When I was a kid, I used to spend my summers at my grandparents’ farm. They had a decent sized dairy farm that had been in our family for generations. My brother and I, both being kids from the suburbs, were always enamored with the big tractors, the piles of hay bails, and the God-awful stench that can only accumulate when 200 cows get together under one roof. When we’d get home, we would take out every farm toy we had and convert every inch of our basement into a make-shift farm. Fields were laid out for corn, for hay, and for grazing the cows.
Farming Simulator 14 takes that experience (more or less) and combines it into a nice sim game, that while not for everyone, does manage to capture the spirit of running a farm. I know that some might find the very notion of planting rows and rows of corn only to have to wait for the right time to harvest them seem somewhat… dull. It is true that Farming Simulator 14 is not a fast game. It requires hours of time be poured into it in order for you to get a decent sized farm where things become a little more lucrative (and profitable). And be warned all you Americans out there, this game is European through and through. There is not a single John Deere anything to be found here, and you’ll be surprised to find out that Lamborghini makes tractors as well as over-priced sports cars.
Let’s get one thing out of the way right now, because I know that there’s one question lingering in the back of a lot of people’s minds. Is Farming Simulator 14 for the Vita more like the console version or the paired down mobile version? It is in fact the latter. The game on the Vita is nearly identical to the one available for Android/iOS phones and tablets. What’s missing in the Vita version is the option for in-game purchases to speed things up as well as a few missing vehicles. Also, multiplayer is not to be found on the Vita, where it can be on the Android version. What the Vita does come with however is trophy support and a significantly higher price tag. So if you were miffed when Angry Birds Star Wars came out for $40 on the Vita and was free (or near free) on other platforms, then prepared to be miffed again (or if you don’t like miffed, how about pissed off? Angry? Upset? Take your pick). But putting price aside for now, let’s take a look at the game.
The game starts you off with a small farm and a few thousand dollars in your bank account. You have a couple of fields that are ready to harvest and a harvester and tractor to get the job done. Like most simulator games, you start off with just the base essentials, and as you build up your cash reserves, you can start purchasing bigger and better equipment.
Controlling your various farm equipment is usually very straight forward and easy. Right shoulder makes you go forward, left makes you go back, and the left stick will allow you to steer. The right stick will swivel your camera around which ever tractor you currently have selected and you use the D-pad to switch between vehicles. But while the controls for the equipment may be easy, knowing what to do with them often isn’t. The game does a pretty poor job of instructing you on how to accomplish the many tasks you’ll be asked to do. How exactly do you sell grain to the Factory to make biofuel? You either try everything you can think of or head to the internet and search for help. I usually had to do a combination of both. It would be nice if there was a little more guidance in the game to help you out.
As you start off, your main method for making money is to plant and sell either wheat or canola. Eventually you’ll be able to buy a harvester that will let you grow corn as well, but you will then be sticking to those three crops for the rest of the game.
You’ll also save up to buy equipment that allows you to turn your field of overgrown grass into bails of hay for your cows. Your livestock play a relatively minimal role in the game. You can feed them to produce milk, which you can then sell, but that’s about all. Cows will convert hay into milk or straw into manure. Choosing which one you give them is about your only engagement, and in the end, the livestock appear to be just an afterthought that is easy to forget.
Crops are really the main focus of the game, and after each harvest you can choose whether to store your haul in your silos, or if the prices are right, you can sell to one of the vendors around the town. You’ll have to compare prices to see if the Mill is offering more for corn than the Harbor and sell when prices hit their peak. As more money is added into your account, you can also purchase more fields and grow your farm. This leads to higher crop production and more money. When you get to the point where you have a dozen fields and you’ve hired farmhands to operate the equipment to harvest them, that’s when the game starts to really pick up. But it takes awhile before you can get there.
Occasionally you’ll also be tasked with missions from people in town, and helping out will reap you a nice reward. The missions are never difficult however. Normally they’re in the form of locating a stack of supplies that have “gone missing” and yet somehow there will be a guide on your map leading you right to your prize. I’m guessing the people in town aren’t too terribly bright if they couldn’t follow the dotted line that would lead them right to their lost shipment of melons.
So where does this all go? Is there an end to the game? Like a lot of simulator games, there is rarely an end goal in mind. In Farming Simulator 14 you just keep going; earning more money to grow your farm. Even after you’ve purchased all the lands, obtained all the equipment, and earned a mountain of cash, the game keeps going. It’s good then that the game has trophies, which for me at least gives me something to aim for. Without the lofty goals set up to earn the Platinum (or a number of easy Gold trophies) I probably would have given up on this game pretty early on. But I stuck it out, and suddenly something odd started to happen. I think I started to get addicted to it.
This game isn’t exactly a great platformer, or even a great video game in the traditional sense, but there’s something about grinding out one more field of crops that gets slightly addictive after awhile. It doesn’t hurt that you don’t have to really be paying attention to the game in order to do this, so it’s the ideal thing to play when you’re watching TV. I found it the ideal companion to have while watching the World Cup (or most sports in general).
Visually, Farming Simulator 14 leans a little more toward the beautiful side more often than not. All the equipment and buildings in the game are very well done. There’s also a nice day-to-night cycle when things get dark and the tractors flip their lights on to keep working. I was surprised to see how nice the lighting effects were, and while the game seems to be a little too dark most of the time, it’s usually nice to look at.
The same can’t always be said of the game’s sound. When it comes to the audio, your choices are either an endless stream of elevator music or the roaring sound of a a tractor engine. I found myself just muting the game most of the time since neither of those options really appealed to me.
Farming Simulator 14 gets a lot of things right and is a decent sim game for people interested in farming. However, it’s also a very slow paced game that requires hours and hours of doing repetitive tasks in order to get anywhere. It is not as full featured as the console or PC version (and the same experience can be had for much cheaper on a phone or tablet), but it does provide the fun experience of managing a farm and watching it grow.
More importantly, it allows me to do the one thing I’ve always dreamed of. Now, finally, I can be that guy who drives his combine down a busy road at 5mph while a long line of cars backs up behind me. I feel bad for the guy about three cars back because you just know he’s late for something and is swearing his brains out at me right now.