Reviewed on PC

ASUS Prime B350M Motherboard
AMD Ryzen 5 1600 Six-Core 3.69 GHz
GeForce GTX 1060 (6GB)
16GB RAM DDR4 (2x8GB)

Core simulator games attract a specific niche of gamers that many just don’t understand. You’ll hear cries of people claiming that it seems no different to having a second-day job when the reality is often closer to something of a unique sandbox experience. Farming Simulator is one of the genre giants; it’s certainly come a long way since the mess seen in Giant Software’s earlier titles. It’s improved leaps and bounds from the times when hitting a hill at 70 mph could catapult you into space as you watched the skybox disappear into the distance far below you. Newer titles are far closer to actual simulation experiences and put considerably more focus on giving the player choice on what they want to do with their farm. That doesn’t necessarily mean Farming Sim’s newest entry is anything special though.

Farming Sim’s core experience hasn’t changed at all. You’re still attempting to expand a farm located on one of two maps. You’ll upgrade equipment, buy more fields and optimize your daily farming routines to make your farm as efficient as possible. The sheer amount of equipment is impressive as always and, since Farming Sim always has excellent mod support from its community, you can expect a hundredfold the options further down the line. Much like your average Bethesda game, this newest entry does suffer from previous quality-of-life mods not being officially included this time around. There’s no Ground Response, no GPS, and no More Realism additions – it’s hard not to notice.

The overall experience without these mods feels rough in places and it causes me to feel that I wouldn’t really be benefitting anymore from buying into Farming Sim 19 early than if I’d just stuck with 17. I’d expect this to be fixed over time once the modding community gets the chance to implement fan-favorite mods once again. Interestingly enough, Giant Software chooses to not use Steam Workshop but instead host their own modding network. A quick Google suggests this is because Farming Simulator actually sells really well outside of the Steam platform but it does cause the experience of installing mods to be less convenient for the average user.

It’s nice that you can play this game as either a hands-on farming simulation or sit back and take a management role as you let A.I workers do the practical stuff for you. The former is simple enough but with the latter approach, I found a lot of annoying tendencies showed themselves. Primarily, the A.I is just bad at their job. You send off ‘Worker C’ to harvest a field, giving yourself time to think through what the best financial purchase for your farm is going to be. A few minutes later you are prompted by a message informing you that the hero that is Worker C has finished his job in no time. It turns out though that poor old Worker C actually has a cognitive functioning problem commonly known as ‘God Awful A.I Syndrome’. As soon as you show the CPU any field that isn’t either a perfect square or rectangle, which is most of the fields in the game, they will freak out and always do a poor job of the work you give them. This results in a surprisingly stressful experience as micro-management becomes 90% of the gameplay, being forced to TAB through vehicles to make sure the loosely described “Unknown Reasons” aren’t bewildering your workers.

There are a fair amount of bugs but generally, I didn’t have as many issues with them as other critics and players seem to note. I’ve heard reports of wild visual bugs but the only major problem I had was that the online experience was too unstable to practically play the game. Crashing especially seemed a little too common for my liking. A lot of people comment the 19’s visual weaknesses as it really doesn’t seem to improve much at all on its predecessor. Very specific sights such as looking over the side of mountains or gazing out at the ocean can look quite nice on max settings but background textures on the side of housing and foliage between fields can just appear grim. It is a slight improvement over 17 which has some of the ugliest textures I’ve seen in modern gaming but not a big enough improvement to say it looks good as such.

It was a pleasant surprise to see how easily my Logitech G25 Wheel was detected and optimized for with a lot of far bigger budget AAAs doing a far worse job of this (I’m looking at you, Forza!) Slower vehicles feel great to drive on a keyboard, controller, and wheel but once you pass 40 mph things tend to get ugly. There’s a weird lack of grip in the handling model so even some of the faster tractors spin out like an F1 car on cold tires. Once you get into a lorry or pick-up truck all hell breaks loose as you battle with the invisible ice forcing your 40 tonnes, 18 wheelers to start some mental Initial D stuff. Honestly, this is hilarious when playing casually but the moment you want to actually transport some goods across the map it becomes infuriating. At least the drivable trains don’t spin out.

There are horses this year and yes, they’re rideable. It’s less Red Dead Redemption 2 and more Skyrim on launch but it’s still pretty cool to gallop around and probably glitch up into a tree or onto a nearby building. It is nice to see implemented content and to Giant Software’s credit, there is actually an impressive amount of new content in Farming Simulator 19. The new maps are pretty good although the US one feels a little overdesigned in places, the vehicles and equipment options are incredible and all licensed whilst new features like customizable farms and new crops are implemented just fine.

The problem is that with all these resources being placed into adding new features, many not asked for by the community, the issues that have plagued Farming Sim for years are just being ignored and swept over. The over-reliance on modders to fix your game is not a practice to be encouraged and I cannot emphasize enough that Farming Sim has been crippled by these same irritations, bugs and poor pieces of game design since its first title way back in 2008. On top of this, every time they add something new it spawns more unrefined gameplay elements that likely won’t be fixed for years, if ever.

You can have a great time driving a 50mph train into your trapped, upside down truck and that’ll be fun for a minute or two but long-term Farming Sim 19 doesn’t deliver an experience I’d want to revisit over and over. Individuals who find these games very interesting will be able to fight through this barrier but I guarantee most regular gamers looking for something a little different will find themselves getting bored sooner rather than later. Generally speaking, this is yet another missed opportunity and I reckon if an indie developer really wants to take on Giant Software for the spot of being the dominant farming simulation producer, it’s there for the taking.

Farming Simulator 2019 fails to improve on its predecessors in any meaningful way. It adds horses, customizable farms and slightly improved visuals, but many of its fundamental flaws are still lingering underneath. If you like Farming Simulator, you’ll like this – it’s pretty much exactly the same.

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