Farming Simulator 19 Review
Release Date: November 20, 2018
Publisher/Developer: Focus Home Interactive/Giants Software
Platform: PC, PlayStation 4 (reviewed), Xbox One
I've been the resident Gamers Lounge Farming Simulator reviewer for a few years now, despite not really knowing much farming on my own. The series is detailed enough to be a mini lesson on what to do and how to do it, albeit sped up for a bit more of a video game feel. Much like an annual release sports title, Farming Simulator's annual release adds a hearty helping of "more" to the plate, adding even more official brands to the "Gran Turismo" level of agricultural machinery available. John Deere finally joins the party this year. You can also tour the world on horseback, a first in the series.
The graphics engine was completely redone for FS19, and I personally can tell. Environments are a lot more richly detailed, crops look less static, and overall the world seems realer. I often felt "in a box" in previous editions, with a convenient mountain range circling the world. FS19 feels a lot more natural, though I will say I took a walk on the water like Jesus, heading out into a vast lake that's supposed to be on the edge of the world. Eventually I was teleported back home.
This is an issue I face with the game as a whole though. It looks great but there's a lot of holes shown in the open world once you do anything that's not your job. Town is devoid of NPC's. Any other humans you see are driving one of a scant few variants of cars, or are the staff you hire to drive a piece of farm equipment. Running into a tree or wall bounces you off of it with no penalty like machine repair. It feels like a post-apocalyptic wasteland where you are desperately trying to feel normal by keeping your crops up. There are other farmers, but they don't tend their own fields. They put up jobs for hire that only you take. There are no other farm houses for them to live in. Your two nearest neighbors live in the exact same trailer house, with the exact same panel ripped out of the roof. Even a dude who comes out and waves at you when you drop off grain at the elevator would have been appreciated. As the graphics get prettier and more real, the stagnation of all other humanity is jarring.
Farming is hard work. You have to prep the soil, plant, tend, harvest, till, cycle, everything. For those who wish to work with livestock, there's a whole 'nother set of chores there. You can hire staff to plow, harvest, and the like, but the AI is limited. You can't tell someone to "go do a job" that I can find, it's more "start the job then hire a staff." Once I started a staff off at a slight angle from the rows of crops, and he took it literally, keeping straight rows in relation to my angle. This threw off his AI and he didn't know what to do to go around a tree. Another time, my harvester was full and the staff just stopped and sat in the equipment until I personally drove over with another trailer to off-load. Then they would keep merrily working while I would try to drive beside them to catch the load, which is difficult when the camera's locked on my tractor and not the trailer. To top it off, there is a fast travel, but it only really works on foot. With the AI only doing the jobs and leaving the vehicle where it stands when they're done, I felt hassled driving everything back to the farm at the end of the day. This further adds to my craving for a real-world attitude. There is online multiplayer for Farming Simulator, but solo players are going to have a slow time of even the most basic tasks.
Fans of previous editions of Farming Simulator are going to be giddy for this new release. Graphics are amazing, and much more beautiful than before. The lineup of equipment has blossomed to include bigger names like John Deere, a major catch. The farming is spot-on, with real-time hard work paying off with rich crops. Unfortunately, the holes show up when you try to do anything outside of what the game is about, with a desolate landscape and nobody to interact with. The realism makes me long for more. Even if there were (nonviolent) interactions the level of Grand Theft Auto 3, with a few pedestrians on the road and someone behind the counter at stores, it'd make a world of difference. If you buy Farming Simulator every single year, this year will not disappoint at all, but anyone looking for a taste should try one of the alternating year's handheld editions. As I've said before, I feel Farming Simulator works better in bite-sized chunks.
-New graphics engine really cleans up and looks real
-Big name additions like John Deere
-Real work, real success
-New crops, new livestock, horses
-Desolate world with nobody to interact with
-Hired AI could use some tweaking
-Quality of life features desperately needed: staff driving vehicles home, fast travel with vehicles
Special thanks to Focus Home Interactive and Giants Software for providing a copy for review!