Taking in the fresh country air. Watching the sun set over your freshly-ploughed land. Holding hands with your rosy-cheeked farmers wife, as you watch over your three beautiful children as they play, blissfully unaware they they've been spawned solely for back-breaking labour duties. Sounds like a nice, simple life to us. But it's not all lazing around on hay bales while chewing on strands of corn; if you want to see your farm grow, you've got to put some graft in.
You start with a few plots of land on a decent-sized map. Nothing spectacular, but it's nice and clean and just large enough to cause some texture pop-in. Things get off to a good start, with a helpful tutorial that teaches you about harvesting, which is what you'll spend most of your time with Farming Simulator 15 doing. Things slowly develop in to a rhythm; cultivate field, sow field, wait for crops to grow, continue waiting for crops to grow, suspect you're playing Watch Grass Grow Simulator. Harvest crops. Pour harvest into tipper. Drive tipper to unloading point. Empty into unloading point. Feel some satisfaction. Drive back to field. Realise you have to start over. Briefly ponder the benefits of a nice secure desk job. No time for daydreaming, farmer, there's mouths to feed!
Still, the undeniable pride of overseeing a harvest from seed to sell-off is a quiet, proud achievement, which gives you the glow and satisfaction of a job well done. But sim games thrive on a sense of escalation, and the game stubbornly refuses to progress, making you do the same harvests over and over to gain funds. Building up your cash reserves is difficult, and not helped by there being no helpful tutorials for other tasks after the initial harvest.
You're left lost as to what to do next and as cash is tight, you're discouraged from experimenting with expensive equipment, as it's easy to bankrupt yourself just from trial and error. We don't demand hand-holding, but surely it's not unreasonable to assume that somebody might play Farming Simulator because they want to learn how to run a farm?
To ease the perpetual search for spending money, you can take on odd jobs for spare change. Heavy lifting involves picking up packages with fiddly controls, which sounds promising, but the vehicle that can transport packages costs $165,000! We've heard the phrase 'speculate to accumulate', but this is ridiculous. Another option is to chainsaw down trees and sell the logs. Except logs can't be lifted by hand, so you'll need another expensive vehicle. How are we supposed to buy them though if we can't do the 'basic' jobs to get money? A real chicken and egg conundrum. You can afford a mower, but mowing lawns is just tedious busy work, with none of the satisfaction of completing a harvest (but, bizarrely, a similar pay out – why bother doing a harvest at all then?)
You can keep animals, but don't expect much interactivity. They're just another statistic on your daily income chart and there's no tutorial in raising livestock. It's left to guesswork. Most frustratingly, you can designate tasks like harvesting and sowing to hired schmucks (the game calls them 'workers'), but the game won't tell you when they've finished. If you can't focus on running the farm because you have to keep checking everyone's still working, who's the real schmuck here?
Eventually, money permitting, your farm will sprout greenhouses, solar panels and more advanced machinery. but the novelty soon wears thin from the slow pace and endless repetition it takes to build a farming empire. We have vague memories of enjoying completing our first harvest, but we're no longer a reliable source on 'fun'. Not after this.
There's also no fun in being a bully. We wanted to play a great farming game, not Pick on Farming Simulator Just Because it's a Farming Simulator, Simulator. But this is neither entertaining for curious gamers or realistic an intuitive enough for those wanting an accurate simulation of farm life. Some day there will be a perfect farming game that'll shut up those city boy naysayers for good, but this sadly just isn't it.