It seems that there’s been a huge interest in anything related to farming over the last few years – which is partially caused by the massive success of Zynga Games’ Facebook hit ‘Farmville’. Some fans of these social media games enthusiastically sport custom t-shirts for the game and play fanatically every day. Don’t be fooled however, Farming Simulator 2011 from Giants Software has absolutely nothing in common with the RSI gameplay Farmville brought to us. Except for the farming bit of course.
It will not come as a surprise that the idea of Farming Simulator 2011 is to engage in farming related activities. The main game comes as a ‘career’ mode where you are given a large farm on a pretty large map. There are enough fields to even keep the most hardcore farmer busy until the late hours. We would even go as far as to say that for beginning players, the size of the map is plain overwhelming, and we certainly had no idea where to go or what to do. The tutorials do a fairly decent job at explaining the basics of plowing, seeding, harvesting and what more – but when you find yourself in your newfound farm you find yourself without guidance or purpose.
You begin on your farm, where you will find a tractor, a combine harvester, various implements (attachments for your tractor which have different functionalities such as plowing or spraying your crops) and everything you need to manage your crops. The idea is now that you take your tractor and a plow and start plowing a field. You then cultivate the field with a different implement, sow your crops with yet another – and once the crops start growing, spray them with yet another. A few hours later you can then harvest your crops with a combine harvester – empty the harvest into a trailer, and drive the trailer to either your silos for storage or the mill/brewery/port for selling it. This gives you money and allows you to buy bigger tractors / vehicles / implements.
Zyle: Besides the farm itself being a bit overwhelmingly large, so too are the fields. I know it’s a simulator, and that fields take a long time to plough and sow in real life, but I really did feel that it took an astonishingly long time to make progress.
James: Its biggest problem is the lack of progression – it takes WAY too long to do things, and then afterward you get no reward for a very long time. It wouldn’t be a problem being so open if the career mode had objectives or more information about what was going on.
Graphics & Audio
The vehicles are represented in an authentic manner (as far as we can tell anyway, we’re hardly farming experts!) and generally speaking the graphics more than do the job. Small point of criticism is that it would have been nice to see an environment which was a little bit more interactive and engaging as you can sit on your tractor in a field for hours at times. The sounds are adequate but get tiresome very quickly – this is an aspect where Giants Software can definitely make some improvements.
Zyle: The graphics look good overall, though some of the different stages of cultivation are a little difficult to tell apart, which made it a little troubling in multiplayer when we were all working on different things in the same field.
UI & Controls
The controls are generally quite good – although steering your tractor in a straight line can be incredibly difficult. It would have been nice to have the option to ‘straighten up’ when you’re in a field – as people with slight OCD will definitely struggle with the plowing and seeding aspect of the game, which can leave huge gaps. The UI is a different cup of tea – we found it a little aggrevating. The PDA is a nice touch, but having to scrolls through pages like ‘prices’ and ‘storage amounts’ is just annoying: you need those on 1 screen. The lack of a full sized map in-game is also a huge problem as it is extremely difficult finding your way around at first. The map is just a little bit too large for a new player to get to grips with immediately, and the lack of guidance in the game makes it difficult to know ‘where to go’ or ‘what to do’.
Zyle: Yes, a fullscreen map other than the one in the pdf manual would be extremely helpful, (especially because the map in the pdf is orientated sideways) rather than relying on the sightseeing tutorial mission which reminds you to memorise the location of everything so you can find it later.
One of the aspects we found most refreshing is the fact that you can play Farming Simulator 2011 with your friends or other people online. You can in fact play with quite a lot of people at the same time – and it seems almost as if the whole game was developed with that in mind. The gameplay between single player and multiplayer seems exactly the same, and the map lends itself a lot more for multiplayer than it does for single player.
Again the UI lets the game down a little, with the multiplayer game being quite hard to manage/administrate, and the lack of insight in the overall funds for other players being quite a pain. You can give each player his/her own budget but that seems to defeat the purpose of working together and breaks the immersion completely given that you can all work on the same farm. Still, the game is a LOT more fun when played with friends as you can help each other out – drive around together, etc.
