Farming Simulator - Nintendo Switch Edition

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch
Genre: Simulation
Publisher: Focus Entertainment
Developer: Giants Software
Release Date: Nov. 7, 2017

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Switch Review - 'Farming Simulator - Nintendo Switch Edition'

by Andreas Salmen on Dec. 11, 2017 @ 1:30 a.m. PST

Farming Simulator - Nintendo Switch Edition gives players a complete farming experience both at home and on the move!

Having been in the video game field for more than a decade, few things confuse me, but one thing that baffles me has been the extensive interest in games like the Farming Simulator series. The games are exceptionally successful in Germany, but I've never taken a thorough look at them, even though I am German. On the other hand, I have always been charmed by the light organizational aspect of farming games like Harvest Moon and Stardew Valley. The Farming Simulator Nintendo Switch Edition could be the next logical step for me to get some digital farming action. I ended up grasping the basic appeal of the Farming Simulator series, but the experience was not without its hiccups.

Farming Simulator Nintendo Switch Edition is a direct port of Farming Simulator 2017, which has already been released on PC, PS4 and Xbox One. It is feature-complete, except for mod support. Fans of the series have likely already picked up this decent port. This review is mostly for people like me, who wondered whether Farming Simulator could have more mainstream appeal.

After being greeted by an intro that shows several farming machines tearing through fields of crops, we jump right into the campaign. We choose a male or female farmer, which doesn't make much of a difference since we seldom see our character model in-game, and we're placed on our pre-purchased farm that has barns, basic equipment, and some fields. Depending on the difficulty level, we start with different levels of debt and are subjected to different economic conditions when growing and selling crops.

Farming Simulator's primary focus is on authentically replicated farming machines, and that can be overwhelming in the beginning. Thankfully, our fields are ready to be harvested from the get-go, and we get some basic tutorials on how to control our mechanical harvest monsters. Basic controls like brake/reverse and moving forward are controlled by ZL/ZR, while the L/R buttons are modifiers to access specific functionalities of the machine and its attachments. The game provides a constant — and modifiable — on-screen overlay that tells us the available actions to ease us into the subject matter. Within a short amount of time, we understand which machines to use and how to use them.

However, using the machines to plow the fields takes time. After the novelty of new controls wears off, the title boils down to continuously driving across vast fields. For most gamers, this may be a negative point. However, it's in those situations where I understood why so many people enjoy this series. It is surprisingly relaxing to crank up some country music and harvest some crops. If that's too tedious for you, the game has you covered.

While working on the fields, you can hire a worker for a small fee to finish the task at hand. Unfortunately, the NPCs aren't brilliant. As soon as an object (like a car) blocks their predetermined path, they are unable to move. There were plenty of situations where a vehicle parked too close to a field caused a hired worker to be unable to drive around it.

The world of our farm is an open space where we can freely move around, and there are two maps to choose from. We're surrounded by other farms, railroad tracks and a small city. It is within this self-contained ecosystem that we try to establish our farm and earn some serious coin. Produce can be sold to resellers with varying prices, so comparing prices and trying to generate the best product is the key to success. Most of this occurs on your field. There are different crops that can be raised under various conditions, and some require specific tools or machinery. Every machine and tool is a detailed replica regarding usage, exterior and interior design. While some devices are interchangeable in usability, but others make working on the farm more comfortable — if players are willing to spend more money.

As long as we tend to the fields and try to maximize our yield by cultivating, fertilizing and harvesting our crops, Farming Simulator works best. With various machinery working together and creating a workflow, the game is fun. Just like similar titles, it keeps you occupied if you play to its strengths, which is tending to animals and fields and being as cost-effective as possible. That may mean planting and destroy some oilseed radish on the field so it can be used as fertilizer for the next planted seed or using manure from the animals to fertilize the fields. You may also decide to bundle leftover straw from your wheat harvest to create hay bales for extra money on the side or deforest some trees to sell.

As long as you stay on the farm and tend to your duties, Farming Simulator is an enjoyable game if you're into relaxing but occupied gameplay. This also gets repetitive at some point, but it's the most fun you'll get out of Farming Simulator Nintendo Switch Edition, especially if you're into heavy farm machinery. It's when you leave the farm and venture into the world where the concept doesn't hold up too well, no matter how you look at it.

It is commendable that the developers have created an open world for our farm, as it would make sense to simulate a real world. However, apart from the stuff that occurs on the farm, the rest of the game feels very disconnected. The vehicle handling feels way too sensitive, and most machines can turn on a dime. They're also invincible, so careless driving is a neglectable factor. It would've been nice to have the simulation aspect extend to the life aspect of the game instead of being confined to the farming concept. We can jump in circles while attached to a trailer full of produce and not damage or lose a gram of it. We can drive into water, and our vehicles are conveniently reset at the local store.

The whole world is lifeless. There's hardly any traffic or people, and interactions are minimal. We can interact at drop-off points for produce, a shop and bank menu, and contact points at fields to buy or complete missions. The missions usually mean helping another farmer tend to their fields by fertilizing, harvesting, or doing other odd jobs. It's the core gameplay, but without us having to worry about anything. It can be a welcome filler for downtime between harvests, especially at the beginning of the game. Unfortunately, it breaks the experience a bit because we usually get incredibly overpaid for our services. We earn more money from helping other farmers than tending to our fields. The best way to maximize money is to let cheap workers do the jobs on your farm while strolling over to the neighbor and tend their fields for incredible amounts of money. This doesn't change depending on the difficulty, either.

In the missions, the portability of the Switch is incredibly handy. The missions are time-based and end when you run out of time or finish the task. Unfortunately, the game doesn't allow you to save or quit while on a mission without losing its progress. It's not a biggie — until you are faced with tending to a massive field with a timer of a whopping 215 minutes. The only saving grace is the ability to put the Nintendo Switch into sleep mode and to carry it around to break down the task into a few minutes here and there. I know the question will arise — yes, I have started and completed the mission within 90 minutes. It was an inordinately long amount of time — but it paid off all my bank debts.

Repetition is apparent. It's a nice retreat in small dosages, but there is too much "replicating" and not enough simulation in the title. Our farmer doesn't need to eat or sleep, has no emotional connections, and can't interact with anyone. That is a missed opportunity because the core gameplay isn't bad. Admittedly, it's a niche game, but it can appeal to a variety of people.

On the technical side, everything is OK. We're not talking about a pretty game, but it doesn't look terrible. The machinery is obviously detailed and got the most love, but the rest, especially the environments, are on the bland side. Technically, the game holds up reasonably well, both in handheld and in docked mode. Assets look low-res, and the draw distance is very low, which causes heavy pop-in and horrible textures in the distance. It never interferes with the core gameplay, but it would've gone a long way to make the world feel alive.

All in all, Farming Simulator Nintendo Switch Edition kind of achieves what it promises: a smaller Farming Simulator that borders on machinery porn. It's not overly exciting, but it doesn't have to be. It has good moments, and the portable nature of the Switch makes it easy to drop in and out at any given time. Technically, it's underwhelming, and the world is cold, empty and feels too disconnected to engage the player. When repetitiveness sets in, only hardcore fans and enthusiasts can look past it and still enjoy the game. The core experience is fun enough that I'm reasonably surprised. If developer Giants Software can expand on the idea, I'm certain the Farming Simulator series will gain even more traction in the coming years.

Score: 6.0/10

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