Farming Simulator 19 Review: Country Roads, Take Me Home
I remember a time when my dad would tell me to stop playing video games and go outside. Well, the joke's on him because Farming Simulator 19 brings all the great outdoors right to your couch, letting you run the agricultural complex of your dreams.
It has it all: crops, animals... I guess that's really about it. However, it's a surprisingly deep game that has a lot to offer fans of simulation and management games, and it's a wholly unique title that probably isn't like many games in your library.
Despite Farming Simulator being a long-running series, Farming Simulator 19 was my first time climbing behind the wheel of a digital tractor. I put together the most blinged out farmer I could -- leather vest and all -- to hit the fields.
So, is Farming Simulator 19 worth your time and cash? Let's dig in.
Gardening for Dummies
One thing that struck me almost immediately was how intuitive everything seemed to be in Farming Simulator 19. Loading up the tutorials made it all seem so streamlined: hop in your tractor, hook up whatever machine you need for the field, and get to farming.
Fields follow a fairly predictable pattern, and anyone can quickly learn how to take care of plants and get them growing quickly. Ready for the big time, I started up my very own farm.
How quickly I was lost in the weeds.
Strip away the tutorial, and you suddenly have a billion choices to make. What brand of tractor do I want to buy? How big of a cultivator do I need? Where do I find fertilizer in the mess of menus? Should I buy the frontloader attachment? Where do I get a vehicle with a forklift?
It's daunting when the world of Farming Simulator 19 just lets you loose because you can literally run a farm however you want.
The systems can be a bit obtuse - for example, the different types of equipment you can buy are laid out in a bizarre, seemingly random order. Instead of having categories listed alphabetically, you have to hunt and peck until you find the items you need.
After a few restarts, however, the systems all start to come together and you find yourself feeling like a pro. I was surprised how quickly the game becomes accessible; on medium difficulty, things are pretty forgiving and money is never too hard to come by.
The Beauty of Nature
Another striking aspect of Farming Simulator 19 is just how good everything looks.
This year's version features a much-ballyhooed total revamping of the graphics engine, and it is actually fairly impressive. There are tons of little details that add to immersion and help make everything look the way it should, though there are still some limitations. If you get close to objects and start inspecting them, you can still tell that there is not a huge, AAA budget allotted for the graphics.
The little details, coupled with the obvious visual cues of which areas of your fields have been worked, make the new graphics engine a big win for the Farming Simulator 19. Like many of our favorite simulator games, it's easy to just get lost in what you are doing, admiring the sights and feeling a sense of accomplishment when you perfectly cultivate straight lines into the soil of your brand new wheat field.
Four Legs Good, Two Legs Bad
If tending to crops isn't your jam, there are plenty of options available to raise animals as well. Cows, chickens, sheep, and pigs all return in Farming Simulator 19, and you can tend to and breed these animals to make huge amounts of money. New to the series are horses, which come with all manner of extra options and abilities. Horses are a lot of work, but they add an entirely new layer to the game and are practically their own game.
Unlike almost every task in Farming Simulator 19, you cannot hire a helper to train horses for you. They're all on you -- without training, they're essentially really expensive lawn ornaments. Spend time going out onto your land and training them every day, however, and your horses will quickly level up, gaining stars, value, and abilities. Why would you drive your truck around town when you could saddle up on Bucaphalus and gallop around instead?
Raising livestock is an entirely viable way to succeed in Farming Simulator 19, and it offers a nice form of respite from the constant "driving back and forth in straight lines" that the crop portion of the game offers. Like much in the game, it takes a bit of experimentation to figure out how to make everything work but if you combine the two styles of play, you'll have a smooth operation running in no time.
Darn Hard Work
There are a lot of positives to take away from Farming Simulator 19, but this is definitely not a game for everyone. It can be a bit obtuse, and it doesn't offer much in the way of distractions from the farming elements.
In other words, this is not Stardew Valley. You aren't romancing your neighbors, traipsing through mines fighting monsters, or building more crab baskets. Instead, you are trying to save up just a little bit more money so you can add an engine upgrade to your John Deere tractor. You'll then be able to farm your fields even faster and finally be able to pull the massive fertilizer attachment you've had your eye on.
This is a game for stat geeks, people who want to build a fleet of tractors, line them all up in their garage, and feel a sense of pride and personal accomplishment for putting it all together.
There aren't a ton of "goals" in the game; Farming Simulator 19 is not really something you win. Successes are only what you deem as successes -- maybe a "win" is your first perfect harvest. Maybe it's putting together a cohesive operation on the hardest difficulty. Maybe it's buying every parcel of land in the entire game and just wandering through your farming empire, watching the money roll in.
It's not a game for everyone.
That said, this is THE game for some gamers.
The Fruits of Your Labor
There is a lot to like in Farming Simulator 19. It looks good, it feels good, and it manages to hit the sweet spot of simplifying a process but still making your efforts feel impactful when you get something accomplished.
It's not a game for those who demand constant action or concrete goals, but I was completely surprised with how hooked I was once I started to put everything together. When you get your operation running smoothly, using the leftovers of your harvest to tend to your animals, it triggered a wonderful sense of accomplishment that I did not expect this type of game to bring out in me.
If you know going into Farm Simulator 19 that you aren't going to get a realistic looking Stardew Valley, and you're still looking forward to it, then you really can't go wrong here. There are a few hiccups, but it's a pleasant and enjoyable experience overall.
Crank up the John Denver and hit the fields.
[Note: The developer provided a copy of Farming Simulator 19 for the purpose of this review.]