The video that plays as you start the game features a host of tractors firing up and hitting the fields, heavy machinery harvesting crops, preparing soil and doing all-around typical farming stuff. Dirt flying everywhere and sharp metal clawing at the earth, all to the background of green fields of lush crops and the rising sun — it comes across rather exciting really. Problem is, once you move past the menu screen and you’re dropped into the game you quickly realise that Farming Simulator 17 is exactly what you’d expect it to be.
If there was ever a case to judge a book by its cover then Farming Simulator 17 is the poster child. Once you load your career (which mind you, there are three spots should you wish to share the fun with family or friends on different playthroughs) you pick between two towns to play in, either a male or female farmer and the colour of your flannelette shirt. From there you’re dropped into your new farm and given the keys to your new kingdom.
In the time that I’ve spent with this game, the most fun I’ve had is trying to get as much air as possible off small hills, seeing if I can tip my tractors over and driving a truck full of pigs into a nearby river. Despite having a wide range of cars to drive from most of your tractors are just varying degrees of slow and your pickup feels like it’s driving on rails.
To the developer’s credit, Farming Simulator 17 does at least do farming well. This game isn’t as simple as planting some seeds, waiting a few minutes, harvesting the crops, selling them and repeating said process. There are 10 different crops you can grow in the game, and in the map I selected there are 23 different fields for you to own and use. The growing process is broken down into three separate stages and to maximise your yield you need to fertilise your crops at each stage. Fertiliser comes in three different varieties and can be made by either the livestock you own and breed on your farm or through specialised equipment you purchase. Failure to harvest your crops in time will result in them withering, meaning a waste of not just seeds but time and money too.
Furthermore, harvest crops can then either be stored in your silos or sold to other businesses (bakeries, sawmills etc.), each of which offering different prices for different crops. At the same time, these prices constantly move up and down like a real economy. Selling your produce earns you money that you can use to either pay off your loan at the bank or invest in more machinery, increasing your operation (one of which being a Lamborghini). There’s no denying the depth in the world of Farming Simulator 17, it’s just that none of it is really ever that exciting or fun.
To assist newcomers but also to make it more challenging for those repeat fans of the franchise, Farming Simulator 17 does allow you to tweak the game settings to your choosing. You can elect to manually start your vehicles each time you get in, how many times fertiliser is required during the growing process, how quickly time moves and also how fast your plants grow. At the same time you can also choose to hire staff to assist with some of the tasks across your fields. While you can’t hire staff to transport your harvest to sellers (conveniently this being the most tiresome and time-consuming task in the game), you can get them to prepare the fields, plant seeds and harvest your crops. Doing so will increase your costs and the more staff the more the wages are each couple of hours.
I’ll be honest in saying that my initial impressions of Farming Simulator 17 when I first started were somewhat poor. It felt a little daunting, a little slow and a little boring. After ploughing through the tutorials though and spending a little more time, you do start to appreciate just how detailed a game like this is. Being able to grow crops one moment, cut down trees another and then look after livestock the next, it’s a fairly complex game for what would seem like a trivial concept. The only problem though is that it’s hard to really keep your attention when everything is so mundane. Sure, there’s some enjoyment in switching between tractors, changing your machinery for the task and completing your goals, but when it all moves at a snail’s pace it grows tiresome very quickly. For those wanting an authentic farming experience then yes, Farming Simulator 17 is your game, but for regular gamers wanting to try something new, I’d recommend going down to Bunnings, buying some seeds and doing it yourself.