Review: Farming Simulator 15 (PS4)

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Platforms:

  • PlayStation 4
  • PlayStation 3

Extras:

  • Cross-Buy No
  • Cross-Save No
  • Cross-Play No
  • Cross-Chat No
Title: Farming Simulator 15
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (2.8 GB)
Release Date: May 19, 2015
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Developer: Giants Software
Original MSRP: $49.99 (US), €49.99 (EU), £44.99 (UK)
ESRB Rating: E
PEGI: 3
Farming Simulator 15 is also available on PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC, and Mac.
The PlayStation 4 download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

I can safely say that Farming Simulator 15 is the only simulation of a fully functional farm that I have ever played, either on a console or PC. I watched many trailers for this game as its release for the PlayStation 4 drew ever closer. At first I found it absurd and bizarre that a game of this ilk ever left the planning stages. Who would buy and enjoy a game like this I thought to myself, but as the trailers continued to come, my laughter slowly turned into intrigue and a desire to see if it could be any good.

Gameplay:
I quickly played through each tutorial that showed me how to use some of the basic farming equipment and then let me chop down a tree which sadly fell directly onto my tractor. After a quick reload of that particular tutorial I managed to chop it down, chop it up, and transport it to be sold in a rather efficient and timely manner. However my hubris quickly diminished with regard to this game. Any hopes at quickly excelling in running a farm with a bit of forestry on the side were feverishly dashed almost moments after loading up the first farm, as I did not have a clue of what I should be doing next.

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A floating question mark bubble was a few yards in front so I moved nearer, a pop-up informed me of more of these bubbles over the hill with explanations on how to play. However the amount of these hint bubbles were few and far between and the information they held were shockingly vague. I knew how to operate the machines but little else. I wandered around the farm looking for any signs of life, but there was none, it was just me and I felt massively out of my depth.

… it was going to be a beautiful day …
I hopped into a little tractor and made my way toward the closest village and then toward a pub with no name. Every building I stopped at wouldn’t let me in and the few people strolling about didn’t even acknowledge my existence. Maybe it was because I’m an outsider, not from around these parts. Whatever the reason was, I felt very alone and still out of my depth.

Time is money and I could see both on my on-screen display. As it got later in the day and darkness slowly crept across the quiet valley my money was slowly dwindling down, I couldn’t just aimlessly wander around anymore so I made my way back to the farm. I remembered some of my training from the tutorials and after many long (game) hours and some luck I had actually cultivated, sown, and began to grow three fields of different crops. I had worked long into the night and it was only just after morning had broken that I finally finished all that I could do.

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The clouds of uncertainty that were looming over the farm had floated away and it looked like it was going to be a beautiful day. I left my fields of wheat, barley, and corn to explore the area around my peaceful farm. I headed straight up the hill toward the pub with no name to see if it had opened. My tractor slowed as it climbed a winding dirt road and into its parking area. Several cars sat quietly in the morning sun but their owners were not to be seen. A notice board adorned the entrance to the car park and on it I found some missions I could accept, but was sadly ill-equipped to undertake. Mowing the field for a circus would have to wait.

… they forgot to think about its potentially wider audience …
I found my way to a farming supplies shop where I could buy and sell a massive range of equipment, everything you could possibly think of needing on a farm and even some you’d never expect. After browsing through almost every piece of machinery I stumbled onto the harvesting equipment, I saw my little harvester on sale with several others and their attachments for different types of crop. Then dread hit me. I don’t own that corn attachment for my harvester and have a truck load of corn almost ready. With not enough money to buy one I had to get creative and ended up selling two little tractors that I could just about manage without. If only someone had told me of the small fortune in crop I later found stored in my silos.

It seems like Giants Software became so caught up in crafting a spectacular farming simulation they forgot to think about its potentially wider audience. For example, it was only by luck that I scrolled across to the right in one menu where I then noticed a longer list of buyers and their prices. I often forget to press the Touchpad to swap between parts of the machinery I’m using at the time resulting in a few seconds of bewilderment as to why something isn’t working.

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Sparse descriptions on hints, store items, and menus will annoy many people in the early hours. Even the phones that only call an imaginary helpline don’t seem to offer enough information. It’s a shame as this game can be enjoyable once you get to grips with everything. Barring one or two complex control schemes and a bizarre two-button command to get the map to enlarge or decrease in size, Farming Simulator 15 is more fun than I expected. Especially when you eventually get your hands on the forestry equipment. To make your life easier you can hire a worker at any time to complete a task, it’s as simple as lining up tractor/harvester next to the field and pressing Circle to instantly let the worker do his job. You can take over at any time.

