I have always seen the various farming and agriculture simulations on the market and thought about trying one out. More than anything, this desire is driven by an interest just to know if I could “do it." Could I succeed in running my own farm? Could I build an agricultural empire? It wasn’t until I read Travis’ review
of Farming Simulator 2013 that I knew that it was time to finally go ahead and take the plunge, and the perfect opportunity to do so arose when a Vita port of the popular sim was announced. Now that I have made the trip to the farm, I am more confident than ever that I belong in the city.
The Vita version of Farming Simulator isn’t exactly the same game that PC players love and enjoy. This version is more akin to the Android version that is available on mobile platforms. That being said, this is a far more simplified and straightforward experience than I was expecting. The game has been stripped down to basic crop growing, crop selling, and management of a limited line of farming equipment. As a result, it becomes nothing more than a rinse and repeat process that never really hooks you into the experience.
Don’t head into this game hoping to manage all of the aspects of your own farm. Instead, you will maintain a group of fields with one of three crops: corn, wheat, and canola. It is up to you to manage fields of these in three phases: sowing, planting, and harvesting. Once you do that over and over again, it is a trip to the selling area to offload your goods for the best price available. Every once in a while, the game throws you a side-mission or quest to break the monotony, but they will never evolve past simply finding a lost item somewhere on the map and towing it back to a specified location with your tractor.
There are opportunities for a deep experience with the various markets and demands for crops, but the game never really takes advantage of them. It really becomes as simple as browsing for whatever is selling the highest at any given moment and planting accordingly. If there were more crop options then there could have been a deeper strategic element, but alas, it is very straightforward. The only sign of depth in the experience lies in managing and purchasing new farm equipment. There is a nice little variety of licensed farm machinery that you will want to seek out as your earn more and more money. This helps to motivate you in the long run as you always want to work towards being able to purchase that next better machine.
As simple of an experience as it is, there is a bit of a learning curve to overcome in order to get the most out of the game. Unfortunately, the game doesn’t really do a whole lot to help you get to that point. You are given very little or extremely vague directions as to what to do when it comes to each action. Sure, this is simplified world, but there are still things that players need to learn about in order to succeed. Once again, the chance for adding depth to the experience is completely ignored. Your tutorials never get any deeper than “here is a field, use the harvester once the plants are grown.” Better yet, “take your harvest to the silo to sell,” yet once you get to the silo, it is up to you to figure out how to store them and prepare to offload them to buyers. You have to either fumble around and figure out things yourself, or do like I did and head online for some assistance from other gamers. The result is an experience that is as frustrating as it is lackluster, which will undoubtedly leave a bad taste in your mouth.
Perhaps the worst part about all of this is the amount of potential that exists here. The game has the tools to be an interesting and potentially addicting experience, but it chooses to set them aside for the sake of making the game simpler and more accessible. For example, the in-game clock does a great job of controlling a stringent day-night cycle; but it means nothing though as you can work your fields and whatnot 24/7 without issue. The plants just seem to grow steadily, 24 hours a day. It makes no sense.
I recognize that this is meant to be a portable, simplified version of the farming experience. Unfortunately, it plays that role too well for its own good. All of the things that make the series an enjoyable game on the PC are lost in the translation to becoming a game to be played on the go; that may have worked on the Android and mobile platforms, but this is the Vita that we are talking about. This system is capable and deserving of much, much more. Where are my animals? Where are the wide variety of environmental and weather hazards? Basically, where is my variety? This version lacks all of that and, as a result, isn’t one that I can recommend, even to fans of the franchise.