Welcome to This Is Not A Review. In these articles we discuss general impressions, ideas and thoughts on any given game, but as the title implies, it’s not a review. Instead, it’s an exercise in offering a quick recommendation (or dismissal) after spending enough time to grasp the ideas and gameplay of a thing without necessarily playing it from A to Z.
The subject of this installment: Farming Simulator 17, developed Giants Software and published by Focus Home Interactive.
I don’t usually go for games that are grindy or too self-directed… You know, titles that offer a lot of repetitive actions without any real goal, or just arbitrary DIY ones.
For example, Minecraft is a huge thing, but it never really clicked. It felt like a lot of work without any real endpoint. Although it was fine in short bursts of LEGO-fueled creativity, I just didn’t see the appeal… At least, I didn’t see it until I hit a really stressful point in my life. At that point, Minecraft became a great escape.
I bring this up because, like for so many other people, the recent climate in the United States has been anything but peaceful… I’ve had a great deal of politically-induced stress that I wish wasn’t there, so it’s somewhat ironic that Farming Simulator 17 came across my desk at just the right time. The game probably wouldn’t have kept my attention for more than a few minutes under normal circumstances, but with so much in the real world that I needed to get away from for a few minutes, it became something of a mental refuge like Minecraft was.
Well, for a little while, anyway…
I don’t know anything at all about farming apart from putting seeds in the ground and giving them some water and sun, but the intro and tutorial started off simple enough — just follow the directions, drive a tractor, and go from field to field.
Much like the way it was with building in Minecraft, I found a quiet sort of peace steering my tractor up and down a patch of land, leaving nice, neatly-spaced rows behind me. It was soothing. I put a little more time into it and I was starting to appreciate its low-impact nature… No pressure, no guns, no quick reflexes needed. It was almost like grain-based meditation.
…And then the helpful hints fell away and dropped me into the deep end, and Farming Simulator 17 is nothing if not deep.
Once in the game proper, I went from rolling over a few small fields to having more options than I knew what to do with. The local tractor store left me clueless, a giant spreadsheet showed me a wall of data that I had no context for, and I hadn’t any notion of which crop to plant, or how to plant it. And wait, what’s this about a bank loan? And interest? And… depreciation?
My nice, peaceful experience turned into drowning under too much data and ironically, not having enough – both at the same time. So long, peaceful, meditative escape…
I would guess that people who know about farming or who’ve played this series before would have no trouble jumping right in, but as someone who was absolutely new and had no previous knowledge to work from, I was sorely lacking in direction and crying out for more handholding and step-by-step instruction.
Unfortunately, Farming Simulator 17 doesn’t have much in the way of structured content, and because of this, it ended up losing me. Perhaps I’m not the person it’s aimed at since I didn’t want to put in the effort required to figure out all of its systems, but for a few brief moments, I did find some joy in working the land.
If the developers ever decide to put in a lengthier tutorial with clearer, more instructive tips about the game as a whole or maybe develop a mode that can accommodate people who don’t know a damn thing about farming (but who might be willing to learn) I’d be happy to revisit these fields someday.
Currently, he's got about 42 minutes a night to play because adulting is a timesuck, but despite that, he's a happily married guy with two kids who both have better K/D ratios than he does.
Brad still loves Transformers, he's on Marvel Puzzle Quest when nobody at the office is looking, and his favorite game of all time is the first Mass Effect -- and he thought the trilogy's ending was Just Fine, Thanks.
Follow Brad on Twitter at @BradGallaway