I haven't always been a debonair urban sophisticate. I grew up armpit-deep in angry farmers, and if I know one thing, it's that angry farmers gonna farm angrily. So when they see this review, I'm expecting the liquid silage to hit the fan.
Farming Simulator has a long and unlikely heritage. When Phat Chopps' review of Farming Simulator 2009 hit Game Debate, it was instantly the most-read review of all time on the site. Since then every other year has seen another successful iteration, if you'll excuse the biennial flirtation with mobile.
But it's back! Here it is, on PC again, and good god is it awful. Now, I just need to mention that this is my first (and undoubtedly last) foray into the world of PC farming, but after re-reading Chopps' seminal review once more, it sounds like nothing has really changed. Essentially, you'll spend your time doing one of two things:
1) Driving a large, slow vehicle in stripes up and down a field
2) Looking at pages of complicated numbers and wondering why you're bothering
Here's how you make money. You farm fields. Up and down you go, whether you're planting seeds, or ploughing the land, or harvesting, or spraying all manner of revolting chemicals around the place. Up and down. Endlessly. There are occasional little missions you can do for other farmers, that basically require you to go up and down in some other poor schmuck's field (One in particular stands out, with its time limit of 45 minutes. That's real life time that could be spent doing something - anything - else). For a little break, there's a pulse-pounding egg-collecting sub-game where you walk around a chicken coop picking up randomly-deposited eggs.
I play a lot of games, you know? And really it always comes down to the question 'is there fun to be had here?'. Almost always, the answer is a qualified 'yes', then we can move on to 'how fun is it?' or 'what form does the fun take?'. But Farming Simulator falls over immediately. It's not fun.
If, somehow, you can enjoy driving up and down for literally hours on end, listening to the atrocious music and wondering at the unforgivably lazy 1999-era graphics, there is a business side to the game. But you're honestly going to have to spend many hours of stultifying dullness before this even manifests. Then there are all kinds of vehicles and machinery to buy ranging from chainsaws to combine harvesters. Playing with all of these new toys ought to be fun, but actually just offers new ways to go up and down a field. The actual models for the farm machinery itself are passable, making it sometimes look weird to see a nicely-rendered tractor driving around in a world that looks like a junior school computer studies project.
So, naturally, one loses focus and acts the goat. But even now there's little to enjoy. Making crop circles is just too much like hard work, and ragging your pickup around town running over pedestrians is frankly indicative of the lack of polish. Sure, there are other vehicles on the road - very occasionally - and other people wandering around. But a head-on collision in your truck has no effect, and you can literally drive through pedestrians with no collision recognition of any sort. It's not that I expect them to make it GTA, but why even have other cars on the road? It's just very lazy. Wherever corners can be cut, it seems they have been. You'd think doing the same game year in, year out, they'd have the basics down by now. You can merge your vehicles with the scenery if you're unlucky, forcing a reload of an earlier saved game. Moving objects (which is utterly pointless but still a feature in the game) is awkward and uncomfortable. AI hiring is comically bad. I hired a bloke to finish ploughing my field because if I had to do another second I would have clawed out my eyes, and when I returned the field had been finished perfectly for about 2/3 of the way, then given a bad haircut and the tractor abandoned on a nearby hillside. Good work there, boy.
So why is it a huge success? I have no clue, and can only share my own experiences. I love the countryside, and being out in the fields, but Farming Simulator 2017 offers little in the way of graphical beauty to make it feel real. Everything is a chore, from the loading screen onward. The tutorial is confused and has such a painfully bare attempt at personality it makes you wonder if it was written by a crude artificial intelligence experiment. Buying and selling your goods are poorly explained, then when you get the hang of it, offer no real choices beyond continuing, drone-like, repeating the same dull tasks for the rest of time.
There are plenty of places where the success of the previous titles could have lent the financial security necessary for this version to feel some polish, but there's none. And the price! If this was a $4.99 Excalibur title, I suppose I could forgive them, and just shrug it off. But it's a full-price title! Every moment I was chained to this game was misery, and I wouldn't play it again if they paid me the money instead of the other way around.