pack of ill-tempered velociraptors. So, it was with some trepidation that I approached Farming Simulator For Nintendo Switch, sure that within a few hours of starting up my game the crops would be dying from blight and the cows would be rampaging from their fields and into the local township, spreading chaos and death in their wake. Sadly, none of this occurred.
Farming Simulator is a bizarrely popular series, launching initially on PC in 2012 before making its way gradually to consoles over the last few years. At it’s core it’s an open world sandbox in which you take on the part of a farm owner. You start each game with a few fields and a handful of vehicles and set to work planting and harvesting crops, selling them in the local town and expanding your operations with the cash you earn (displayed in Euros, something that’ll have to be patched out after Brexit #littlebitofpolitics). And that’s pretty much it. You can hire workers to man the tools while you potter about doing other things in the game world but there are certain tasks, such as the actual delivery of produce to shops, that you have to do yourself. It seems to be a fair interpretation of the act of running a farm and is, inherently, a fairly monotonous experience. Yet I can’t stop playing it. It’s bizarrely compelling and strangely calming.
Outside of the actual day to day operations, there are other fields dotted around the map that can either be bought up outright to expand your farm, or you can choose to tackle the challenges that are present there. These amount to helping out other farmers and are a great way to learn how to operate other vehicles. You’re given a time limit and a task; harvest, sow new crops etc, and have to perform that task to a given percentage within that time limit. Ultimately these tasks tend to amount to driving your vehicle over the field until the surface texture has sufficiently changed for you to have achieved the task and get the monetary reward. It’s hardly taxing, but, as with the main game, it’s surprisingly relaxing.
Ultimately, the challenge in Farming Simulator is set by the player; do you want to own the entire map, complete all the challenges or hold the monopoly on milk production? Without a story the player is free to roleplay to their heart’s content, something that is at the core of a lot of these Simulator titles. Technically, though, I can only describe Farming Simulator as bland. Textures are often muddy and unrefined, geometry on vehicles and world objects is simple and the other inhabitants of the world, both people and vehicles, are little more than soulless drones milling about the map. Obviously this is possibly down to the limitations of the Switch hardware than the game itself. There are mods available for the PC version to tweak the visuals among other things and the rival consoles play with far more powerful hardware, but there’s no denying that Farming Simulator feels right at home on the Switch. The portable nature of the system adds that essential pick-up-and-play feel to the game while the ability to suspend and resume on a whim means that you can now pause challenges part way through where previously saving and turning off would have lost you progress.
Ultimately, Farming Simulator is an exercise in patience and an experience that is designed more to be calming than challenging. If that appeals to you then jump right in.
Visually uninspiring and monotonous yet strangely compelling and calming, Farming Simulator is another game that is perfectly at home on Nintendo’s hybrid wunderkind console. The ability to keep a session open for commutes is perfect and it loses nothing in the transition from TV to handheld. Certainly one for the enthusiasts, but a decent port nonetheless.