Title: Farming Simulator 20
Developer: Giants Software
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Genre: Simulation, Lifestyle
Age Rating: E
Release Date: Dec 3, 2019
Price: £39.99 – Rapid Reviews was very kindly provided with a review code for this title.
Rise with the Sun
Old Mc…Alex had a farm.
Ok, enough of that nonsense. Time to get down to the meat of the matter.
I’m a sucker for farming and foraging games. Stardew Valley, don’t get me started on how many times I’ve started a game, got lost in the farming and foraging and not touched the actual storyline.
So, when Farming Simulator popped up on the game list my interest was piqued. I have heard a lot about the game, and I know it has quite the dedicated following. I also knew it was nothing like Stardew Valley. Still, I donned my welly boots, grabbed my wax jacket and headed out into the winter cold to roam the fields and tend my flock.
But what did I think of the experience? Was it a rich and bountiful game or was it like every game of The Sims I ever played, and everybody killed themselves within minutes? Keep reading this Rapid Review to find out.
The Sights and Sounds of the Farmyard
I am not sure if the game was modified in any way to get it onto the Switch, but the download file was remarkably small, and to be honest, the visual aspect of the game left something to be desired.
Sure, the farm machinery looks good, but it seems they skimped on the rest. The fields of crops and the look of the seeds as they flowed from harvester to loader and from loader to silos made me think of something several generations old. Or at least, something old that had been released on a modern console.
It left me expecting more and while I am unlikely to get the game anywhere else, I can only hope it is a Switch exclusive thing. It also grew rather monotone after a while. Yes, there were some nice views to be seen as the sun rose and set, but for the majority, the color palette was a little drab.
Given that this is a simulator I should have known to expect realistic sounds, but there is only so much of a running motor you can hear before you just get bored. I mean, would it have been hard to put a radio in the cabs or something to break the monotony of running engines and whirring machinery?
It’s not that the sound is bad. It does what it was intended to do and gives what I can only assume is a realistic experience of riding in a harvester or tractor, but even for the sake of gameplay a little variety would have been nice.
Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with how the game looks or sounds, nothing at all, it’s just that I think in this day and age, they could have done a little better. I can’t help but wonder if this is one of those franchises, much like Football Manager where they recycle a title year after year, making just enough small changes to warrant putting them on the back of the box, with the knowledge that their existing fan base is going to buy it without question.
Repetitive But Satisfying
The gameplay is very simplistic, and with the help of hired AI farmhands, it comes close to playing itself in many areas. Again, not a criticism, but just pointing out the controls and the way the game is introduced to you during the short tutorial.
You start with a basic three field farm. The fields need to be plowed, turned and sown and harvested. The collected seeds can then either be stored in your silos or sold to one of the various merchants around the village (I called it a village at least).
The game is easy going, with the initial requirements being to tend to the fields, build up some cash and invest in better machines. I initially splurged on a machine that turned and planted the soil in one swoop, this saved me both time and money. I moved the tractor into position and the AI took over.
The game is unlike many other things I have played. There is no action, and there isn’t all that much to do certainly in the early goings.
After a while, once you start adding animals and have to keep thinking about feeding them, their bedding, the … produce they leave behind, as well as their breeding, things do start getting more interesting. Even then, however, there is a sedate and deeply cathartic resonance in the game. I spent many an oddly enjoyable hour just driving up and down the fields, evaluating the fluctuating prices for goods and planning ahead to allocate certain crops to certain fields for certain tasks.
It was a relaxing experience, even when trying to decide what piece of equipment to buy next. Juggling width with speed, crop type with future planned needs, etc.
While I do feel like my adventure with this game has run its course, I could certainly see why it appeals to a certain brand of gamer.
Just Missing that Something to Make it Memorable
I can’t help but think that the game is missing something that stops it from being memorable, rather than just being another installment in a stale franchise.
I liked the way you could see figures in the vehicles, and there was a farmhouse and clearly signs of life around you, but it remained in the background. You never went to bed, you just sat in one of your vehicles through the night, working, waiting or as I did when I was bored, off-roading in your favorite tractor.
It would probably anger the hardcore farming simulator fans, but if they were to expand the game and let you control your farmer. Build up a character, adjust his look, get out and walk around your farm, interact more personally with things, maybe even haggle for prices at the different markets. That would certainly go a long way to both increase the replayability factor of the game, as well as more than likely broaden its appeal to a larger market.
I know I would be more interested in a game that had that.
A Farmer’s Work is Never Done
For the casual gamer, I just don’t see the pull of the game. I can see it being bought by game collectors, who want to have that physical jacket on their shelves, and by the same people who have bought the previous installments of the game.
While there is a lot to like, there just isn’t enough to necessarily keep you invested, certainly not for different games.
Yes, once you get a farm up and running playing it for hours on end is possible, but I wouldn’t be tempted to go back and start again and use a different system, or different machine configuration. The draw just doesn’t run that deep, sadly.
Farming Simulator 20 is a good game and will undoubtedly sell well enough to validate the 21-version next year. However, I do hope that they invest a little bit more in the gameplay to help give it more oomph.
A fun game for those that understand what they are getting themselves into. Just know it is not like the more cartoony farming games you may have played on your Switch until now. It’s sedate, peaceful, and sometimes downright boring, but it offers a level of near hypnotic relaxation that is rarely experienced in a game.
Rapid Reviews Rating
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.