It’s time to knock the mud off those old work boots and rev up the tractor because Farming Simulator has made its return to the PlayStation Vita. After taking a one year hiatus, Farming Simulator 16 is here, and with it comes a number of improvements over the previous incarnation. But are the small tweaks and extra features enough to warrant a sequel? Or is this just another retread of what has come before? (retread… see what I did there?) Let’s throw those barn doors open and take a look.
First and foremost, it must be said that Farming Simulator 16 on the Vita is not the same Farming Simulator than can be found on other consoles. It’s a scaled back and compact experience which is not as full featured as what comes to the PS4. This is in fact a port of the mobile version available on Android and iOS… though with fewer features and a much larger price tag. But to offset that, you get trophies… which is cool I guess. I know that’s an issue for some, but I want to look at the game in a vacuum without worrying about those other iterations.
Farming Simulator 16 is a farm management game that puts you in control of a small farm and sets you on a path to grow crops, sell them at market, and watch your bank account increase. With the added funds, you can upgrade your equipment and buy more land. This will (hopefully) result in more money and a larger farm. Play the game long enough and you’ll be strutting around town like a king, every piece of land becomes just another part of your farming empire.
But to get there you need time… and patience. A whole lot of time and patience. Farming Simulator 16, much like farming in real life, is a slow game. Crops take time to grow, and it’s not until after you’ve purchased more land and upgraded your equipment do things start to move at a decent clip. So, kind of like many JRPGs out there, it starts to get fun after about 20 hours. Well, maybe 15, but it takes some time.
Once that time has been invested, the game gives you quite a bit to do. You can choose what crops to plant in which fields. Do you keep that rusty old tractor around or sell it back to the dealer? You can work the fields yourself, or for a price, you can hire workers to tend them for you, but be careful as I’ve found the AI on the hired help can be a bit finicky.
If growing crops isn’t what you want to do, then perhaps you can turn to animal husbandry and focus on raising cows to be a dairy farmer. Farming Simulator 16 also introduces sheep to the mix to be raised for wool. And if that still isn’t enough for you, then you can bust out your chainsaw and take to the woods as a lumberjack! Well, you can’t really get out of your tractor, but you can buy specialized equipment that allows you to go into the woods to chop down trees.
Aside from the addition of sheep and logging, there are a few other welcomed changes over the previous version. There are now more crops that can be grown, as sugar beets and potatoes can also be harvested. One nice change made in the map is that you now have a visual indication as to what is planted in each of your fields. Plant corn in a field, and the corn icon will appear on the map. And best of all, it also clues you in as to when they are ready to be harvested. This takes away a lot of the guess work that was in the previous game. They’ve also added in a warning icon for when your harvester is full and needs to be emptied. Yes, they’re just small improvements, but they make playing so much more enjoyable.
The visuals haven’t been improved, but for a simple farming sim, they’re more than adequate. I actually really enjoy the way the game works, and it even has a day-to-night cycle so you can work around the clock. But while that’s a cool visual feature, it can often make the game difficult to play as it’s really hard to see anything at night. Still, it’s a charming world… even with the constant barrage of non-stop country music blasting in the background. Grrrr. Tractor sounds, cow noises, and roaring engines are all great, but please make the music stop! Fortunately, there is the option to turn the music off.
The game also controls well. Steering is responsive and you can choose either the shoulder buttons or face buttons to accelerate/brake. The only issue I have is that selecting some of the menus through touch can be a pain since the touch points can be quite small. Fortunately there is a way to access most everything through the physical controls… except when you’re in the menu and then everything is touch-only.
Farming Simulator’s return to the PS Vita brings with it the same slow, but addictive gameplay I found in the previous version. It is a relaxing game that is a good palate cleanser after an intense FPS fire-fight or dragon battle. I really enjoy the process of growing a small farm up and watching my business grow. Yes, it takes dozens of hours, but once there are a dozen fields under my control, there’s always something going on. There’s always something that requires my attention. It’s not intense, just fun.
But is it full price fun? Probably not. While it is definitely an improvement over the previous two games, it’s not that much of a change to warrant an upgrade. Taking price out of the equation though, it is a good, relaxing farming sim that is pretty addictive. There’s always “just one more” thing in the game that had me playing far longer than I had anticipated.
Farming Simulator 16 is back on the Vita and it’s better than ever… just not that much better. It feels very much like playing the previous game but on a different map, which isn’t always a bad thing. The game might not be for everyone, but it does provide an alternative to the “retro indie brutal platformers” that seem to be filling my library. I may be alone, but I’m hardcore addicted to it.