Zyle: The multiplayer is definitely the main selling point for me!
James: With some tweaks the multiplayer could be where this really shines – but you need to be able to find the other people, work together on things etc, which it’s quite difficult to do with the current UI/interface.
This could have been a giant hit…
Odd as it might sound, we believe that Farming Simulator 2011 could have been a giant hit, riding on the wave of success farming related games are enjoying at the present. The game lets itself down hugely in several departments, which will limit the game to really just the hardcore farm lovers rather than the casual farmers to-be. Let us go deeper into this and explain what we mean, and which aspects of the game would need improving to appeal to a much larger audience:
Depending on the difficulty setting you will also find grain in your silos – which is one of our biggest criticisms. The idea of this grain is that the player can sell it to provide a nice starting fund. But why not give the player the funds in the first place and NOT give him or her all these vehicles and implements? By letting the player buy these himself he/she will feel more rewarded as you tend to your fields with your self-purchased material. Right now you just spawn on a giant farm, with tons of equipment and absolutely no goal…
That’s our second point of criticism. The farm you start with was a HUGE disappointment to all of us. We were really hoping that the career mode would involve starting on a tiny farm with a small field and working your way up from there. There are NO elements in the game that allow you to expand your farm, buy new fields, build silos or other buildings, or ANYTHING of the kind. You simply start with your dream farm and everything you could possibly want. The only reason to try and make some profit is so you can buy better farming equipment (which is really only marginally better anyway) so you can make more money and buy even better farming equipment. Except by that time you have the best farming equipment so there is nothing left to really strive for – limiting the gameplay hugely.
The whole reason why a game like this can be incredibly addictive, with people enduring hours and hours in a field just planting and harvesting crops, is because they get something out of it at the end. The need to get that bigger house, bigger barn, more animals, more fields, etc. is what drives people to play a game like this. We realise this is a Farming Simulator but we feel that Giants Software really missed a big opportunity here.
Now let us quote the Steam page of the game:
Assume the role of a farmer experiencing the challenge of 18 hour days running a new farm in the middle of beautiful rolling countryside.
You start the game by choosing from a small collection of vehicles and machinery to explore your fairly sparse farmland which measures just 4 km. As you progress through the game you complete a variety of tasks like breeding and feeding the cows or spreading manure, milking, plowing, seeding and baling to build up wealth to invest in newer and better equipment and machinery.
With career mode you take on the role of a young farmer and experience the workaday life of the countryside in a completely adaptable world.
This really suggests that the game would have something like that – but even these ‘tasks’ are not present at all. You spawn in the world and that’s it – you go about your own business in a ‘sandbox’ style gameplay. Calling this a ‘career’ mode is really pushing it in our opinion. That’s not to say the game isn’t charming and that there isn’t something in it – but it does feel that something is ‘missing’ while you a playing: A sense of purpose.
Career mode with business section and cattle breeding
Unless we are missing something we couldn’t really find the business section. You can sell your milk/crops but there’s not really much to that. You can buy/sell vehicles but beyond that, the actual business aspects of hiring/firing people and expanding your business are completely missing. It’s really a shame as we can’t help feel that Farming Simulator 2011 could have been a huge hit if that aspect of the game was more polished and had a few more features. Let’s hope Giants Software take this onboard and work on it either for a patch or for their next installment in this series.
James: I’m not sure that something called Farming Simulator will ever be a giant hit – but if they called it Farming Manager, and it had more of a farm management aspect to it, then I think that could do pretty well.
At £24.99 this game is really far too expensive for the limited features that it ships with. We were really disappointed that the game only came with one map as we would have loved to start with a very small farm, but the game wouldn’t let us do so. There are player made mods available but many players only play a game in vanilla, so we feel that Giants Software should strive to collect the best of these and make them available in an official patch automatically. (Much like Egosoft do for X3 with the best community mods and gameplay changes)
Right now we can only recommend this game to hardcore farming enthusiasts. For those people, Farming Simulator 2011 is most likely the best product on the market. For anyone else – if Giants Software make a few tweaks this could be a huge hit, so you might hear about the series in the near future.