There’s nothing quite like a cold beer (NOTE: Please drink responsibly) after a hard day on the farm. At any given moment in the day, a lot is going on at Parsons Farm. After a half-hour on the combine harvesting wheat, there was a nice drive on my tractor with a tipper full of wheat to the nearest market. It’s all about the money, after all, and once that check was cashed, I hopped back on my tractor and headed to the equipment store. During this drive, I got a call that my mower was needed a few miles away. Wiping the sweat from my brow, I swapped tractors, and made the long drive to the field that needed servicing. I collected another payment and went back to clean up the field I just harvested and prep it for more wheat. It’s a vicious cycle, but that cold beer in my recliner afterwards makes it all worth it.
Farming Simulator 2013 is a deep game that simultaneously has been stripped of fluff. From the menu, you pick one of the three items available between a single-player career, multiplayer, or the tutorial. This simulator takes itself seriously, too, and after a few tutorials and hopping into the career, it flaunts that aspect well.
Tutorials exist to get you familiar with the equipment. Remember, I said this game takes itself seriously. So those tutorials are there to show people who haven’t played a game like this before. By “like this”, I mean a realistic farming game. Sure, I’ve played my fair share of Farmville. I know you have to plant crops, fertilize them to increase value, harvest the crops, then prep the field for another harvest. The tutorials are here to show you exactly what all of that entails.
The problem with the tutorials is that you spend quite a few minutes doing the task to get familiar with it. On paper, that sounds great. But once you realize you just spent an hour doing something that you will have to immediately do again starting a career, it’s almost enough to make you turn it off for the night. Farming Simulator 2013 is a time-consuming game, and opting to not include a tutorial of some fashion into the career (that players can choose to skip) seems like a misstep.
Starting a career, you are dropped into a gigantic sandbox with a few tools and one field to play with. When not in a tractor or whatever other piece of farm equipment you are driving, you are running around in first-person. There’s a lovely feature that I discovered almost ten hours in which saves a LOT of time, and it wasn’t made clear up front, which is hitting the Tab key to automatically switch between vehicles. Oh, the time that would have saved running from place to place. I did say the map is huge, right?
There’s an addicting satisfaction in Farming Simulator 2013 watching your money increase. Spending nearly an hour harvesting one crop, patiently driving a tractor at a fraction of it’s top speed (20-25 mph in the starting equipment) in a straight line, then hauling it to town to sell is a long process. There’s a genuine sense of reward when that $10K rolls in. Equipment is expensive, but upgrading speeds up the harvesting process.
You get nothing but the bare essentials at the beginning, which is frustrating when side-missions pop up. Hauling a pallet from point A to point B can bring in $5-10K and it doesn’t take nearly as long as harvesting a crop. You have to have the right equipment though, which will set you back about $30K. And that new equipment? It will take some time adjusting to how it drives. There are also mowing missions. The back and forth between these two mission types gets old, and the huge payoff sometimes doesn’t feel worth mowing the same plot of land again.
I found the multiplayer to be less satisfying. Helping strangers do their dirty work isn’t quite my cup of tea, but it’s a big deal to the thousands of people that play the game. Browsing the Steam game hub, there’s one particular group that has a dedicated server and invites people in to be regular farmhands. That’s pretty impressive, and if social farming is your idea of a good time, you can hop in, harvest some crops, chat a little, and hop out.
Outside of the dedicated community, there’s already a rich mod community. A quick search on Google pulled up some sites with a myriad of mods to download. Farming Simulator 2013 is built for this sort of thing. New equipment, maps to play on, etc, you can enrich your farming experience beyond the already-deep package you purchased.
Despite the drastic learning curve which nearly threw me off-course, Farming Simulator 2013 is a significant use of time. Rarely have I ever had this sense of satisfaction playing a game. The kicker is my kids love watching it, and after watching me play it the first few hours, my wife has since stolen my laptop on various occasions to get the same feeling of accomplishment.