I’ve never been a farmer, though I did spend much of my early life in and around fields and animals. This, however, in no way prepared me for Farming Simulator’s Switch outing, which is the equivalent of giving you a farm and sticking you in a muddy field to get on with the job of running it.
The initial tutorial is pretty straightforward, assuming you begin playing on a TV rather than in portable mode as the writing is so small it’s virtually unreadable. You learn to use a tractor, harvester, how to load grain to your trailer and then take it to sell. It’s pretty much the basics you’ll need to start earning money in order to build up your farm. It then leaves you at the shops, miles away from your smallholding, and waves goodbye, expecting you to know what to do next.
Making my way back gingerly to the farm via the tiny map in the bottom of the screen, I found my workers that I’d assigned were still busy on the ploughing, seeding and harvesting tasks I’d asked them to get on with. A few truck-loads of grain later and I had an empty field but more money for seeds and, should I want to splash out, a new shiny tractor. Expanding the farm further gave me room for livestock, which need to be fed and watered. The easiest of these are chickens, where you can make a small amount of money from the eggs (though you’ll need to pay for feed). It’s a good starting point as anything bigger will need specialist machinery bought in order to transport and look after them.
So you know I said the game just leaves you to get on with things? Well, it’s not entirely true. There’s a pretty extensive help menu there, hidden away in the menu system. Accessing the information you need can take a bit of digging and it’s a lot of text to wade through. It would have been better, in my opinion, to have some more optional hands on tutorials to help with each new task.
There’s a lot to keep you busy here, even mundane tasks such as washing down your vehicles or driving in to town can feel like a chore at times, but you then get the reward of a job well done when you hopefully see your farm flourish. Walking through a field of livestock and knowing the effort it took to get there is pretty great. There’s no multiplayer to be found, though, which is a little disappointing but at least you can take this version on the go with you and dive in for small amounts of time.
So Farming Simulator is a slow paced game which will eat at your time but it’s also quite relaxing and therapeutic on easy or medium, where your lack of skills won’t cause you any issues even if you’re the worst farmer in the world. Hard mode provides a proper simulator with risks and rewards for keeping the farm running, but it’s really great to play it through on the easier modes to just get a farm up and running and have some fun finding out what each vehicle does. If you’ve ever fancied yourself as a farmer then Farming Simulator puts the opportunity in your pocket, just be prepared for some hard work and early starts.