Thursday, 28 November 2019

Farming Fever Still Holds With No Signs of Faltering


Back at the beginning of October, I made a post talking about my latest hook in gaming. That hook came from revisiting the Feed a Cow For Christmas Jingle Jam 2018 stream of the Yogscast, and within the post I gave a brief history of my exposure to Yogscast content which led into how I first got that hook into Farming Simulator.

At the end, I said I had my eye on what would become of Farming Simulator 2020 on Switch. Depending on if I felt that would give me a great experience, I’d either buy it or give it a miss and wait for 2021 – which would be the new entry rather than a mobile port of the previous year’s game.

Well, things didn’t progress that slowly. From 2017 on the Xbox One, it took no time at all before I jumped onto the Switch edition of 2017, which is pretty much the same game with just a few tweaks to get it running on less powerful hardware. I was already having doubts about 2020 on Switch being the full content packed offering, and to see that there was such a thing on Switch had me wanting it. In a portable form, I’d get more play out of it.

And that indeed happened. In near enough two months, it has seen more than one hundred hours of play. To make things feel unique between the two versions (I’ve still been putting a few hours on the Xbox One version since buying the Switch version), I played on the other map included within the game, with separate goals in each. I was still in love with the gameplay loop, the relaxed nature of everything, and even exploring around the maps.

2017 was great fun, but I’d already said how it wasn’t as refined as 2019 looked within that previous post. From that Feed a Cow For Christmas stream, I’d seen a good amount of the maps within 2019 and wanted to explore them for myself. So, to try to push myself back to playing games on a PC (other than GTA V), I bought Farming Simulator 2019 on Steam.

I’ve recently hit and gone beyond ten hours of play on it, and it does feel a much better experience over 2017 in some areas. The mission system, where you’d help other farmers, feels more involved now. Whereas 2017 would have you work from the field the mission was tied to and hold you there until the job was done or the timer ran out, with 2019 you are no longer locked to the field of the mission’s origin. Missions can be accepted anywhere on the map through the menu, and you are no longer restricted to the set vehicles of choice, with the ability to use any you already own.

The freedom that offers is a lot better, and the same goes for the start of the game. With 2017, you started with a full farm already – complete with buildings, machines, fields, and a silo to store crops within. 2019 gives you none of that, instead giving a large sum of money for you to do what you want with. Instead of buying fields, you are now buying pieces of land, so you can choose where you want to base yourself. While the largest pieces of land are not going to be available to you even with such a large amount of starting cash, there’s a good amount of areas you can buy with the freedom to go for however many you want.

But you still need to buy all that equipment to run your farm, so there needs to be a balance of land ownership and vehicle purchasing (or leasing if you want to go straight for the big stuff). But it’s those vehicles that are perhaps the largest downfall of the game. Things were floaty and very easy to lose control of in 2017, sure, but in 2019 the problem seems a bit worse. Harvesters – great massive heavy beasts – shouldn’t be losing grip so easily. It’s not a problem when working on a field, but when travelling between them and on the roads, they do seem to like acting the same as the lightest of tractors when turning.

There’s also a few things missing that 2017 had, most notably placeable solar collectors and greenhouses, though a mod can sort that easy enough. Instead, animal pens have now been made placeable, which is much better than having a set point where you have to look after them. It’s a feature that really pushes that freedom to have things where you want them, and I’m currently saving up the in-game cash to make use of it.

Two months with the series has been enough to cement it as one of my favourites. There will come a time that I burn out, as always happens with games, but I’m confident that it won’t be happening any time soon with this series. No matter which version I’m playing, I can lose myself in it and pass hours away. It can always grab me, and unlike a few other similar games, still continues to do so.

Once again, I must give a shout to the Yogscast, as while I knew of the series, it was seeing the Yogs play it on that stream that pushed me to giving it a try. And my wish of seeing them return to it for this year’s Jingle Jam has happened, with the first week of the schedule having been released. This year’s Jingle Jam is one I am sure will be brilliant, and it gets started on the first of December, with Feed a Cow For Christmas being on the second.

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