Farming Simulator is one of those franchises that has been going on for quite some time now despite its relative lack of ads, commercial appeal, or vocal fan base. Cashing in on the simulator craze that’s taken over the latter half of this decade, Farming Simulator 17 is here and the series is still going strong, which is why this yearly instalment keeps coming back. While this isn’t a title for everyone, and it lacks quite a bit of polish, there is a lot to like in this open world farming sim for long time players. But for those who are new to the franchise, it might be confusing, absurd, choppy, and yet somehow addictive.
Let’s get this out of the way first. I enjoyed the hell out of Farming Simulator 2017, it’s weird enough that no other game, even other simulators (barring Goat Simulator), really come close to the hilarity that can ensue from a long playthrough—but I’m not entirely sure it’s intentional. You pick one of two towns and are plopped right into your farm and given a brief tutorial. The idea is to raise crops, so that means you harvest your plants, cultivate the land, fill it with manure, plant seeds, and fertilize your plots. Obviously, this takes quite some time, so you can hire some help to get the job done while you do other tasks.
This is where I encountered my first set of problems with Farming Simulator 17. The AI is incredible, bafflingly stupid. The slightest obstacle in their way completely derails any task they try to complete. This means while you’re in town doing whatever it is you want to do, you have to switch vehicles to fix whatever problem they have because they’re programmed in such a way that basic problem solving is too complex. Still, when it came to operating more complex vehicles, I found the AI to be really helpful in that department. And even though they were 80’s cartoon henchmen level stupid, a hired hand or two leaves you open to get more done.
It’s kind of strange how inept they are compared to the complexity found in the rest of Farming Simulator 2017. There is a lot of micromanaging at play here. You have to keep an eye on how much money you’re bringing in, how your livestock is holding up, if you can afford new vehicles, if you can afford help, how quickly your bank account is dropping, if you should lease or buy a vehicle, if you should take out a loan or work your way out of the financial hole you’ll inevitably fall into; all that kind of stuff. There are pros and cons to buying things you didn’t start off with, like a fertilizer attachment or a chainsaw. You always have to ask yourself “is it worth it? Can I make enough money with this tool to justify it?” That goes all the way to hiring help as well. Yes, you can accomplish more tasks with the help of a field hand, but there is a balance with how much you should spend to yield any results.
I made quite a few bad decisions, but somehow I kept making money. I’m not sure if the game automatically took out loans on my behalf or people were paying me late, but I’d check my bank account every now and then and it would be larger despite being in-between crops. There isn’t a lot of communication in that department, and there’s even less handholding. So you’ll have to learn as you go. Even with the tutorial, I found myself trying to learn different aspects of the game I never knew existed. It leads to a lot of frustrating moments and caused me to go through every menu screen in the game to see what the tutorial decided to skim over.
Your income is based on selling crops, which means once they’re harvested, you go into town to sell them. There are different locations across town, all of which buy different things. One place buys grain, another buys eggs—you get the picture. But there are a plethora of crops to choose from. So each patch of land you have can be different. There’s also a stupid amount of variety in the vehicles you use to both harvest and transport your crops, ranging from trucks and tractors to trains. I honestly lost track of how many different brands you can choose from and how many different products they provide. On top of that, there are random side missions all around town, and although they’re mostly just random farmhand work with a time limit, it does provide something to do on the side.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t change any of the gameplay. Everything you do around your farm is the same. You drive your tractor with its attachment around a circle in your plot of land. Yes, attachments change meaning depending on the task, but it’s the same thing, over and over again. There’s a weird sense of calming that comes with it. This isn’t a high-octane fast paced game. Farming Simulator 17 is a title in which you have to play the long game. Results do not come right away, but that’s what makes it rewarding. In a world of twitch shooters and instant gratification, that change of pace is welcome. There is an efficient, streamlined mechanic that allows you to switch vehicles at any point in time, meaning you don’t have to venture across your entire farm to get to another tractor, which was a nice touch.
During that comfortable boredom, you have time to realize how unpolished Farming Simulator 17 is. Grass cuts through your vehicle, and driving is incredibly finicky. I managed to flip over my truck because I hit a small curb, and I also spun out of control on a main road passing a car. To add to all of that, there’s a pretty laughable draw distance, so things kind of just pop up when they decide to. It felt like I was playing an up res’d game from the PS2 era at some points, and it was really disheartening to see because deep down, I really like this game.
Still, I can’t put my finger on why I enjoyed it so much. Maybe it was the overall weirdness it provides, maybe it’s the random golden nuggets scattered across the map, maybe it’s because there is more detail on the chickens than anything else in the game, or maybe it’s because a lot more thought went into this game than it deserved. It’s kind of messy, but Farming Simulator 17 has this weird addictive nature. I knew I wasn’t playing a game of the year title, but I couldn’t put it down.
This is not a game for everyone, that’s for sure. There is clearly a niche that really enjoys it, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that niche consists of actual farmers. It’s kind of hard to jump into, and can be incredibly slow, but if you’re patient, there’s a lot of reward that comes with running a successful farm. That doesn’t excuse its lack of polish or repetitive gameplay, but it does mean something. What that is, I’m not sure, but I can’t say I hated Farming Simulator 17, in fact, I couldn’t put my controller down. If you have a high tolerance for a lack of technical polish, and are patient enough to really dedicate yourself, this could be up your alley. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I believe my crops need fertilizing.