Growing up, I came from a family that was deeply rooted in the agriculture industry. My grandfather was a farmer for his entire adult life, and as such, brought all of his daughters (and later, grandkids) into the fold in one way or another. If you’d told me back when I was a game-fixated teen that I’d be obsessed with farming games twenty years later, I’d call you a liar. Yet here I am, stepping behind the wheel for another installment in the Giants Software popular plowing franchise. Can Farming Simulator 22 justify making the next-gen jump, or will it prove the adage true that it’s impossible to teach an old farm mutt, new tricks?
I hate to be a bummer right out of the gate, but Farming Simulator 22 doesn’t make a good first impression. After choosing from three different locations and difficulties, players are then taken to their new homestead and treated to a tutorial of sorts, if you could call it that. While there is an extremely remedial attempt at breaking players into the agricultural lifestyle, it doesn’t take much for the on-rails walkthrough to break down in numerous fantastical ways. By its nature, the entire map is wide open for exploration. All it takes is one step outside of the tutorial’s critical path, and the game begins to confuse itself.
The janky tutorial almost preemptively revealed one of the title’s biggest issues: terrible AI. I’m not going to say that the bot characters are useless, but I’ve seen marble statues that were just as, if not more, productive. At one point, I was instructed to assign an AI to finish harvesting a field. Either the braindead automaton’s pathfinding marooned them somewhere between here and Timbuktu, or they simply never showed up to finish the field. This meant tutorial prompts were prominently displayed onscreen until I went to bed for the night. After another attempt at restarting my campaign, I inadvertently clicked through the menu screens so fast that I completely missed the tutorial entirely.
Thank goodness I’d played the series before, otherwise, I would have been completely hosed in Farming Simulator 22. Mercifully, once you get past the janktastic first day of lackluster activities, things take a strong turn for the better. For those that are returning to the franchise, you’ll find that the experience and overall mechanics are fairly similar to prior iterations. That said, two primary features differentiated this outing from previous offerings: Seasons and Supply Chains.
Building for the Future
In prior years, you could just go around, planting seeds willy-nilly. These misplaced crops would eventually sprout, grow, and produce fruit. It didn’t matter when or where the plant took root, it would simply do its job and grow. Common sense, be damned! Thanks to the introduction of seasons (a feature only available via mods, previously), you now need to carefully consider the where and when of your cultivation. Plants will only be eligible for certain activities during specific windows on the calendar. Keep an eye on the clock, because proper care and sequencing now need to be at the forefront of every player’s subconscious.
For me, easily the biggest change in Farming Simulator 22 is the introduction of supply chains. Previously, once you had produced whatever your desired “end product” was, the items were then sold off, generating income. This meant you were selling raw grains, dairy, or meats for the most part. You can now generate further value by refining materials into other sellable goods. Imagine being able to build factories to take milk and produce various varieties of cheeses.
Much like the traditional market system found throughout the series, these refined goods also have an active supply and demand model, where their need and value can fluctuate throughout the calendar. It’s up to you to determine the most efficient way for manufacturing to operate and then fully staff the facility with even more dipshit AIs. This was an unanticipated level of micromanagement that I never expected to enjoy, yet somehow it proves to be tremendously gratifying once things are up and firing on all cylinders.
If you’re a stickler for realism and authenticity, look no further. Over 100 brands are represented across a collection of nearly 400 different varieties of farm implements. Most of the large-scale vehicles handle about as terribly as you’d expect, but is that a shock? It’s a harvester, not a damn four-wheeler. It’s meant to steer like you’re piloting a tugboat on dry land. While not a hard and fast rule, you can expect vehicles to control better, the smaller they appear on screen. And as someone who’s spent his fair share of time behind the wheel of a diesel behemoth, the experience mimics the experience far more effectively than you might expect.
While it doesn’t exactly go above and beyond to blow players away, visually, Farming Simulator 22 is absolutely a step forward as far as the presentation is concerned. Every tool and authentic piece of machinery appears to be immaculately recreated. The problem is that everything else looks to have received varying levels of attention over the most recent development cycle. Even worse yet, the range of visual detail starts at next-gen but descends to Vita levels of fidelity. Thankfully, as was alluded to earlier, it appears that attention was much better spent enhancing the depth of the experience, which it has done in spades.
The one aspect of the Farming Simulator franchise that has consistently been the hardest sell for me over the years has been the whole concept of using boredom as a game mechanic. This is a title that revels in the mundanity of the agricultural lifestyle and takes its goddamn time getting interesting. Especially for newcomers, the amount of time spent just doing your virtual chores can be extremely off-putting. It could be borderline impenetrable if you don’t understand or have any vested interest in the core mechanics.
If you’re looking for a chance to ”Zen-out” and relax while cultivating a field or two, then by all means. But in a world where free time for gaming seems to be increasingly more finite, it’s hard to shake the feeling that your time is somewhat being wasted. That said, for what it’s trying to accomplish, it does a great job of emphasizing the accuracy of the simulation. In fact, with the introduction of seasons and supply chains, they have essentially doubled down on trying to make the experience as authentic as possible.
If you’ve been chomping at the proverbial bit, in preparation for Farming Simulator 22, most likely you are going to be extremely pleased with this outing. It takes the more surface-level mechanics found in prior installments and then builds upon them immensely. While it certainly has its fair share of issues such as terrible AIs and tutorials, which hopefully can be improved through post-release patches, this new level of depth helps drive the franchise well into the PlayStation 5 era. Using this year as a foundation, I can’t wait to see where the series goes in the future.
Farming Simulator 22 review code provided by publisher. Reviewed on PS5. For more information, please read our Review Policy.