… earned enough to buy some industrial sized mowing attachments …
The things you and your hired help do occur in real-time, but waiting for a crop to grow or some bad weather to pass would drive people insane. To combat the boredom you can speed up the clock and watch the crops grow in a minute or two. The acceleration of time does not alter the speed of you, your machinery or the workers. Cruise control is a blessing and a feature that I almost overlooked, especially when you have a few hectares to manage every day. Many games pause the action when a controller disconnects, thankfully this is not the case here, so your hired help can continue on with their job whilst you have a quick go on Flame Over on the Vita, for example.

It wasn’t long before I had earned enough to buy some industrial sized mowing attachments, a hay baler, and transporter. I even grabbed a pressurised water-jet cleaner and had my tractors looking as good as new, for a while at least. I feel compelled to carry on playing, with plans to buy better and more efficient machinery or save a lot more and invest in some forestry equipment. I’ve spent an absurd amount of time increasing my crop reserves waiting for the occasional spike in demand just so I can make enough for a new tractor with the ability to attach some pallet forks. Then I could help out with some small tasks from the notice boards.

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Farming Simulator 15 isn’t a game in the traditional sense, there isn’t any ‘perfect crop’ or ‘outstanding straight line’ bonuses. You get very little help and have to learn many things on your own. The game doesn’t care if you sow seeds in phallic shapes or sell every bit of equipment and buy a car to aimlessly drive around the ghosts towns. That, I believe is my biggest concern with this game, it doesn’t care about you and doesn’t even pretend to. Yet I still feel a need to become the best farmer this game has ever seen, even if it will never appreciate or acknowledge it.

Visuals:
The graphical part of this game has moments of beauty that shine through a very clinical and technical simulation. NPC’s stroll around the indistinct towns as if they’re lost souls trapped in limbo, without any purpose or personality. You are unable to interact with them in any way and can drive straight through their bodies. Then there are the indestructible plain and very basic looking cars that drive around and no matter what I do to them, no one jumped out and had a fit of road rage against me.

… most will notice the detail drop-off point …
Up close the detail is impressive. Crops, grass, and leaves sway gently in the breeze. Tire tracks seem to stay for an impressively long time. Dirt slowly builds up on everything in use and can be washed away with rain or a jet cleaner. Time of day and fog effects are impressive unlike the rain which looks a little strange. Every single piece of equipment, their attachments, hay bales, even cut grass stays where you left it in this massive world.

Sadly the lights on the vehicles don’t stay on if you leave them or even swap to a hired hand. My pallet forks sometimes get caught on parts of invisible scenery. These are minor niggles that many probably won’t care about. However most will notice the detail drop-off point as shadows, crops, and a few others things pop into view to a noticeable degree. This jarring detail sphere surrounding the player is the only thing that really bothers me in the graphical department.

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Audio:
Cultivating the soil produces a satisfying tumbling soil and stone sound. The various bits of farming equipment and their attachments all sound as I would expect, not that I’ve heard how a baler should sound that is. There isn’t any music or speech during gameplay so it might be a good idea to turn on Spotify or get used to the voices in your head.

Online/Multiplayer:
You can either join or create a game. The former lets you pick from a list of active games and the latter allows you to choose out of an existing save or start a new game. You can set a password, opt to auto accept players, friends only, and even the amount of players allowed to join. Sadly it seems almost every game I’ve attempted to join either denies me access or is password protected. It would appear people are very protective over their farms, or just don’t like the look of my PSN ID?

… I also found the multiplayer to work better than I expected …
The few online games I did play were fine for the most part, rather enjoyable with no noticeable issues. There is voice chat but no one was talking (nothing new there). I could easily see Farming Simulator 15 as a great hangover or palate cleanser game. A group of friends chilling out, chatting, whilst going about their in-game agricultural duties. Just like the massive single player mode, the online multiplayer component has surpassed my expectations and added a very social layer to the very lonely and quiet campaign.

Conclusion:
I never thought I would play a game in which its sole purpose was to manage and work on a farm. Yet here I am, toiling away at around twenty-six hours of gameplay. Receiving a good payout for the crop that you worked so hard to grow and then harvest is very satisfying, as is buying better equipment to complete your tasks easier and much faster. That’s the carrot on the stick that’s lured me deep into this clinical simulation.

To some, Farming Simulator 15 will seem too daunting in the early hours. It requires your initiative and patience to gradually earn enough to progress. It’ll take a fair amount of time and money to buy the more expensive equipment, livestock, and eventually the very enjoyable forestry equipment. Not only did I find this game to be engrossing and enjoyable, even if you are just doing chores, but I also found the multiplayer to work better than I expected. I am hoping the next iteration has a little more personality and less of a clinical feel.

Editor’s Note: That clinical feel is a staple of the series so I wouldn’t hold my breath 😉

Score:
8.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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