In the wake of The Witcher 3, one game I did not expect to find myself playing (other than Barbie’s Race and Ride (Which, by the way, definitely ended up happening)) was Farming Simulator 15. You don’t think that one day you are kicking rears as some monster hunter, and the next you will find yourself obnoxiously clucking at chickens and plowing fields. Unless of course your regular occupation is that of a farmer, in which case, you probably did expect that. That probably happens to you a lot.
After a modest 4GB download, I plunged headfirst into the world of virtual farming. You are at first given the choice between two farms. Of course, it is best to pick the starter farm Bjornholm (located somewhere in Sweden. Probably between ABBA’s studio and a sauna) as this is the one that contains the tutorial.
The tutorial runs for roughly 12 minutes and shows you the basics of a few machines such as the combine harvester, sewing machine, and the cultivator. The tutorial only really gives you a rough overall, however, a bulk of the controls are displayed to you throughout the game in the form of an information window in the top left hand corner.
Unfortunately, this window can become somewhat intrusive on your farming. However, I’m sure as you become more well-versed in the art of virtual farming, the option is there for you to turn off these helpful tips, and you can brag about it to your friends. As there are so many components to every single machine (of which there are literally hundreds), the information window was my savior. I have even dedicated a tiny mural to it in my wardrobe at home.
Once the tutorial has finished, you are left to your own devices. I found this to be extremely intimidating, as there were SO MANY different paths I could go down. As I am notoriously poor at making simple decisions, I felt as though in this circumstance, I was being left with perhaps too much freedom.
Of course, my little farmer fingers had had a taste of the country life and I wasn’t backing down now. No, I returned to the wheat field from the tutorial and decided to continue harvesting. Of course, this seems a lot more exciting in principal (does it, really?), however, instead of the combine harvester piloted by Vin Diesel that you expected, it’s more like a Sunday drive with Nan to the shops, and she has left her glasses at home and dropped her teeth under the pedal.
I could feel the wind in my perm as I tore up that wheat field with the force of half a Nanna, at an irresponsible 6 miles per hour! What makes this even greater is the fact that reversing speed is 9 miles per hour. Now, I’m not going to pretend that I am any good at Math, but that has to be at least an extra 3 mph you’ve got for going backwards. Wow!
Of course, my mind could not cope with all of these extra responsibilities of being a full time farmer, so I decided to take a break and experimented with shapes! Let me tell you, making a corn field in the shape of a penis is not an easy feat. I can confidently tell you that my corn penis flopped. I got too excited and giggly at the prospect of what would be a phallic field of corn, and instead accidentally turned on cruise-control with no way of backing out. Of course, there was a way to stop the cruise control, if I had only taken a breath and pressed R2. All of my limbs were flailing as I desperately tried to regain control of my sewing machine (after the ordeal I made a blanket). Finally, things were back under control, but by this time it was too late. Cruise control had made a mockery of my soil schlong. I wept for a solid ten seconds, wiped my brow, paid respects to the corn penis that could’ve been, and thought it best to continue on my life as a farmer.
It was at this point that I realised I could just hire people to do the work for me. This was (quite literally) a game changer. Things were going well, and I was finally getting into my farming groove! Well, aside from the slight mishap I had with the worker on the corn-penis field, who insisted on going in circles. I managed to get a consistent wheat-growing cycle going on multiple fields. Of course, what I haven’t told you up until now is that I had foolishly taken out a very large loan in the form of $150,000. That’s right, folks. If your everyday debt wasn’t enough, you can now have some virtual debt too! With the groove I was in, I still was not making enough coin to repay the bank. Perhaps, like a real business, the key to making money is spending money. Or prostitution. However, I’m not sure that option is in the game just yet. Perhaps in a later DLC, tied in with a fishing expansion. ‘Farming Simulator 15 – Hook, Line and Sinker’.
I was growing somewhat frustrated with the amount of debt I had accrued, and even went as far as rebranding my line of work to ‘agro-culture’.
