There has always been that part of me that has dreamt of life in a peaceful country town away from bustle of the big city and the over-abundant decadence that comes with it. In a land of rolling green hills, surrounded by the tranquil call of nature in which I can perform depressingly dull tasks with only livestock and the hum of the tractor for companionship. Well, maybe not that last part but that seems to be the compromise required if my simulated experience of Farming Simulator 2013 is anything to go by. Being a simulation, gameplay is pretty self-explanatory. Players must embrace their arsenal of vehicles to cultivate, sow, and harvest their land to profit and expand into a farming empire. Livestock can be bred and produce can be sold, with additional land and farming equipment available for purchase if the farm thrives.
Anyone who has ever heard mention of these titles will most likely have certain pre-conceptions, though it needs to be noted that this is one of many in a large series and therefore must be tickling someone’s fancy. In this latest instalment dubbed the, quote, ‘greatest farming simulation ever made’, Farming Simulator 2013 has made the jump to consoles. Over a hundred authentic vehicles are now available alongside a few console-exclusives, whilst players also have access to an all-new American Environment. Despite these extra’s, it is debatable whether it has made the transition truly unscathed.
Being new to the experience, the first port of call for me was the tutorials. It was quite relieving to find that, despite the large amount of them, commands were pretty easy to grasp and recall whilst performing the fundamental tasks required to progress were simple enough. However, it is inconvenient to have the instructions on screen with your PDA map as they can block half of your vision. Unfortunately, the tutorials also failed in describing how to overcome obstacles that appear later in the game. Though, honestly, tutorial number eleven may have explained it in great detail; I wouldn’t know as I was asleep by number nine. Some lessons can take up to thirty minutes when you grasped the task after five, resulting in nearly an hour and a half of tediously repetitive learning tools before you have even begun. Get used to the word ‘repetitive’ as it will be making quite a few appearances.
For instance, driving up and down a field to perform each and every farming task is so REPETITIVE I found it quite upsetting. Not just repeating each job, but knowing that to succeed it will have to be done many, many more times. But what was I to expect? This is a simulator, it is by definition designed to simulate farming and in that respect it succeeds. But this is also Farming Simulator 2013’s greatest flaw; in attempting to replicate agricultural work it becomes too similar to agricultural work – boring. This is largely based on personal opinion; of course, as I imagine there are many that enjoy replicating the farming process. Yet I think of every simulator I have encountered and I cannot think of one so devoted to the monotonous tasks over the enjoyable (not that there seemed to be a great deal of the latter).
Marketing for the title frequently mentions the livestock and what a welcome reprieve it would be from the fields, if they did anything. Indeed it is helpful having cows and sheep to yield more profit, but beyond feeding them they are just kind of there. Is it so difficult to add a shepherding feature in which players may relocate the animals to another pasture with fresh grass for improved produce? Not only would it provide a break from the other wearisome tasks, but it might actually add some value to the self-described ‘large open world’.
It makes sense for the barns and fields to be littered across a country landscape as they will rarely appear in adjacent lines in realistic circumstances. It hardly seems worth creating a free roam environment when it replicates no-man’s land in 1913. The odd petrol station here, the odd drop-off point there, these are small elements that may as well be available on-site as they hardly seem to justify the need for an open-world environment.
Both the German and American setting have villages with cars and people but they serve no purpose other than to remind you how alone you are. You pass through the residents like a spectre whilst they ignore your very existence, with every building in the village inaccessible. Again, this may seem like I am missing the point but then why is it there? It hardly adds realism to the title when I have more meaningful interactions with my tractors than the resident. Maybe this is a bit over-dramatic but I disagree with calling it a ‘large open-world’ when it is neither large nor open. It becomes just a world; a rather bleak and compact one at that.
A recurring message stuck with me from the game which I first saw in the tutorial: ‘Do not drive faster than cruise control level one; otherwise your plow will detach itself’. This was a metaphor for my whole game, noticing what I could not do rather than what was on offer. In fairness, it is hard to see what more a farming sim can offer of substantial interest both now and in the future. Imagine Farming Simulator attempting to utilise the technology of next gen consoles. I picture the Xbox One’s Smart Glass feature being used as a rear view mirror to get that perfect driving line.
Overall, it should be apparent that my experience with Farming Simulator 2013 was not on par with the realistic and engaging vision that Giants Software had. Progression in simulators is inherently pointless, though a good title will not feel that way. You know that in the end you will receive no physical prize but you enjoyed the ride and felt rewarded for progressing through your own determination and grit. Farming Simulator 2013 just felt too negative overall; I was aware of the futility of my involvement and knew I would not be enjoying the experience. So what would be in it for me? This series is directed heavily at the niche collection of enthusiasts with a focused interest in farming and if more shared that interest, I am sure a release such as this would be an anticipated annual occurrence. Being out of this loop, there is just no incentive to return to this game as it is just too bare-bones. Maybe I should have indulged in the PC or MAC version beforehand, but that just suggests further that this port was not necessarily the best step for this series when the production and gameplay needs the most attention. Farming Simulator 2013 gets 5 out of 10.
- Number of detailed vehicles available.
- Faithful replication of the farming process.
- Unashamedly repetitive.
- Dated graphics.
- Pitiful attempt at integrating open world.
- Soundtrack limited to vehicle sounds.
- Animals offer very little.
- Console port seems unnecessary.
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Related: Simulation games
Credit: Matt Newstead