I remember back when I was a kid, walking out onto the porch of my grandparents’ farm at the end of a long summer’s day, to find my grandfather quietly snoring in his hammock. He had spent the majority of the day out in the fields, so his exhaustion was completely justified. I, being a wee little scamp, immediately pounced into his lap and asked what he was doing. He groggily responded back, “I’m just sitting here, listening to the corn grow.” Regardless of the fact that he was obviously full of shit, that was still something that stuck with me. I guess that is why, to this very day, I get excited about the proposition of diving into a new installment of Farming Simulator. Because, what better way to listen to maize gestate than in glorious surround sound?
If you’ve ever wanted to learn just how tedious working on a farm can be, then Farming Simulator 19 must leave you breathless with anticipation. It seems like developer Giants Software are getting to the point where if they let it get any more realistic, it may stop being fun. While that may sound like a criticism, it might as well be considered a compliment of the highest order for a sim of this nature. While I would never go as far as to call it “Watching Paint Dry Simulator,” there will be plenty that may find it that off-putting. However, once you get into the nitty-gritty of working the land, the time just melts away.
The first huge improvement is instantly obvious the moment you start the game. The visual fidelity takes a serious leap in the production values department. Previously static textures now have nuance, fields consist of individual stalks of crops, and the lighting effects (especially around sunrise and sunset) are just outstanding. Nowhere is this more apparent than when you are harvesting crops. Each shoot of corn or sunflower bends and moves in a seemingly non-canned manner. Given how terrible this has tended to look in previous installments, I was genuinely impressed by how far things had advanced in such a short amount of time.
One of the other farm lessons ingrained in me from an early age was that, “nothing runs like a Deere.” That comfortingly familiar dark green fleet of machinery were damn near the only variety of equipment that populated my Grandfather’s sheds. Farming Simulator 19 finally adds the storied brand of John Deere to the already deep well of licensed implement brands, which already included the likes of Massey Ferguson, Case, and New Holland. While those are more North American centric brands, there’s also plenty of international representation as well, such as Deutz-Fahr and Valtra. In all, over 100 brands are accounted for, boasting an impressive 300 total vehicles. And while you are most likely not going to be seeing Gran Turismo or Forza levels of details on the vehicular models, the level of depth is extensive enough to be able to tell a distinguishable difference.
Another area that has seen a decent amount of attention this year is the traversal. Especially when you are taking care of livestock, trying to hoof it from point-to-point could be a tedious task given the size of the map. Now players have the option to saddle up and take the newly introduced horses on a ride. It may not be as efficient as hoping in the truck, but it’s a whole lot more economical. Keeping all of the animals cared for can also prove to be a decent time suck, for those looking to get away from the seat of a tractor. While I was never really a fan of the finer points of animal husbandry, there finally seems to be enough depth to make the game entertaining if you opted to exclusively operate as a livestock (both cattle and otherwise) rancher.
Learning the Basics
An area where the game has always had its issues is the general lack of direction that it provides. This problem exists at two levels, both when catering to the new player and attempting to keep them interested in the mundane moment-to-moment gameplay. Sadly, this tends to feel like a perennial complaint about the series, that hasn’t ever been dealt with effectively. There’s a handful of very rudimentary tutorials at the outset, which explain at a very high level how controlling equipment works. However, a vast majority of the game’s admittedly nuanced simulation mechanics are locked away in the pause menu and consist of pages-upon-pages of dryly-written information dumps.
And while data dumps are far from the biggest issue, I still find myself wondering why I like this series so much. As far as objectives are concerned, they are damn near non-existent. In the past they introduced the ability to take on single task contracts for the locals such as planting or harvesting, but there is little true pay-off unless you are only searching for more digital dollars. If you’re solely trying to subsist off of your own farm, it will be a slow slog initially. It almost feels like the player is expected to take on contracts constantly, because I found the daily tasks around the farm (at least the crop-centric tasks) could be quickly wrapped up by the early afternoon. To their credit, however, the mission structure has finally been expanded to include multiplayer as well. So, if you and up to 15 other friends wanted to cooperatively tackle a job, that option is absolutely at your disposal.
While the series had previously looked to be stuck in a graphical stasis since early PS3 era, they’ve finally decided to make the conscious choice to take a visual step in the right direction. As is the case with most of the series’ advancements, there is nothing here that is going to be revolutionary by any stretch of the imagination. Everything just feels like the next logical step in the evolution of an already established franchise. There is nothing particularly wrong with that. Without it being explicitly stated, it almost feels as if the mandate was to change enough to make it feel fresh, while avoiding the need to reinvent the wheel.
If you’re new to the agricultural world, Farming Simulator 19 would be a solid place to cut your teeth. Just be prepared to throw out your first farm, while you attempt to figure out all of the intermingling systems at play. Fortunately, if this isn’t your first rodeo, there isn’t enough that’s changed to make this transitional release off-putting. This is a case where more of the same is more than enough, as long as you are okay with self-directed entertainment. Your acreage may vary.
Farming Simulator 19 review code provided by publisher. Version 1.0 reviewed on a standard PlayStation 4. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy here.