Bear with me: this seems like a very odd game to want to review. A farming sim, I hear you scoff. Yes, I reply, a farming sim. Furthermore, a FIRST PERSON farming sim. Well, mostly. So the sight of ducks and geese and cows are to greet me in the game, says you. No, says I. There’s something you’ve forgotten about farming, and is apparently mostly what the game is about: vehicles.
Going in, I knew this was going to be a difficult review to write. It’s more difficult to give over a pastoral idea like farming than, say, sawing someone’s head off. I feel this says something about the video game industry as a whole, but I’m not entirely sure what. Still, with the ridiculous popularity of such games as Farmville, there has to be something to be said about growing the grains or sowing the wild oats (Ed: Stop it).
So, Farming Simulator 2013—currently available only for PC and PS Vita, but soon for Xbox360, PS3, and 3DS—is a game that tasks you with expanding your plot of farmland by tilling the soil, sowing a number of grains, and harvesting and selling the grains in the local market. You can also raise several kinds of farm animal from cows to chickens to sheep. You can use the money you get from your sales to either buy up new land, buy farm more animals, or buy new vehicles, more about which later.
I was quite surprised to find that the game is often presented in the first person view, especially when trudging around the farm. You slip into the third person when driving around, but this is more to allow you to see what’s going on behind your vehicle as you go about the farming life. Since the game seems less about livestock farming and more grain farming, you’ll find few domestic animals around the homestead. There are cows and chickens, but not many of the other types of farmed animals. The livestock you do have allow you to perform animal husbandry, but I’ve yet to figure that part out.
So let’s get to the fun part of the game: the vehicles. I’m not big into farming vehicles, but this game takes the vehicles seriously, in the same way that motorsport games take their vehicles seriously. By default, some of the biggest name-branded farming contraptions are here: Krone, Deutz-Fahr, Lamborghini (Ed: Seriously?), Kuhn, Maxtron, and so forth. If these names mean nothing to you, you’ll be thoroughly familiar with them all by the time you’re done with this game. If that’s not enough for you, there are a hefty number of mod packs for the PC version, adding even more vehicles to the game. Farming Simulator 2013 allows you to grapple with just about every contraption you’ll need to run a successful farm, from tractors, combines, tillers, harvesters, balers, and so forth. It’s actually dizzying just how much there is here.
Obviously, crops take a while to grow, and you can’t feed cows, sheep, and chickens in perpetuity, so in the meantime—as a way of making money—you can also run errands for the townsfolk. The errands tend to be along the lines of “fetch this, carry it here” and so on. Funnily enough, there is no consequence for NOT performing the errand, beyond not getting the money for it. In fact, there’s no real lose condition to the game, either. You can happily let the crops live or die, and then just take a loan out to get more crops should you want. The main object of the game is to amass as many stonking piles of cash as you can.
Despite the attention to landscape and vehicular detail, there’s one aspect of the game that is so wonky it goes around the “breaks the game” circle to actually making it more entertaining than you’d ever suspect: physics. Saying that the vehicle physics are “wonky” is also like saying Hitler was a little naughty. We’re talking the kind of physics here that will—quite literally—allow you to send a tractor into the atmosphere. Or let a collection of trucks breakdance. I’m not even joking. Watching this video for the most brilliantly entertaining truck and tractor breakdancing you’ll ever see.
Anyhow, back to the serious stuff. The game features a multiplayer segment, where up to ten other players can join together on a farm and help out with the crops and livestock. The only person to benefit is the person whose farm it is, but here’s where you learn a very important lesson about this game: it’s got one of the friendliest communities out there. No one does stuff because of any personal gain, but because they just want to, and for the love of farming. In a game this pastoral, it’s difficult to be a griefer.
I’m not sure how to rate this game, in the end. It’s absolutely not for everyone, and the learning curve is crazy-steep, even with the tutorials. In fact, the best way to learn about the game is to get involved in the community precisely because they’re so friendly. The kinds of people who play Sim City and similar games will find something to their liking here. It’s definitely the kind of game that everyone should at least try the demo of, just to get an idea. In fact, while the strange game physics and horrendous difficulty curve will obviously lower its score, there fact that there’s a kind of self-satisfaction in growing crops pushes it back above “average”. That and the really friendly community.
Final Score: 6.5 cotton-pickin’ prawns out of 10
Developer: GIANTS Software
Distributor: Apex Interactive
Platforms: PC (reviewed, via Steam), PS3, Xbox360, PS Vita, 3DS