Simulation games have always been a part of my life as a gamer. I’ve dedicated many hours on Sim City and other titles. This type of game, hooks you in a way that makes you play for hours without tiring, because you get that feeling of always wanting to evolve and improve. And despite having a good time and finding this feeling in Farming Simulator 2016, unfortunately, it´s still far from being a nice addition of Simulation for the PS Vita.
But what new features does Farming Simulator 2016 brings us? Basically three things: a new map, sheep and forestry. For the PS Vita, it would be like the 2014 release, slightly improved, as the game’s script is the same: you will simulate the life of a farmer and to cultivate, sow, fertilize, harvest, feed cows and sheep to produce milk and wool, and then sell it all. With the money you make, buy more and better equipment and vehicles, as well as more fields to increase production and profit.
The first thing to know about Farming Simulator 2016 is that it´s a mobile game. Developer GIANTS Software didn’t develop Farming Simulator 2015 for Android, iOS or the PS Vita. The last edition for these platforms was Farming Simulator 2014, as the 2015 release came out PC and Mac initially and subsequently made it’s way to PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One. Being a mobile game, it’s a short version of the original PC game with a smaller map and fewer things to do. It was not designed for the PS Vita, what we have in fact is a port from the Android/iOS version, adapted to Sony’s portable controls and touch screen.
Another point is that this is a very slow-paced game. Unlike the city simulators like Sim City or Cities: Skylines, you have no way to speed up the time and make things happen quicker.
The presentation is quite familiar to anyone who played Farming Simulator on the PS Vita before. There has been some changes, menu colors and layout for example. We have the option to see the entire game map, which is where you can buy new fields to work with, locate your vehicles and equipments, give orders to the Artificial Intelligence (the in-game helpers), plus the option to see a smaller area on the left side of the screen, which you can’t expand now. The tutorial doesn’t explain much, in fact, it says that “experience is the best way to learn Farming Simulator”, and despite a brief description of some equipment and how to proceed on the farming business, it should be more complete and accurate (it teaches you wrong on how to change the seed that you want to work with, on page 14 of the manual, by touching the seed icon, but it is actually the UP key), after all is not a game for everyone. A difference from the Android and iOS versions is the lack of multiplayer, which in these devices is via bluetooth.
Ok, let’s talk about gameplay. I’ll try to mention the aspects of the game in order to help anyone interested. Right away, you have 3 difficulties to choose from: beginner, normal and expert. But the difficulty doesn´t change the gameplay. In fact, the difficulty will only change the value of the product when selling – in expert it cost less, in beginner it will cost more – and the amount of seeds stored on your farm – 30.000 for beginner, 15.000 for normal and nothing stored in expert. You always start the game with: $ 25.000 in cash, two fields for cultivation (1 of them ready), 1 field to work with grass, two tractors, one harvester and 5 equipments (a tank to sell the milk from the cows, a transporter to sell the sheep’s wool, one harvesting header, one cultivator and one sowing machine). And these are the most basic stuff from the game, they are the weakest and slower ones, and the in-game shop has over 40 options to look for.
Now what are you gonna do? Drive, cultivate, fertilize (optional), sow, harvest, feed animals to produce stuff, sell and profit. Then, purchase and improve your machinery. Or you can have the AI do most of this for you, because you cannot send the game´s AI to do everything for you, and even if you have it doing all the work in the fields, it will cost money and you will not be able to accelerate the time so things happen faster, as I said earlier, it is a slow-paced game. So get ready to do or to watch a lot in Farming Simulator 2016.
You can work with 5 seeds: wheat, canola, corn, sugar beet and potatoes. In addition, you will work with grass to feed the cows and sheep, so that they produce milk and wool, the products that give more money in the game, but take longer to produce. And beyond that, you can pick up straw after harvesting the wheat (or with the proper vehicle, create chaff from corn), so the cows can produce manure and serve as fertilizer, to accelerate the growth process. This will all be done with several tractors and equipment, some specific to certain task, as in the case of potatoes.
The activity to play video games is all about repetition, and you will have to do a lot of “boring” stuff here, it will bother some people, but for me it’s more like a relaxed thing to do, from time to time, between other games I play or my study. Overall, the gameplay is solid. Only when you zoom in while driving or watching the IA work, you can see a slight drop in the frame rate, but nothing drastic. What really bugs me out is when the game does the auto-save feature, every 5 minutes or so: it freezes for almost 2 seconds. It is really annoying.
