30 hours. I pumped 30 god damn hours into this game. I could barely take 30 seconds, let alone 30 hours, so why was I so compelled to keep going? What foul eldritch horror convinced me to keep farming when I knew damn well that I hated every second of it? I’m still struggling to find the answer myself, but I think it has something to do with a variant of Stockholm syndrome involving barley and chickens. I say this because for as often as I leaned back in my chair questioning what I was doing, I could have sworn I felt a semblance of enjoyment. I shudder at the thought.
My first half hour with the game was spent learning how to farm with Skrillex playing in the background. I should have stopped right there, given up on doing a review and married that imaginary girl my imaginary friend keeps trying to set me up with. To call the game ‘laborious and dull’ would be as much of an understatement as ‘Aliens was a cool film’. In order to harvest grain (like wheat or barley), you first need to cultivate the field, sow the seeds, wait, wait some more, wait a little longer, and then harvest the crop. This process would be more enjoyable if the cultivating, sowing and harvesting didn’t involve waiting, but such is the way of farming.
After gaining a tenuous grasp of the farming process, I waited a day before jumping into career mode with a sense of optimism rivalling the Tiananmen Square Tank Man. After being prompted to insert the disc to play the game (at which point I screamed, “WHAT F#*KING YEAR IS THIS!?” rather loudly), I started cultivating and sowing and harvesting and cultivating and sowing and harvesting and cultivating and sowing and wondering what the hell the point of any of this was. Each task involved me lining up my tractor, driving across the field and waiting for it to reach the other end, so all I seemed to be doing was waiting before I could wait again. On top of that, maintaining control of my tractor over the apparently frictionless ground made turning to line up a task in of itself. Riveting gameplay, this was not.
After a few rounds of this, I started hiring automated workers to do these mind-numbing tasks for me… Which meant waiting even longer. The workers are not programmed to be efficient; they’re just there to do the job you don’t want to do. While I could leave the workers be and focus on other things, they took their sweet time to do anything and milk me of my hard earned cash. On top of that, if they got stuck on, say, a tree, I’d have to come and help them before they would continue. Still, I had a bit more time to soak in the horrifically ugly landscape as my workers grinded away.
Farming Sim 15 is not a beautiful game by any means, but there are some things that look okay. From a distance, the vehicles and tools you use look okay. Not great, but okay. Everything else looks like a gastrointestinal dysfunction met with a cyst and had a baby, but the vehicles and tools look okay! The UI is pretty clean too, assuming you’re playing at a high enough resolution. If you go too low, the UI scales down and becomes an impossible to read, pixelated mess, but hopefully we’ve all evolved beyond 1280×720 screens. The reason this is important is because once you start exploiting workers, the game becomes a background activity.
Maybe about 5-10 hours in, I had changed a few settings in the game to make everything happen faster, but that didn’t mean the game was fast by any metric. I had turned off plant withering and hastened the growth rate of my crops, and this wasn’t cheating since you could slow down time in-game anyway. I was simply making the game less frustrating than Cube Zero, and the mere fact I mention that film should be indicative of how enjoyable this game was. Of course, this also meant I was free to do other stuff while my workers did their collective thing. So, I watched a couple YouTube videos on quantum physics, ate some chocolate, anything that didn’t involve farming. I was comfortably making a profit while paying little to no attention to the game itself, and then something clicked.
At about 15-20 hours in, I found a way to break the economy system in the game. Due to it’s simplicity (if you sell wheat, the price of wheat goes down, other stuff might go up), I could wait for a demand for a certain fruit type before selling it at a disgustingly high price. Suddenly, the game had a bit more variety beyond the mundanity of making crops. It was still atrociously dull, but I had more motivation to play. After this revelation, I started to appreciate a number of design decisions made by the devs.
As boring as the game was, there were things I could do that really added a lot to the game. One of the biggest was the ability to join or make entirely new fields using a plow. This meant I could join smaller fields into a superfield and set my workers onto it for a solid half hour without needing to shift them between each field, making the whole process less tedious and more efficient. I still had to shift tractors and tools around to other fields manually, but I could appreciate the allowance nonetheless. The game is also very moddable and a crash course to do so is available from the Giants Software store! Despite these glimmering gems, the game was still skull crushingly dull.
Everything between the 20-30 hour mark is a bit of a blur to me, probably because I wasn’t conscious in the normal sense. I had become accustomed to the boredom, and my only respite was seeing my money count rise. I’m not sure I got enjoyment or satisfaction out of it, but I was playing it with enough vigour to put Stephen Colbert to shame. The repetition coupled with a sense that I wasn’t getting anywhere led me down the road of learned helplessness, but it wasn’t all bad. I felt productive in what I was doing, even if it was a tedious chore, which it most certainly was.
30 god damn hours. It played more like a farming arcade simulator than a true simulation, and it’s core gameplay consisted primarily of waiting, but there was something enjoyable buried deep within it. I look back on it now and wonder how I got through it, but I suppose there were a few redeeming qualities. They weren’t enough for me to recommend this game to anyone you hold dear or respect enough not to threaten their lives with boredom and self-loathing, but it’s not a complete mess either. It’s certainly playable; there’s a modicum of satisfaction to be found, but so little of it is enjoyable that I can’t fathom any reason to recommend it beyond the fact that it exists. Only buy it if you reeeeeeeaally like farming.
Disclaimer: This review was based on the PC version of the game, and was provided to the writer by the publisher for the purpose of review.