The continuation of Giants Software's simulator series improves and expands on an already jam-packed experience.
Whether you have ever played a Farming Simulator game before, you probably know just how big of a following this series has. Developed by Giants Software, this series has an impressive amount of fans that often seems quite unusual for a simulation game, but there's a reason for that success: these games are usually very well made, with a huge amount of focus placed on the intricate details of the process of farming.
Last week, the latest instalment in this typically annual series launched, following a hiatus that saw Farming Simulator 21 skipped in favour of the developer focussing its efforts on Farming Simulator 22. Following over a week of mucking about in this simulated world, I have some thoughts about the continuation of the series, and how its improvements add to an already complex and packed experience.
Straight off the bat, I'd like to make it known that if you do not have a background or reasonable knowledge of the intricacies and expectations of farming, Farming Simulator 22 is quite a challenging title to pick up and play. Not challenging in the aspect of gameplay mechanics, but challenging in the sense of simply knowing what to do. There is a rudimentary tutorial that takes you through the basic systems and how to operate the machinery in your farm, but eventually it lets you loose in the world, and expects you to just crack on with it. For someone without a deep understanding of agricultural management, this is essentially the equivalent of walking onto a random farm and just being told to get on with the daily ins and outs. Within five minutes, you will be completely lost for what to do next.
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But, assuming you can get past this learning curve, or rather you have the know-how to avoid it entirely, Giants Software has once again created a simulation experience packed with such an array of complex and deep mechanics and systems that it will keep you thoroughly engaged. Whether you look at the range of machines and vehicles to operate, or instead dive into the vast analytics system that is present in the menu, this game has a level of depth that newcomers will find completely perplexing and surprising.
In fact, touching on these analytics, newcomers may even find them a little overwhelming, as Giants Software has provided a way for users to track pretty much everything happening on their land. How much wheat have you harvested and what is it worth? What is the right crop to plant in the month of August? How much are you paying your AI staff? It's all there in a variety of tables and charts, making it even easier to plan, prepare and ensure your farm is working as efficiently as possible.
Analytics aside, the gameplay itself is also fantastic. It is a simulator, meaning realism is the aim of the game, but whipping out the combine harvester to clear fields of fully grown crops, or even attaching a plough to the back of one of the many tractors to ensure another field is ready to be seeded, everything has been designed with the finer details in mind and it shows. Even for someone with a limited knowledge of farming, the experience of tending your own plot of land, and simply coasting up and down lanes of crop-filled fields is genuinely relaxing, and you can lose hours and hours to the game without even realising.
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While getting up to speed and figuring out exactly what it is you are supposed to do can be challenging, the mechanics for playing Farming Simulator 22 are very simple to pick-up and play. Regardless of whether you're in a complex machine like a combine, or instead a simple pickup truck, the controls and mechanics are easy to understand and learn, thanks to the helpful and broad HUD overlay that displays the exact controls for everything a machine and attached equipment brings to the table.
As Farming Simulator 22 is the next in line in a long-running series, you can sort of expect the core mechanics and gameplay to be consistently expanded on and improved year after year, and this game does deliver on that. This is a title that has been enhanced in the areas we all expect it to be (its visuals and performance), but Giants Software has also gone a step further by using the lengthier development process to bring a variety of new features to the series.
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Players can now engage in a variety of new tasks, such as mulching and stone picking, to ensure crops grow better than ever, can care for a wider array of animals, including bees, and can even use a character creation system to add an extra personal touch to the experience of managing and tending your own plot of land. Then on top of that there are a bunch of other goodies such as new machines from a variety of licensed brands to use, new crops to grow (such as grapes and olives), and even three unique playable locations that you can choose to make a functioning farm in, with those three being Elmcreek, Erlengrat, and Haut-Beyleron. But, the pinnacle of the new features is without a shadow of a doubt, the seasonal rotation.
In Farming Simulator 22, players have to worry about the typical challenges of running a farm, as well as how the changing seasons affect that. You'll have to navigate what the winter snowfall will do to your crops, and how the generally wetter spring months might also affect their growth. But that's not all the seasons bring, as the changing weather also serves up new weather systems to have to overcome as well, which all in all add to that level of realism that Farming Simulator games aim to deliver. It's a welcome addition that if anything is quite shocking it wasn't introduced in a previous instalment first.
While the wait between the last PC, Xbox and PlayStation Farming Simulator title has been quite a long one (with the last being Farming Simulator 19, as Farming Simulator 20 was a mobile and Switch game), the additions and improvements that Giants Software has brought to the table in Farming Simulator 22 once again puts this series in contention for the most impressive and well-designed simulation series out there. Sure, this game isn't for everyone, but if you have an inkling for trying your hand at farming or just fancy something new to play, Farming Simulator 22 is a very easy title to fall in love with, that is assuming you can weather the vicious tutorial and learning curve.
8 / 10
Broad and packed simulation game with plenty of mechanics and systems to explore. Feels great to play. New additions add to an already well-built experience.
Learning curve is vicious and the tutorial doesn't do a lot to alleviate it.