As someone who lives in rural Pennsylvania, I’m very accustomed to farming. In fact, as I type this I’m looking out my window at a barn. I’ve always found farming interesting, but there is a reason why I write about video games instead of sowing fields. Farming is boring.
That’s why it might be surprising to see that Farming Simulator has been a very successful series for Swiss developer Giants Software. As a fan of other simulation titles, ranging from railroads to sports, I was looking forward to finding out what players enjoy from the series. Sadly, I didn’t.
As someone who grew up around farms, I can at the very least vouch for the authenticity of Farming Simulator 16‘s gameplay. Players will need to cultivate fields, sow seeds into the ground, and then wait for vegetables to grow so they can be harvested. It’s a pretty simple three-step process, but unless you have experience on a farm (or look at the digital manual) you’d have no clue about it.
Somehow Farming Simulator 16 doesn’t have a solid tutorial to teach players how to play. This is absolutely baffling, as every good simulation teaches players the game’s mechanics. Thankfully, as said above, the game is relatively simple, so some simple trial and error should teach players what to do.
And that’s pretty much the game. You sell the vegetables and plants that you harvest for money, which you then invest in other fields and machinery. Players can use the new machinery to do some more advanced work, such as forestry, but the game never requires you to do anything other than the simple three-step process to succeed.
Other than fields there are also grassland that you can manage. It’s basically the same exact process as the fields, but with mowing, using a tedder to make hay and then bailing it. The hay can then be given to different animals, such as cows, that will produce milk that can be sold. It’s the same exact process, just dressed up in a different way.
Occasionally, about every 5-10 minutes, the game will present players with a specific challenge. These are usually as simple as providing a specific type of product in a limited time frame or picking up some cargo, but they are a much needed change of pace. In previous games, players were able to turn up (or down) the frequency of these requests, but no such option is in the Vita version.
While it isn’t fully featured, the Vita version does play pretty well. Players can hire workers to control vehicles with a simple press of the down button, and a streamlined touch interface allows farmers to purchase machinery with ease. Driving vehicles feels solid, and they go at an appropriate, but annoyingly slow pace. If you’ve ever dreamt of driving 10 miles-per-hour down a road with a car honking behind you, then this is the game for you.
Despite a decent base, Farming Simulator 16 has a major a flaw. Players have no option to adjust the game’s simulation speed. This makes the beginning of the game, where you start off with only three fields, extremely boring. I was forced to sit my Vita down, and wait several minutes for what to grow, as there was nothing else for me to do.
While you’ll eventually purchase so many fields to where you won’t be bored, it doesn’t make up for the fact that it’s missing a core simulation mechanic. Almost every simulation game has options to fast forward and slow down time. Without it, you can’t advance quickly or successfully micromanage.
The other problem with Farming Simulator 16 is that it just isn’t very fun. It’s a very simple simulation, as you’ll just repeatedly do the same three-step process with every field. Despite having a designated honk button, there just isn’t enough depth to virtual farming for it to capture the player’s imagination for hours on end.
It also doesn’t help that Farming Simulator 16 is an ugly game. In fact, it wouldn’t be a good looking game on the PSP, let alone the PlayStation Vita. Textures are of a low quality, the draw distance is hilariously bad, and you are forced to stare at watching ugly crops grow for hours on end.
Farming Simulator 16 accomplishes its goal of allowing you to manage a virtual farm, pretty well. But it sadly falls apart as a game due to the lack of options, as the Vita version is severely limited to console versions. It isn’t quite as boring as watching paint dry, but it will only hold your attention for as long as you want to watch grass grow.
Review code for Farming Simulator 16 provided by publisher. Reviewed on PlayStation Vita. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here