I may have a problem, time has been vanishing and I have been dreaming about crop rotation, aerating soil and correct fodder mixes for my cattle. I don't own any cattle, I have no crops to rotate and there is barely enough soil in my backyard to plant anything edible.
I have, of course, been playing Farming Simulator 17
. It's a game I honestly never expected to touch, let alone enjoy, but enjoying it I have been. Developed by Giants Software and published by Focus Home Entertainment, Farming Sim 17
puts you in the muddy boots of a farmer just getting started.
You have a few fields, some tractors and the attachments needed to work your land, and a bank loan that needs paying off. It is entirely up to you how you go about working your own land, helping out the other farmers in the area and paying off that pesky loan/earning enough cash to buy out every other farmer in the county.
Gameplay settles into a very comfortable pace. Some may call it plodding, but I found it incredibly relaxing. You first have to prepare your field, either by aerating it or ploughing it. This involves dragging a glorified rake behind your tractor. Once you've done that you have to seed the field. There are many crops to choose from that have different market values and growth cycles. You use a machine called a Seeder for this, and once again it gets dragged behind a tractor making sure to cover the whole field.
After that you have to wait until the first signs of growth. Once those little green shoots pop up jump in a fertiliser/muck spreader and get those nutrients all over the field. Do this up to three times at different growth stages and your final crop will yield a massive boost over a standard crop. Crop all grown up? Sweet, time to jump in the combine harvester and harvest the living seeds out of those plants!
I know it sounds dull, even when I try to sound really enthusiastic about it. Thankfully you can hire temporary workers to continue a job you've started, and these AI-controlled NPCs will do all of the jobs described above to varying levels of success (more on this below). This means you are free to do more interesting things, like buy new equipment, take produce to the various buyers around town and shoot some hoops... Yes, you read that right, you can go and shoot a basketball at a hoop in town (there is a trophy for getting a three-point shot).
The most productive thing to do once all your fields are planted or you have hired help working your farm is to head to the field you don't own and offer to help, this comes in the form of 'quests' that increase your standing with the field's owner and give you some cash. Each quest gives you a single goal - harvest, plant, fertilise - and a time limit. You are provided with the equipment and left to get on with it, completing the task well within the given time limit yields bonus cash.
I made enough money doing this to buy the tools needed to start rearing livestock... It was at this point I realised that the few hours I had set aside to make a start on this game had actually turned in to almost ten straight hours of playtime. Those hours just vanished and this is where we come to the Great Contradiction of this kind of simulation game - they aren't fun, but they are engrossing. You literally spend hours carefully going up and down a field; first to prepare, then to seed, then to fertilise and finally to harvest.
It is the-same-damn-thing just with a different box attached to the tractor with a different particle effect. Why did I spend half a day doing this, how did I manage to not die of boredom? By all logic and reasoning I should have gotten through one round of crops and realised it was a time sink that I didn't want to participate in.
But that isn't what happened, I find myself wanting to load back in and tend to my virtual crops, see how many lambs I can get by adjusting the conditions of my sheep. I want to do these things despite the weird graphical glitches, horrible driving physics and utterly abysmal radio stations you can listen to whilst you do the farming thing.
I honestly cannot believe that I am typing the following few sentences.
If you are wanting a game that will eat up time, give a fair (but videogame-y) representation of agricultural life then I highly recommend Farming Simulator 17
. It is relaxing, almost meditative in its repetition and provides a great counterbalance to the action-packed normalcy of our beloved hobby that demands twitchy reaction times of us. Instead Farming Simulator 17
gives us time to pause and appreciate what we have while we lose whole days to trundling up and down a brown piece of earth.
+ Meditative pacing whilst working your own land
+ Anxiety-fuelled time-based challenges on the other farm
+ I have 739 eggs in my backpack but haven't found a house to sell them to yet, send help!
- Just keep the radio off
- Shoddy wagon driving controls
- If you abhor tedium then avoid this at all costs
- I have 739 eggs in my backpack but haven't found a house to sell them to yet, send help!
SPOnG Score: 7/10