The controls are fairly simple to use, you have two options to go forward (R or X buttons) and backwards (L or square buttons), so you can choose the best option for your style of play, but there’s no way to change the controls. All settings are in the game manual, or in the help menu while playing. But I miss a tutorial, it needs one for newcomers to the serie like me.
What does destroy the experience is the AI helper. The Artificial Intelligence is too stupid, to put it mildly. Despite the game being released as “Manage helpers for better results”, you have to be smart and follow everything they do, and literally manage them, because they will f*** things up for several reasons. To name a few: the AI stops driving the vehicle if there’s any obstacle, be it a tree, wall, barrier, another vehicle or equipment; AI cannot do the job of bringing new equipment to your farm; some of the AI deliveries bugs out and doesn’t return to the point of origin; AI takes longer than usual to sow and reap. Among other things. This puts into practice the saying that “if you want something done right, do it yourself.”
One addition that takes some focus over the simulation and your work as a farmer, are missions. During my time playing, they appear from time to time as an red circle in the upper left corner of the screen, and they have two types: regular delivery, that you go to a point A, pick up a cart with seeds, and deliver it at point B for some cash, you don’t use your production; and deliveries with higher values, for example, if you accept the mission, for the next 15 minutes, the potatoes sold to the port (or anywhere else in the map) are worth two times the normal value, and you must use what you produce.
And this puts into use the stock of the farm. When you reap your production, you can sell it immediately, in the various sales points of the map, or store to sell later when this type of mission is active. It is very useful way to make more money in the long run. Another thing you can also use is fertilize the fields, with the right equipment. You can make manure from cows, by giving them chaff, or buy and store with the proper tank, but those are way expensive.
The game also features a day-night cycle, which only serves to measure the passage of time, and on average, 2 cycles after cultivate and sow, you can harvesting to sell or to store it. There’s no rain or pests, your crop will only die if you not harvest in time. And after you harvest, they don’t spoil and you can leave it stored for days, if you want to. The same applies to tractors, they will never stop working or have malfunction, and you spend the entire game using them. They can only run out of fuel, but I didn’t have a chance to test that out and see what happens. But you can also clean them, because they will get dirty. And you must clean them up for… reasons? There’s not much simulation here. And I think it should. There are several random factors that could make into the game to increase the difficulty, but as this is a mobile version, the game is actually quite limited.
About sound and graphics, there’s not much talk about. We have 2 or 3 (or a really big one) songs that are on a loop during the game, the sound of tractors is basic, there is nothing really good here. I usually play my music or podcast while playing, but the work done on the sound is quite minimalist. And graphics? Despite a, what I should call, “slight improvement”, as developers advertise the game with “new 3D graphics show even more detail on your machinery!”, the game still uses very poor textures, similar to those used in Farming Simulator 2014, so the game looks like it was released years ago. We know that the PS Vita can run games in a much better quality then this. But this is a port from a mobile game, it was not developed for the PS Vita, and the screenshots at the official game’s page, does have some filters on. All screenshots for this review were captured from my playtime.
When you beat the game, I mean, buy all the equipment, all fields and have reached the maximum amount of money, you probably will not want to continue playing. Perhaps, after a long period of time, you may come back. Despite playing more than 15 hours, I’m way far from reaching this point, and much less for the platinum trophy. We will need at least 35 to 40 hours of play time to get all trophies, and you cannot use the AI of the game to achieve most of them, like cover more than 200 km with the vehicles or sow and harvest for more than 100 hectares. On my 15 hours of play, I was only able to sow/harvest for 3 hectares. I’ve mostly used the AI, but that’s just to give you an idea how far behind I am. After that, I venture to say that I will hardly want to play it all over again, from the beginning.
But although I liked what I saw in Farming Simulator 2016 and point out the positives and negatives, is it worth it? The answer is kind of complicated, because I love my PS Vita, and I want to see many more simulation games for it, but we have here something that is hard to recommend: the price tag. The game costs “only” $ 34.99. You know how much it costs to Android and iOS devices? $ 6 or $ 7. It’s the same game, the same content, way more expensive. The price is not justified for the content, it’s more like a patch and with graphics and textures worse than some PSP titles, plus bugs and AI issues, it really falls short in many respects.
So my final thoughts: do you like the series and want to play the 2016 edition? If so then I suggest you buy the Android/iOS version and yourself a few pounds. But if you’re really want it on the PS Vita and have the money, then go ahead! You will have enough content to keep you playing.
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