Things were quickly spiralling, until I remembered the forestry portion of the game! I pressed Triangle to access the quick store, and bought myself a handy little chainsaw, which comes in at around $1000 a pop. After chasing the chickens around in a ‘Texas Chainsaw’ fantasy that I will speak with my therapist about later, I found myself a few trees to take down! I felt like a true lumberjack as I watched gravity take hold, and I even found myself hollering “TIMBER!“, which I guess probably means my family thinks I am slowly transitioning into Pitbull. The tight, pleated capris and shaved head I’ve been sporting lately probably isn’t helping.
I found the chainsaws to be somewhat fiddly in the later stages of the tree-chopping process, as you must line it up in a particular spot to chop the tree correctly into smaller logs.
A vital part of the wood chopping is obtaining a crane to load and transport the logs to the lumber yard. A big gripe I had with the game was the fact that, in the starting farm at Bjornholm, there was perhaps TOO MUCH space. I know, shame on me, but the necessary things are spread too far apart. The lumber yard is located at the very top of the farm, and is the only place where you can deposit your lumber, which is a large time commitment that could perhaps intrude on the flow of things at your farm.
The crane costs somewhere between $50,000-75,000, and was my absolute favorite part of the entire game so far. The controls are somewhat fiddly and unnatural (for my uncoordinated brethren), and takes quite a bit to get used to. However, this led to a lot of hilarious moments and I had an absolute blast. I ended up crying with laughter at my very sore attempts at loading logs. The crane was somewhat reminiscent of a skill tester machine, except you get money instead of your favorite, non-copywritten characters “Winfred the Pooh-Bear” and “PeekyChew”.
Depending on the quality of the logs, you could get a decent pay-out, compared to collecting grain. The lumber was quicker than waiting for crops to grow, however it took a large amount of effort and is something that you can not hire any workers to complete for you.
The animal husbandry is also an exciting change of pace from the regular crop harvesting, however, it is similar to the forestry in that it can be somewhat time consuming to remove yourself from your crops and check on the animals. The cows and sheep are multi-faceted and similar to real-life children in that they need to be regularly fed, however chickens are the easiest as they take care of themselves and require no extra cost other than the $70 you initially fork out for them. You can sell the eggs the chickens produce, however, you must spend time running around the enclosure to collect the eggs, and then travel halfway across the farm to sell them for a very, very small return.
Camerawork in Farming Simulator 15 was somewhat limiting, especially when working with things such as the crane, which requires very precise movements and angles. However, this is not a huge issue and can be worked around.
As well as being in vehicles, you can control your farmer on foot. This does feel more like a free cam and less like a person, though. This is just me nitpicking, since your farmer is very rarely on foot, so it is an extremely minor issue, if even an issue at all.
As the game progressed, I found myself wanting to expand and explore. There is a tutorial section found on the main menu, which allows for some further tips on other parts of the game, such as the feeding of animals or baling hay. Farming Simulator 15 is largely a ‘just do it and figure it out’ kind of game, which is nice, but also can be somewhat intimidating. I did find myself heading to the internet a few times to find out some information regarding the use of specific tools for specific items, as the game can be somewhat vague and leaves you to your own devices.
Overall (pun not intended), I have found Farming Simulator 15 on console to be quite a rewarding little game! Yes, it is tedious most of the time. But it is hard not to get totally sucked in by the intense concentration required to effectively run a farm.
If you are a fan of any game that requires multitasking, and are not afraid of dedicating a little time to learning the ins and outs, you should definitely give Farming Simulator 15 a shot. You never know… You might just surprise yourself.
So dust off your old Billy Ray Cyrus vinyl, nibble on some straw, and I’m sure you’ll be having a hoot in no time!
I know I will find myself coming back to it again and again in my down time. That is no lie. I might even return later with an update, and my thoughts further down the track as I delve deeper into Farming Simulator 15. Complete with overalls.
Farm on, my friends! Farm on.
Review by Lauren Bridel
*Pictures were screenshots from Playstation 4 system